Apparently, we Democrats are “lost in the woods.” I thought, in my infinite wisdom as a 21 year-old in college, I should write a guide for us on what we can be doing in the mean time and how to get out of these woods.
The election ended around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9th when Hillary Clinton called to concede to Donald Trump. The recounts will not change anything. Historically, recounts only change by a few hundred votes. The closest margin this year was in New Hampshire at around 3,000 votes. (By the way, do not donate to Jill Stein’s scam.)
The election is over, but it’s time to step up and do what good citizens do best: be active.
It’s time for us to lead ourselves out of these “woods” we somehow found ourselves in and into a strong position in the elections of 2017, 2018, 2020 and beyond. It’s time to begin opposing — vocally — any and all of the horrible policies and appointments suggested by our President-elect.
Our hopes as Democrats should not rely simply on President Trump failing — rather, our hopes should rely on the American people recognizing Democratic leaders and policies as a positive, vibrant future. Some of these suggestions may seem more “election year” oriented (fun but often unrealized fact: there’s always an election, somewhere, at some point!) such as Organize and Donate. But to be ready for the Big Ones (2018, 2020) we need to spend every day doing the hard, dirty, thankless work below.
So, what can you do?
Little known fact, but your elected officials will listen to you. Yes, I don’t know how the myth came about that they don’t care about you, but I think it's true. Do any of the following in response to any event, proposed legislation or proposed appointment, even if your member(s) of Congress are Republican. Your voice — and the voice of other voters — matters more than just party.
Call: This is a particularly powerful tool. You will get a staffer of your Representative or your Senator. You will think you’re not getting to the source, but you are. Members of Congress aren’t just their own individual super-beings. They rely on their staff, they listen to what they report, they listen to what they suggest, they listen to what they’re getting the most calls about. If it’s a piece of legislation or an appointment to a position, call the D.C. offices of your Members of Congress (if it’s an appointment to a position, call your Senators). Tell them where you’re from, what you’re calling about and why. If you keep it short, sensible, act polite and express deep concern, you’ll be golden.
Write: Writing letters is still a good way to contact your members of Congress, because it shows you put time, effort and thought into whatever you’re writing about, so long as you’ve done some proofreading. However, tons of these come in and can take a while to process. Calling goes straight to the staffer’s ear. Most importantly, this is more powerful than your Facebook comment on your member’s post.
Social media does not work, unless you’re launching some coordinated campaign where suddenly the member’s Twitter is filled with a hundred tweets about one subject in a matter of two minutes.
Call or write a letter, and encourage other constituents to do the same.
The term — or variations of it — are thrown around a lot. “They’ve got some great organizers.” “Their ground game won the election.” “The campaign will focus on organizing supporters.”
Let’s breakdown what some of the key elements are of organizing and talk about what we can do as we wait for the next election.
Registering Voters: The instant someone complains about the next scandal or policy he/she disagrees with, ask him/her a simple question: Did you vote? If yes, great. Will you be voting in the next election? Will you be at the same address? Will you help others vote? If answer is no to if he/she voted, ask him/her, do you want to register right now?
Canvassing: Get in contact with a candidate’s campaign or with the local Democratic Party. Ask if they need someone to go, door to door, in neighborhoods across the area, asking if people are registered to vote (see above) and if they will consider Democratic candidates. Personal contact like this is the most effective form of campaigning (research).
Phone-banking: Same as above, reach out to a campaign. Volunteer to use your unlimited (or limited) minutes on that fancy iPhone to call your fellow Democrats and/or Independents and make sure they know who they can be voting for, that they’re correctly registered to vote, and that, if they’re interested, they can get involved in exactly what you’re doing.
Getting Your Friends Involved: Once again, the instant someone complains about the incoming administration, ask them to help out with you! Ask them to canvass, phone-bank, operate a voter registration drive, or get some souls to the polls (see below). Few things are as powerful in politics as the word of a friend, whether that is to vote for someone or to do some organizing.
Getting Souls to the Polls: Election Day is not a national holiday, on a weekend, or a 24-hour long opportunity. It’s not easy to vote when you’re working two jobs, maybe more, or have kids, or are going to school, or doing all of these, or if you’re disabled, elderly, a first time voter, or something else! Volunteer to drive people. Make sure they understand early voting, if it’s an option in your state. Or, make use of the mail-in-ballots (if you’re in certain states, primarily out West) or absentee ballots. Help people get to the polls or get access to their ballots (absentee), don’t just tell them to go.
Trust me, I know. You’re a college student, or you’re saving up for that treat-yo-self gift or you don’t want to deal with annoying emails asking for more. But, money goes a long way. TV ads aren’t free. Neither is traveling from campaign event to campaign event. Plus, there are paid staffers who need some income to keep the campaign running. Donate some money.
“But the election isn’t for— ”
Wrong. There’s always an election. Right now, there’s a runoff race for one of the US Senate seats representing Louisiana. There’s a Democrat running. Donate here. In 2017, there will be a very important governor’s race in Virginia as well as one in New Jersey. Donate here to the Virginia Democratic Party and here to the New Jersey Democratic Party.
Also in 2017, special elections have been ordered for the North Carolina General Assembly after a federal court found several districts to be gerrymandered. Republicans currently hold very slim veto-proof majorities in both Chambers, and this could change that. Donate here to the North Carolina Democratic Party!
That’s right. Run for an office, or encourage someone else to. And trust me, you know someone. People only ever talk about running for President. Good news: there are literally thousands of more offices than just that. Democrats should be contesting races up and down the ballot across the country. County commissioners, city councils, water district supervisors, Board of Education members, State House Representatives, State Court of Appeals judgeships, district attorneys, etc., etc., etc. People need to run in Texas, Massachusetts, Alaska, North Carolina, Oregon — literally everywhere for everything.
Now, I’m not talking about someone who will bumble their way through the local paper editorial’s interview, or someone who won’t even campaign for themselves. You/they need to be qualified, willing and determined. Thing is, these people exist everywhere, they’re just not being encouraged.
I want to be careful about this as people of color can end up injured or even dead if things go downhill. Plus, plenty are convinced there are massive conspiracies for protests to just turn into mindless riots that cause violence and looting.
When I say protest, I mean peacefully. I mean to make a sign with a catchy slogan to protest the appointment of some bigot to a Senate confirmed position. I mean to walk in a march supporting Black Lives Matter because the Trump administration refuses to acknowledge the militarization of police. I mean to get your friends to attend a town-hall being hosted by your Member of Congress and to silently stand in shirts stating your purpose. I mean to think with common sense what will draw people to support your cause, not oppose it.
Now, protests can turn violent without that ever being their intention due to other factors. Be safe and be smart.
For years, Donald Trump delegitimized Barack Obama as he asked to see “the birth certificate.” When he started saying he may not accept the results of the presidential election, when he threatened to not participate in debates (or actually did so in the primaries), when he blacklisted members of the press, when he asked his supporters to violently attack or even assassinateHillary Clinton and her supporters — he violated democratic norms.
Notice, these are small-democratic norms. These are the intangible actions, mannerisms and expectations that govern how we function as a democracy without ever being written in stone. The only way to hold these norms together — norms that are absolutely essential to our nation surviving any political movement — is respecting their existence. They’re ideas like legitimacy, respect, peaceful transitions of power and duty among many, many others.
Do not call for recounts in states that are not competitive. When you say, “not my president,” think of Donald Trump when he said “your president” to Secretary Clinton at the debates about President Obama. Respectfully debate Republicans about what is proposed by President-elect Trump. Do not refuse to ever speak to those who voted for Trump. If they threaten you or simply wish to attack you, of course, do not bother. But don’t shut yourself off from the world.
Think about what our current political climate is like and think about what actions you severely disagreed with during Donald Trump's campaign. Think of how you can keep those democratic norms surviving if you act like a good citizen.
Powerful forums still exist beyond social media. Town halls, local board meetings, letters to the editor in your local paper and any event with either elected officials or candidates for office are awesome opportunities to spread ideas, challenge policy and speak out against injustice.
Write to your paper about a particular Executive Order you oppose from President Trump. Attend a city council meeting where a protest resolution may be discussing a negative action taken by the Trump administration. Go to events held by the local Democratic Party and speak with local leaders, possibly needing to press them to concede less to the “conservative” beliefs of Trump voters and stick more to inclusive principles. Follow your Members of Congress on social media to see what public events they are having with constituents and attend to share your concerns.
There will not be many elected Democrats to oppose some of the policies of President Trump. It is incumbent upon us Democratic voters to be the megaphone in the meantime.
“Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it”-Hillary Clinton, Nov. 9th, 2016
Now, as I said before, we must uphold democratic norms. So, of course, I do not mean go and physically fight someone. I mean to fight for your beliefs with your calls to your members of Congress, your canvassing in neighborhoods, your donations to candidates and parties, your friends (or yourself!) running for an office, your peaceful protest, your adherence to democracy and using your voice.
Every day you do not speak out against a horrible policy proposed by President Trump — such as a ban on Muslims or a trade war with China — is another day that policy can gain traction with Congress. Until the next election comes — and every one after that — where these policies can potentially be overcome at the ballot box, use the tools listed above to guide us Democrats out of the woods and help us spend our time here usefully.