A Survival Guide For The Trumpocalypse

Like many others, I spent a good part of the past year working to elect a progressive President of the United States to continue the inspiring work of the Obama Administration, which I had the honor to serve.

And like many others, I was shell-shocked when our efforts fell short, leading to the election of a President who is not only profoundly unqualified but seems to have a fundamental disrespect for our core Democratic values, for basic decency and fairness, for policy based on reason and facts, and even for the truth itself.

And while I honor the office of the Presidency, and hope for our President and our country to succeed, I watch with great alarm as the President-elect selects the key people around him to advise him and advance his agenda. The President-elect’s chief strategist is a white supremacist, his National Security Advisor equates a world religion with a cancer, his pick for CIA director has defended enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, mock executions, and rectal feeding, and his pick for Attorney General opposed the Voting Rights Act and the Violence Against Women Act, made jokes about the KKK, and was deemed too racist to be confirmed to the federal bench.

I don’t expect to agree with a Republican president’s picks, and would surely have had concerns about many of the people John McCain or Mitt Romney would have chosen. But the early selections by President-elect Trump raise concerns beyond policy differences. Rather, these picks confirm fears that Trump will push forward an agenda that undermines our constitutional order, threatens the least vulnerable in our society, and is at the fringe of our political discourse.

Even more alarming is the fact that we as Democrats have few levers to fight back as the loyal opposition. Despite losing the popular vote, Trump’s Republican Party now controls the presidency, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the majority of governor’s offices, and the majority of state legislatures. A majority of the Justices of the Supreme Court will soon, once again, be conservatives. As a result, there are very few tools for Democrats to use to stop the coming onslaught of regressive policies.

In what will essentially be a one-party state, we must hope that the bureaucracy, the courts, and the media are robust enough to protect the fundamental values of our Democracy, or that some Republican leaders will temper the extreme positions proposed by the Trump Administration.

Whatever our hopes in this regard, however, it is clear that there are challenging days ahead. While we must not despair, I am concerned that we are under-reacting rather than over-reacting to the threats President-elect Trump poses to our democracy and our way of life.

What, practically, can we do to protect our values in an age of Trump?

Here are three suggestions on where we go from here.

  1. We must avoid normalizing the radical agenda of the Trump Administration. We must retain our capacity for outrage and speak up every time they call for a registry of Muslims. Every time they call the brilliant and inspiring First Lady “an ape in heels.” Every time they mock a disabled reporter. Every time they brag about grabbing women by the genitals or walking in on teenagers while they are naked or changing. Every time they appoint a white supremacist or a senior official who supports rectal feeding or mock executions. These are dangerous times. We must not act otherwise.
  2. We must support the organizations, leaders, and movements that are on the front lines, such as the ADL, the ACLU, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club. We should lend our time and our money to practical resistance to incursions in areas of policy we hold dear. The Trump agenda will advance on many fronts at once: health care, immigration policy, environmental policy, civil rights, foreign relations, criminal justice policy, and many others. We must be relentless in promoting sensible measures in these areas, seeking compromise where it is possible and resisting vigorously when policy proposals would cross a line or set us back.
  3. We must organize at the grassroots level to support candidates who will represent our values and ideals. Congressional and statewide elections in 2018 are right around the corner. We must take back the House, the Senate, and statewide offices. The Democratic Party has suffered a huge setback, but we still have the support of a majority of Americans. As long as we avoid infighting, we will return stronger than ever. But that must begin at the grassroots. Beginning with Ralph Reed and Newt Gingrich, the Republican party in the early 1990s planted the seeds of a long-term strategy by supporting young candidates for local offices all over the country — even in hostile territory — to grow a “farm system.” The Federalist Society did the same thing for young conservative lawyers. Over time, this approach bore fruit through a whole new generation of conservative candidates and judges. We, too, must build a new generation of leadership, starting at the grassroots. We must invest in young Democrats and contest every office from dog catcher to state representative to State Treasurer to President of the United States. It will be a slow process, but then lasting change always is.