Resistance Without Representation: How To Fight The Trump Agenda When You Live in DC
by Rob Avruch, Charlie Crocker, Mia Jacobs, Sarah Thankam Mathews, Alex Przybelski, Eduardo Soto, and Justin Wilson. Disclaimer: This list could not possibly be exhaustive. Share this and your own ideas with #DCResists
So you live in DC. The swamp that, y’know, isn’t really a swamp. You are mad as hell about the Fascist Slip-N-Slide taking place in the hallowed halls of our federal government. Sh*t is bad. Real bad. And like us, you are done. You did not open the Tiffany box. You are less here for any of this than Maxine Waters would be if she were cut off in traffic by Bikers for Trump.
You are down to #resist, but the majority of actions that folks nationally are being asked to take involve writing postcards to their Senators and calling their Member of Congress. Worthy as these choices are, you live in DC. You ain’t got no man and you ain’t got no Senator. Eleanor Holmes-Norton can only yell so loudly.
We’re a group of friends and DC residents who got together and brainstormed what folks like us can do, with what we do have: our connections to people with knowledge of the system, physical proximity to the seat of American government, knowledge and experience, and y’know, fury and terror — despite our lack of voting representation. This list is by no means exhaustive, but this is some of what we, and you, can do (printable checklist here).
- Sign up to volunteer with Swing Left, a grassroots effort that aims to help Democrats win the House of Representatives in 2018 (and beyond). Over a 100,000 people nationwide have signed up so far. Get at it.
- Engage DC businesses. The small business community is poised to be a powerful ally in our stand against He Who Must Not Be Named. Administrations may come and go, but DC businesses are here to stay. Let’s show them what the District’s really about: inclusivity over fear. DC is home to many minority- and LGBT-owned businesses. Find them. Support them. Encourage them to support local charities. See if they’ll display posters affirming the dignity and value of all in their windows. Ask them to take whatever action they’re comfortable doing to ensure they support a diverse clientele.
- Make personal deliveries. The cornerstone of representative democracy is one’s ability to voice concern to your representatives. While calling, emailing, and tweeting are great first steps for folks around the country, Washingtonians have the unique ability to quite literally knock down their doors of elected officials and mean mug them. If you didn’t grow up here, invite your friends from your home state to send their letters expressing concern to you and deliver the stack of them in person to your member either at their office, during a Constituent Breakfast, or some other meet-and-greet.
- Use your wallet wisely. Switch banks if yours ( 👀 Chase) funds things that go against your values, like DAPL. Additionally, many of us living here in the District are imbued with the kind of financial privilege that means donating to causes can be real, impactful activism. The median income here is $80K, for Christ’s sake. Money can help keep movements fueled. So use yours, if you have it. We made an appendix below of organizations you can give your coin to. But also, y’know, be organized and intentional about it. Consider how to maximize your donation. Organize your friends into a giving group and plan fundraisers for organizations that are important to you. Set up an on-going GoFundMe or shared account that pools money and gives to a different cause each week.
- Help your visiting friends engage in ‘activist tourism.’ Bottomless brunching and strolls around the monuments are typical weekend choices for folks coming to see you in the Swamp. Next time, engage in your civic duty, and add some citizen activism to your itinerary. Bring your friends to simply visit your representative’s office to say hello to the staffers at the desk, or schedule a meeting with them. It’ll be more memorable than perspective pictures with the Washington monument.
- Show up with your body and make your resistance visible. In many ways, DC will be Ground Zero of the loyal opposition. Show up to protests as you are able, especially if you are a privileged person along various axes — your being there swells the crowd and could make it safer for people of color, queer people, etc. Put up Black Lives Matter and Welcome Your Neighbors yard signs. Know your rights, then demonstrate and protest in big and small ways. The point of entry doesn’t need to be a 500,000 person march. It could be as organic as a flashmob, a sit-in, or some subversive caroling. Maximize those smaller grassroots actions through social media, organizing and letting the press know, like the rad folks who organized a queer dance party to welcome Mike Pence did. Be strategic, which usually simply means: always know who your audience is, and what you hope to get them to do or feel through your action.
- Pay attention. Expand your media food groups. It’s important to know what all sides are saying. Set up news alerts from Fox, Breitbart, and The Drudge Report. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool NYT liberal, also read Current Affairs, Jacobin, or n+1. But this also means keeping the broader context in your field of vision. Note what laws are being passed while we’re distracted by the outrage machine. Continue to zoom out: what was everyone up in arms and talking about about a week ago? Russian influence in the election? The President personally profiting from his office? Does it still matter, even if CNN isn’t talking about it? Keep learning and reading and educating yourself.
- Engage with people outside your ‘bubble’ online and IRL. Especially people who don’t share your precise views. You likely have insight and knowledge of issues that 80% of your high school classmates do not, so serve as a translator and a megaphone in your social network. This is basically a city filled with former debate club nerds — use your ability to explain complex issues in accessible and persuasive ways for good. Start a personal newsletter or email your extended family once a month or a week. Explain how sanctuary cities follow the law and keep their residents safer. Help them tease out what it takes to get legislation passed. And as much as possible, keep it personal and keep it kind.
- Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Commit to yourself that you’ll be in this for the long haul. Put in times you want to work on these things each week in your gCal. It’s unsexy, but building your own capacity to do the work of engaging as a citizen in possibly unprecedented ways for four years — not the first four weeks — is mad important. Feel your feelings. There will be moments that will make you want to scream into a pillow or belt out Public Enemy while tearing apart the past week’s mind-melting headlines, and you should. If you get overwhelmed by the news cycle, take a break. Repressing your feelings can leave you feeling powerless. But channelling anger into community-building and action can make you feel in control, empowered and ready for the next move.
- Choose courage. First, let us take a moment to salute the White House leaker, the rogue agency Twitter accounts, and people within the system who assume some real personal risk to shed light on, and do their own small part in righting, the new order of things. “Be brave” is hella amorphous, but it might be the mantra all of us need. Because if you ever wondered what you would have done during, say, the civil rights movement, now is your chance to find out. But we’re well aware that the punishments for bravery and civil disobedience are far from equally assigned among those of differing skin tones, class backgrounds, and gender presentations. Calculate the risks you might assume for your audacity, and decide if they are worth it to you. It is a deeply personal choice.
- Use your creativity, collaborate, and innovate. As monolithic as this city may feel to some, our social circles are made up of diverse professionals: journalists, government workers, lobbyists, activists, artists, policy makers, and tech entrepreneurs. We each have a unique perspective, but we don’t always play to our strengths or venture outside our comfort zones. Now — more than ever — our ability to collaborate will be an asset and a necessity. Reach out to friends who work in a different industry than you. Share knowledge and resources, help connect the dots, and work together. Can you code? Do you know the ins and outs of getting meetings scheduled with Members? Are you a kick-ass PR hack and writer? Do you understand the mechanics of writing policy? We can band together and pool our skills to come up with innovative ways to challenge the new political order and hold our decision-makers accountable.
- Take care of yourself and your neighbors. Remember that, for all the swamp rhetoric, DC is real and wonderful in so many ways. Talk about that. And look out for our neighbors. These are going to be trying times and we need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves and our friends. You might be pontificating about the danger of Trump’s immigration policies without even knowing you’re living next door to immigrants that will be gravely affected by them. Open up your homes, your offices, your studios, your social spaces. Bring together old and new friends to recharge and create safe havens for organizing. Learn de-escalation techniques that you can use so you’re never a bystander to harassment. Consider once, twice, three times, before you ever call the police on a fellow Washingtonian. If you’re a longtime DC resident, run for local office. If you’re a young professional transplant, get to know your neighbors. If you’re financially able, consider forgoing the coffee or happy hour and buy lunch for someone experiencing homelessness. We have got to stick together now more than ever. Focus, in the face of fascist rhetoric, on seeing everyone as human and worthy of dignity.
- Reflect on what resistance actually is, and what it will take. In the words of journalist Anand Gopal, “A single protest, as important as they are, has never changed anything. But the social movements of linked protests — that is the lifeblood of resistance. That is the only thing that has ever changed anything. And by that I mean: civil disobedience, boycotts, abortion funds, sit-ins, prison solidarity networks, sanctuary spaces — all of it. Resistance is not a moment, not a state of mind. Resistance is a tapestry which is collective and enduring, so enduring that the status quo cannot sleep at night.”
People like to talk about ‘Washington’ as though the only people that live here are robots that answer Senators’ phones. But this city is real, and so are we. We’re the folks that make the firms, nonprofits, restaurants, our own small business — not to mention government — run. We organize and we take care of each other.
The status quo is awake for now. Let’s keep the District in this fight together.
With love and solidarity,
APPENDIX A: FOLLOW-THROUGH
Commit. Download and print this checklist, decide what you can do, and commit to doing it. And, of course, this list could not possibly be exhaustive. Let us know what we’re missing. Comment with your ideas, and share this and your own ideas with #DCResists