Printed with permission from AlterNet.
With less than a week until Inauguration Day, many Americans have a busy schedule of crying, looking at slideshows of President Obama and perhaps building a fallout shelter. But much like George W. Bush reminded America when he wanted us to go shopping again after 9/11, we can’t let the terrorists win. The same elected officials who haven’t allowed the Office of Government Ethics to fully vet Trump’s most controversial cabinet picks would love us to be fully depressed and distracted.
Not interested in playing into their hands? Grab a phone, a pair of comfortable shoes, and some friends. It’s time to put the pressure on.
1. Call your representatives.
Take out your phone and put in the numbers for your two U.S. senators and congressional representative, and if you’re feeling extra ambitious, add in your state elected officials. Now, every time you hear something terrible about what Trump and his cabinet of horrors will do to our democracy, you can quickly tell your representatives exactly how you’d like them to fight back. Did they do something good? Even better, call and thank them. If you’re not sure what to say, there are a number of newsletters you can sign up for, like wall-of-us, Daily Action and SuitUp Nation, as well as continually updated googledocs like the We’re His Problem Now Calling Sheet.
As David Leonhardt reports in the New York Times,” Congressional staff members privately admit that they ignore many of the emails and letters they get. They also admit that phone calls are different. They have to answer them. Other people in the office hear the phone ringing and see their colleagues on the line. Phone calls are a tangible sign of public opinion, which is why they have been effective before.”
Take this recent example: Despite what the president-elect and much of the mainstream media would have you believe, Congress’ decision to back off the plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics was not the result of a Trump tweet, but instead, a coordinated series of phone calls from angry constituents asking their senators and congressional representatives to reject the Republican leadership’s efforts to kill their internal watchdogs. Former congressional staffer Emily Ellsworth had been laying the groundwork for this action since the day after the election when her series of tweets on why it’s important to call—not email, write or sign online petitions—went viral. As she explained in a Medium post following the ethics office retraction, the media reported on Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s amendment on a Monday night and on cue, “The next morning, people started calling. Within hours, the House Republicans called an emergency meeting and withdrew the Goodlatte Amendment.”
This tactic is going to be especially important following the Republicans’ January 12, dead-of-night approval of a budget blueprint that allows them to repeal the Affordable Care Act without the threat of a filibuster.
2. Start your own organizing group, focusing on lobbying elected officials.
You don’t have to be a high-paid lobbyist to change your representatives’ minds. Remember 2010, when the Tea Party hijacked congress? So do the authors of the Indivisible Guide, a group of congressional staffers blindsided by the coordinated, organized groups of constituents who were calling their offices, scheduling lobbying meetings and disrupting town hall events, all in the name of blocking President Obama’s agenda. These groups were small, but they managed to hamstring healthcare, the stimulus, bank bailouts, and much more.
Fortunately, these same tactics are outlined more extensively in the guide, but generally based on organizing locally around your own members of congress, and they can be used to promote diversity and inclusion rather than half-baked lies about where our president was born. All you need are a few friends to commit to calling your representatives to urge them to vote against Trump’s policies, schedule meetings to follow up on those calls and show up at their events. If the reps don’t agree to meetings? Tell the press.
As the guide says, remember how your elected officials think: “reelection, reelection, reelection…MoCs want their constituents to think well of them and they want good, local press. They hate surprises, wasted time, and most of all, bad press that makes them look weak, unlikable, and vulnerable. You will use these interests to make them listen and act.” Search for an existing group.
3. Join an existing group.
If starting your own organizing group feels like too much, there are plenty of progressive organizations willing to do the logistical work for you. The week before Thanksgiving, the Working Families Party put out a call for emergency meetings of concerned Americans eager to begin organizing a resistance. They had over 100 meetings, ranging from 10 people in a living room to 1,000 in an auditorium.
Each of these groups has engaged in some form of protest from in-person protests to letter-writing to phone-banking on behalf of candidates or specific causes. Visit ResistHere to find a group in your area, or even just calling scripts for those days when you need some help. Moveon.org has also put out a similar call, specifically for January 15, a day of multiple actions, which brings me to….
4. Attend a January 15th Day of Action rally to protect health care.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act was a cornerstone of Donald Trump’s campaign. To prevent cuts to lifesaving health insurance and services, Sen. Bernie Sanders, with an assist from Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, wrote a letter in late December to colleagues in Congress calling on them to organize a rally on January 15 to call for the protection of the Affordable Care Act.
There are now rallies across the country, and more being added every day, organized by progressive elected officials in conjunction with social justice organizations, unions, senior advocacy groups, and healthcare organizations. The goal is, Sanders notes, “to tell Republicans loudly and clearly, you are not going to get away with it.” Check out the full list of events.
5. Support journalists and freedom of the press.
If you’re a fan of free speech and a free press, the Trump presidency may not be for you. From the moment he taunted Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Serge Kovaleski simply for being disabled, Trump showed us exactly what we could expect from him, but it didn’t stop there. He has continually harassed multiple reporters, called them the “dishonest media,” and didn’t hold a press conference for six months. When he finally did, on January 11, he told CNN reporter Jim Acosta his station was “fake news” and referred to Buzzfeed as “a failing pile of garbage.” According to a Politico report, Trump packed the room with paid staff members to cheer on his every word.
If this North Korea-lite dystopian future sounds unappealing, consider donating to organizations that protect our right to free speech and a free press, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, PEN America, and Freedom House. You can also subscribe, in print or digitally, to a local, national or international newspaper. Make a habit of writing letters to the editor to demand your newspaper hold Trump’s feet to the fire.
In addition, a coalition of fiction writers and poets are organizing a series of Writers Resist events taking place on January 15.
We’ve got a long road ahead of us. It will be even longer without the information provided by a true free press to light the way.
Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.
IMAGE: People protest outside Trump Tower following President-elect Donald Trump’s election victory in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
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