How Best to Fight Back
A newly impassioned activist movement has swept the country as President Donald Trump pushes cringe-worthy, un-American policies and seeks to undermine our democratic institutions. This resistance has shown muscle and inspired action from those heretofore uninterested in politics. Through concerted effort and the power of the masses, we can fight back against Trump and his embarrassing administration. Here are some simple actions that, when we all do them, make a big difference.
Call your members of Congress every day. Phone calls remain the best means by which constituents can influence senators and representatives. Call each office – district and Washington – every day with a singular purpose (and a quick story behind it, if you have one) and request a written response (more on that later). One day call in opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act; the next, call and urge investigations into Donald Trump’s alleged Russia connections, and so on and so forth. These really do make a difference: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted against Betsy DeVos’s nomination as Secretary of Education because of phone calls. If you have Democratic members of Congress, reach out to Republicans – just be sure to use zip codes from corresponding districts. Here are some good lawmakers to call:
Senators: Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Dean Heller (R-NV), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Representatives: Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Ed Royce (R-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Steve Knight (R-CA), Mimi Walters (R-CA), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Will Hurd (R-TX), and Peter Roskam (R-IL).
Write letters and send emails. Many congressional offices try to respond to all written correspondence. To do so takes time and staff effort. Writing many letters or emails, each one focused on a particular issue, serves a dual purpose: One, the office notes and aggregates your opinion, and, two, congressional aides spend precious time responding to your letter. Specific letters forces staff to respond not in one fell swoop but in multiple efforts (and thus more time). Every minute spent writing or editing a constituent response is a minute not spent on dismantling the EPA or working on an ACA repeal. Furthermore, any responses (or lack thereof from aloof members) can easily be shared on social media to inspire outcries and, hopefully, further action. Emails can be sent to any and all senators or representatives – again, just be sure to use proper zip codes. Check out Countable, an app and website that allows you to quickly peruse legislation and submit feedback to members of Congress. Some offices respond even to simple requests sent through Countable and with the app’s ease, you can submit dozens of opinions daily. This isn’t the most glamorous resistance tactic, but Republicans have long proved the delay, delay, delay is an effective strategy. Let’s now use it to our advantage.
Attend town hall events. Representatives, running for reelection every two years, often hold in-district events to respond to and keep in contact with voters. These events provide remarkable settings for resistance. First, large turnout with speakers that tell moving stories that end with pointed questions put the congress(wo)man in a difficult position: How can you look someone for whom the ACA has given health and a new lease on life and say you will dismantle the legislation? Signs and protests outside events catch the media’s eyes – representatives fret constantly over local media coverage. Similarly, should a representative start fearing constituents’ wrath and start avoiding protesters or the district altogether, the press unleashes a hailstorm of rightful criticism (see: Peter Roskam in Illinois). Even if you live in a reliably blue district, you can drive to and attend neighboring events. SwingLeft helps you find the nearest swing and Republican district; from there, simply go the representative’s website and look at his or her events! Be sure to bring friends and family members – the more bodies, the more powerful the message.
Discuss politics with friends and family. Face-to-face or online communication with those in one’s social network remains the best way of influencing political beliefs. Politics, with its increasingly contentious nature, has become a third-rail of conversations and social interaction. This is a problem. We’re all effected by local and national political outcomes and we all, through collective action, have a say in political results. Through conversations with others we learn, refine our views, hone our arguments, and revive the Republican spirit that so coursed through our Founders. These conversations should, of course, be respectful and polite. But they should happen. Don’t be afraid to get political at lunches or dinners or on social media. It’s probably the easiest way we can change the minds of a few voters.
Donate. It’s never too early to begin gearing up for the next election. Find candidates or outside organizations in whom you believe and send them some money every month. It doesn’t need to be much – every little bit helps and also helps build commitment. Giving money means you become invested in the outcome and that might spur you into volunteering or phonebanking on a candidate’s behalf as the election ramps up.
Protest. If you hear about a local protest, grab your friends and go! The women’s marches and travel ban protests show their immense power: Such activities went viral on social media and drew hours of coverage from local and national media. It amplifies one’s voice and creates a lasting, powerful image. Protest solidarity also restores faith in the political process and reinvigorates one’s desire to do everything possible to make a difference. Note, though, that these protests must be law-abiding and peaceful. Research has found that extreme protests – including, but not limited to, blocking the streams of commerce and the destruction of property – actually empowers the protesters’ target.
Write op-eds and letters to the editor. Have an opinion about a local matter or local politician? Don’t keep it to yourself – jot an article or quick letter and send it to the local newspaper! This helps spread your argument to a wide audience and might even change some minds.
Vote. There are elections every year. Learn about the candidates and the issues, campaign for those in which you believe, help mobilize other voters, and, most importantly, cast your ballot. Elections are how we make a difference. Let none go to waste.