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How to Resist President Donald Trump

We asked activists and experts what normal people can do to make life difficult for the bigoted asshole about to become the most powerful man on Earth.
November 16, 2016, 7:15pm
Thousands of Area High School students march past the U.S. Capitol to protest President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, USA on November 15, 2016. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

If you're like me, you've spent an embarrassing amount of time over the last week or so scrolling through Facebook as your friends and acquaintances go crazy about Donald Trump becoming the next president of the United States. You've watched donations get made to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other groups that promise to oppose Trump on issues ranging from civil liberties to reproductive rights.


You've probably seen that petition about how, thanks to the magic of faithless electors, Hillary Clinton can still become president. (She can't.) And you've definitely seen or heard about the massive protests in cities across America, where people vented their anger or sadness or fear over the fact that an alleged serial sexual assailant who spouts the rhetoric of a racist demagogue is about to become the most powerful man on Earth.

But beyond venting, how can Americans effectively resist Trump? How can normal people make it difficult for this asshole to build a wall, ban Muslims, deport Latinos, and torture suspected terrorists? I reached out to a cross-section of political activists and experts for some wisdom, and got a range of responses about how they plan to fight for the next four years, and how you can, too. Here's what they said.

Todd Gitlin
former president of Students for a Democratic Society, professor

Todd Gitlin speaks at Ryerson re Atkinson lecture. Photo by Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Street protests may help thousands of people vent their disgust, but I don't see that they have any long-run value. Street protests that smash windows only pump up the law-and-order dimension of Trump's vicious campaign and detract from serious organizing efforts. The left got out-organized, and it will continue to get out-organized as long as it disdains the hard, frustrating, compromised work of local politics. Now, 33 states, two-thirds of all of them, are controlled by the Republican Party. They control redistricting. They roll back voting rights. They crush efforts to show that governments can improve life.

That said, starting yesterday, there need to be sustained campaigns of opposition to Trump appointments through the government judgeships, of course, but also nominations for EPA, Interior, and other policy-making positions bearing on climate change and environmental degradation and injustice. There need to be progressive caucuses in Democratic parties, committed wherever possible to a common platform along the lines of Bernie Sanders's, looking toward the midterm elections of 2018.

Rick Wilson
Republican consultant, Never Trump activist

Regardless of what the Milos and the alt-right boys all think, I am not going to just commit suicide just to please them. They haven't really accomplished what they think they accomplished.

A lot of the Republicans who stayed in the weeds and privately said I hate him, he's disgusting, he's an asshole, he's not a conservative, blah blah blah—a lot of those people are playing nice and playing paddy-cake with him and pretending it's all going to be kumbaya. And those folks, if they're going to continue to pretend to be conservatives, they're going to have an obligation to resist Trump policies. Unless conservatism has been redefined as Donald Trump's will.


I think the riots and all the protest marches—God bless the First Amendment, but if you're playing that out as a political strategy to undermine Trump, all you're doing is feeding the monster. He loves that stuff. That's fabulous for him.

I think what you do—and everybody kinda knows this—I think there's going to be a lot of litigation from the left and right of Trump on a lot of major issues coming up. I think that will be an important venue for how people resist. Although Trump is promising to undo Obama's executive orders, he's also promised to do things via executive orders. If we hate it for one guy, we should hate it for the other. If Congress is supposed to exercise legislative power instead of the executive exercising that same power, then Congress has to step up and do it.

Kshama Sawant
Seattle city councilwoman, Socialist

Kshama Sawant (left), Seattle city council member and socialist, addresses protesters on November 9, 2016, in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images

It is absolutely a historic duty to resist Trump's agenda. But in order to resist, in order to actually be successful in taking society away from the direction that Trump and the right-wing agenda is, we have to recognize why we are here in the first place. We are here because of a complete inability and failure and betrayal of the Democratic Party Establishment. Even though they knew that at this moment there is a move for social change, that in order to win against Trump they had to run a candidate like Bernie Sanders, who's actually going to present an alternative to the corporate domination of politics, even though they knew all this, they ended up running the worst possible candidate for this moment. They are enveloped in this cocoon of hubris [built on] their association with the billionaire class. They played a dangerous game with our futures, and they lost. So the only way to make sure we don't lose to is to build a mass resistance from below. Both the parties have failed us, and in order to fight the right, we need a new party.

We [also] need to organize for peaceful mass protests in every city across the country. That means courageous peaceful walkouts for college students. Saturday the 21st [of January] we are calling for mass demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations, in Washington, DC.

Bill McKibben
environmentalist, founder of

We're gonna have to come to terms with the fact that we're going to lose a lot of fights, especially in the first part of the Trump years. He's filling his cabinet with bad people who are going to do bad things. One of the things we have to do is make sure that we fight at every turn and that people understand, even if we're losing things, understand the stakes so they really have a good sense of what's going on. People need to understand that if he rejects the Paris Agreement [on climate change], he's making an enormous wager that goes against what all the scientists are telling him to do. Those are things that are important for people to understand—kind of for historic reasons and also because it'll make it easier to organize going forward.

This was a horribly hard fight before last Tuesday, without any guarantees we were going to win it. And that fight got harder. Climate change, in the best of circumstances, we're going to be fighting it for the next many decades.


When we can make strong moral stands, we do out in places like Standing Rock [where Native Americans are protesting a planned pipeline]. Those are good in and of themselves. If there's any chance, it'll lie in reframing the debate in those ways, over next few years. Standing Rock is a very spiritual place, that encampment out there, with a lot of people in prayer. I think both activism and prayer are well warranted in this case.

Fahd Ahmed
executive director, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)

Photo courtesy of DRUMNYC

DRUM is a membership-based organization of South Asian immigrants, workers, and youth—a majority of whom are Muslim, a majority of whom are undocumented and a majority of whom are women. So our members are feeling triply targeted in this period and the days to come. So for us, our primary question is: Can we rely on the existing systems to protect us—the police, the courts? And historically the answer to that—even currently—has been no. It's the same police that surveilled us, the same courts that unjustly prosecute our people. And that's even more so in the coming period.

We do need allies to start thinking about: What are ways we can interfere in and disrupt those systems? So, for example, if there are registrations for people of Muslim backgrounds, are people doing false registrations to jam up the systems? Are people blockading the offices where those registrations happen to prevent them from happening? Are we interfering with the deportation process, whether it's in the community, preventing eyes from coming into the neighborhood, or around detention centers? Those are things we need to start thinking ahead to, and we're going to have to think much further outside the box than we've been used to thinking.

Gary Segura
co-founder Latino Decisions, incoming dean of UCLA's Luskin School

Waiting for demographics is not a good decision. Demographics change, but even then, it takes work to register young Latinos and get them in the voting booth. It takes work to keep African American turnout up. It takes work to keep Asian Americans in the coalition. And to be perfectly honest with you, white women in 2016 were AWOL when it came time to vote someone of progressive positions into office. But that's not unique to 2016—since 1952, white women have voted Democrat exactly twice. They didn't fail to show up in 2016; they always fail to show up. What makes 2016 special is that white women knew they had the opportunity to vote for a woman and this guy was maybe the most unambiguous misogynist ever to run for public office, and they voted for him anyway.

I think people need to talk to one another. Forty percent of whites voted against Donald Trump. Even in places like Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—states that flipped—just under half of white people voted against him. They have cousins and brothers and sisters and parents who didn't vote with them. Those conversations need to be engaged immediately. Why this guy is not in your interest needs to be pointed out to them. Nobody adopts a position forever. If that were the case, we'd have won the other night because Obama won four years ago. Just like these guys went over to the dark side this time, I think they can be brought back over with the right persuasion, the right message, with having the error of their ways pointed out to them, albeit gently. Politics is a process of persuasion, and I don't think the process of persuasion ended on November 8.

Rachel B. Tiven
CEO of Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ rights group

I think the first and most important thing, is don't normalize this. This is not politics as usual. This is not, I'm disappointed my candidate lost and the other candidate won. This is, the Ku Klux Klan endorses the president of the United States. The winning candidate, at least by our system of electors—not by the popular vote—is someone who has stated his desire to deport people, harass them for their religious beliefs, who demeans anyone he sees as different or vulnerable. People should maintain their shock and their resistance.

I think it's incredibly important for people to understand that there are 81 federal district court seats currently unfilled because of obstruction of President Obama and refusal of the Senate to allow President Obama to do his job. Eighty-one federal district court seats—those judges are as important, if not more important, to the lives of ordinary people and development and enforcement of the Constitution, as the Supreme Court. There's a lot of focus on one open seat, but in fact there are more than 100 open seats on which the Senate is supposed to give its advice and its consent.


You gotta call your senators. You've gotta call your senators, and speak up about who's qualified and what you want. If you are represented by senators who can hold key votes that would block people who are committed to an ideology that opposes LGBT people and equality and that opposes an anti-misogynist agenda, and opposes the First Amendment and religious freedom in America—the institutions of our democracy are at risk if people give up.

Faiza Patel
co-director of Brennan's Liberty and National Security Program at NYU

AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini

Courts will obviously be a critical avenue for resisting measures that flout our basic commitment to equality and religious liberty. The efficacy of such challenges will become clearer once we learn more about the form that these measures will take. In the meantime, we are focused on making sure that everyone understands the reasons why proposals to ban immigration on the basis of their religion or create a registration system (even if done via a proxy of nationality) are unconstitutional and doubling down on our alliances with a range of allies, particularly in the inter-faith community.

Those of us who have been working on these issues need all the help we can get. Donations are always welcome, but it's also important for people to participate in community events that are taking place in many cities. Perhaps most important, make those who are being targeted feel welcome and, in a new take on "See something, say something," make sure you stand up and intervene if you see someone being harassed or bullied.

Arielle Newton
founder and EIC,

I'm not commenting to media on this election. I'm only organizing. That's all we have left to do.

Follow Matt Taylor on Twitter.