How You Can Fight for Your Rights During the Trump Presidency
The unthinkable has happened and Trump is about to take office. Leading activists and campaigners explain how to stay strong and keep fighting during his presidency.
Image via Flickr user Evan Guest
Perhaps the only good thing to come out of Trump winning the election is the collection of memes. "Hold my drink," America tells a Brexiting Britain. "I can't wait for the final season of America," reads another.
The coma genre is my favorite genre of Trump memes. They're always the same: If you know someone who's been in a coma throughout 2016 and is now waking up, go gently. It's a joke about the sense of dysphoria many experience watching the specter of Trump ascending to the presidency. We're not in a coma—we've been awake through 2016—but it's easy to feel like we're in the late throes of a sweat-soaked nightmare, waiting to wake up.
"The past," writes L.P. Hartley, "is a foreign country. They do things differently there." Waking up on November 9, you might have felt these words applied to the present day. Overnight the world seemed an alien place: The words "President Trump" swollen and claggy, like phrases spoken in an unfamiliar tongue. If you—like the majority of Americans—voted for Hillary Clinton, you might now view your home as a place of anomie, populated by people stripped bare of humor, tolerance, or kindness. Trump-voting friends and loved ones become strangers with obscure motives, acting in inscrutable ways.
Against this backdrop, you can feel hopeless and overwhelmed. Trump's presidency is an affront to so many basic values—gender equality, LGBT rights, anti-racist and anti-religious discrimination—that it's hard to know where to start. Do you organize to protect reproductive rights, or try to divert the environmental catastrophe of an American withdrawal from the Paris climate deal? And is there even a point, given the Republican lock on Congress could give Trump free rein to do what he wants until the next election in two years?
It's hard to escape the sense that history seems very close now, even as we're living through the present day. The Trump presidency promises a return to 20th century values: Determined male leadership and the reassertion of white privilege. Against these values we should deploy the best 20th century philosophy. Hannah Arendt—a woman who fought totalitarian male rule her entire life—describes evil as a condition that flourishes when good people are inactive. Now is a time for action.
Future generations will look to the activists and advocates of today to see how they continue to fight throughout the Trump presidency. When America slipped on a mask of self-hate and Americans turned on each other, did those advocates and activists work together to keep the arc of history bent towards justice, instead of regression? As Secretary Clinton explained in her concession speech, there is an enormous amount of work to be done. We spoke to leading advocates to find out how we can work to protect our rights, from the grassroots up.
There's no power like the power of the people.
June Barrett, Miami Workers Center
All I'm thinking right now is organize, organize, organize. We are going to have to organize more. Ever since last night, I've thought so much of our disruptive power. As an immigrant, as a poor person, as a domestic worker—it's all I can think about. When we woke up after the election, we thought, "there is no hope." But hope still lives. We have to come together.
When I first started, I had no experience. I joined the Miami Workers Center, and it was there I learned the heart of activism. People might not know what to do or be scared, but you should find a grassroots organization you can get involved with. For me, my ambition was always to get a bill of rights for domestic workers passed in Florida, and across America. But we should also plan ahead, and come together with people with the same agendas.
Be energized, be ready to fight, be ready to go, be ready to organize. I believe we will win. There's no power like the power of the people.
Pooja Gehi, National Lawyers Guild
The reason that Trump won is because the radical right is scared—of people pushing back and doing amazing work on the ground. I really want to be hopeful that we still are winning. Now is the moment to continue mobilizing and not give up hope. Know that there are so many of us, and this is just a hurdle we have to make it through. There are many things we can do. It's a time for direct action on the ground, but also fighting back through the legislature and using the law as a tool. It's also working on policy, media, and public education. We need to use all these tools on the left and push back against a really intense Conservative agenda.
Zainab Chaudry, Council on American-Islamic Relations
Trump's victory alarms many Americans - especially those who belong to communities directly impacted by the negative tone of this toxic campaign season. The election results revealed that the forces of hatred, fear, and bigotry run deeper than anyone predicted—even the pollsters. But this isn't the time for fear. We need to stand tall and strong, proud and unafraid. American Muslims have many allies who are also deeply concerned by the prospects of a Trump administration. We need to stand united and watch out for each other. We need to have each other's backs and protect one another. There is strength in numbers. Our success and safety depends on our ability to form strong coalitions and emphasize our shared humanity.
Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership
These are clearly dark times, but if history shows us anything, it's that people and communities are resilient and that change comes from the bottom. I believe that immigrants, communities of color, and young people will be able to successfully resist in the face of the hate that has been uncovered and unleashed in this election cycle. But, that will only happen if we get organized and bring more people into our movements and take action together. Elections are important, but the time between elections are even more important. Now is the time to mourn and reflect, but also the time to get organized.
Eveline Shen, Forward Together
We can't allow this result to take away our agency. We have to look in every nook and cranny of our lives and find ways to fight back. We need to hold fast to our values of connection and taking caring each other. We need to show them by standing up for our most vulnerable communities—Muslim Americans, cis-women and transgender people, those with disabilities, undocumented immigrants, and marginalized ethnicities. While we are focused on the stopping the damage that is sure to come in the short term, we need to focus on building power for the long term. That's remaking our democracy brick by brick and layer by layer.