What do I do now?
I’m not happy about the outcome of the Presidential election. This should come as no surprise to anyone. I feel we, as a country, chose a narcissistic, sexist, xenophobic, racist, bully to lead us and that feels like an extraordinarily bad choice. In addition, we kept the houses of congress in control of the Republicans and that means there is, effectively, no-one to temper the agenda of our bully-in-cheif.
It would be easy to point fingers all sorts of directions. Could Bernie have beaten Trump? Maybe. We don’t know that but maybe. Should the electoral college be fixed? Sure, but not before we fix the gerrymandered districts that work so heavily in the favor of Republicans that proposals to “fix” the system may well have given Trump more electoral votes and make it nearly impossible for a Democrat to ever win a Presidential election.
Protests against President-elect Trump (I hate typing that) are fine. They remind the Republican “majority” that there is a large swath of the country they do not serve and that is important. The protests themselves will not change much. They help us vent some anger, which is valid. They will not change Trump’s agenda (because he doesn’t really know what it is).
But look – there are things that we liberals can do over the next four years that can help everyone. Including the people who voted for Trump. It seems to me that progressive, positive actions can make a difference. I know these suggestions don’t represent everything we can do. They do represent a lot of very simple (and a few very difficult) things that will have an impact.
Do Not Tolerate Hate Speech
I know some of my conservative friends will argue that hate speech includes calling someone a bigot. That is entirely dependent on whether or not you are saying that to someone who is a bigot. If they are bigot, it is not hate speech. It is stating a fact.
Telling a hispanic kid to “go back to Mexico,” on the other hand, is hate speech. There has been an uptick of this sort of speech in the wake of the election. Possibly because the winning candidate’s racist rhetoric made it seem like saying that sort of thing was OK. Especially because he won.
We need to teach our kids to stand up and defend other children when that happens. I’m not talking about starting a playground fight. I’m talking about empowering them to say “that is unacceptable” and to make sure those kids know they have allies on the playground.
We need to be there for other adults as well. It is not about lecturing someone. It is about saying “I will not tolerate that language and that attitude.” If no-one tells these people what they are saying is not OK, they will get worse.
Provide a Safe Space
I don’t honestly know what potential there is for the erosion of GLBTQ rights under our new President, but I’m concerned about it. Unfortunately, there is little we can do to control that problem. The battle will be fought in our courts and that means it is dependent on who our President puts on the bench.
What we can do, though, is offer a safe space to our GLBTQ friends. We can let them know they are welcome in our home. We can let them know we will speak out to protect their rights. If we have crash space, we can let them know they are welcome to use it at any time.
I have a lot of GLBTQ friends who are justifiably frightened right now. We have to remind them they have an army of caring people who will support and fight for them.
Donate Your Money
Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortion services need funds. The ACLU is going to be very busy. The National Parks are going to lose a lot of funding. If you believe in these causes, you can help them by setting up a monthly donation.
Money is tight and unless you are wealthy, it will probably get tighter under this administration. If you can afford a dollar a month, though, do it.
Food shelves will probably be very busy as well. Instead of throwing them $25 at Christmas, remember that people are hungry year round.
Donate your Time
We are all busy and we don’t have a lot of time to spare. If you can, though, volunteer with causes you know are going to be in trouble under this administration. Be a clinic escort. Volunteer with the National Park Service.
Hell, just work at a soup kitchen because you know Welfare programs are probably in the crosshairs and the vulnerable need to eat.
I know the election is over and you are tired of get out the vote drives.
If more than half of our population voted, that would be a valid complaint. Fact is, almost 50% of the electorate sat this one out.
We could argue it was because they hated the options on the ballot. Except turnout is always a problem.
As liberals, we are worse than conservatives when it comes to voting. There are more of us. But we are picky. We want exactly the right candidate and if they don’t check every one of our liberal boxes, we stay home.
We can’t do that. It is super easy to claim that Clinton and the DNC stole the nomination but the fact is she got more votes in the primary. She did. I mean you can try to make up conspiracies about those votes but it won’t change the vote count.
So when I say vote, I mean show up for every vote. Show up for the city council elections because they will affect your life more than a President ever will. Show up for primary elections because that’s where candidates get chosen. Voting in an off year probably won’t take more than 30 minutes. Your boss must give you time off to vote if you ask.
No, you don’t have to vote. I’m not even going to tell you that you can’t complain if you don’t vote. What I’m telling you is that roughly half of the population makes political decisions for everyone else. So don’t vote if you don’t want to.
But if you are a liberal and you are upset about the result of this election, know that if you don’t vote, you are actively resisting a path that could help make things better. Simply put, you could have swung this election by showing up.
This one is hard. The two major parties are run by the people who show up. If you think Democrats are too conservative and you do nothing about it except complain on Facebook, things won’t change.
In Minnesota, we have a yearly caucus. You have to give up one night to go. It’s long and often frustrating and pretty messy. If you aren’t careful, you’ll end up at the regional convention and then at the state convention. If you are vocal enough, you might find yourself nominated to run for an office you know you haven’t a chance in hell of winning.
And if you do win, you will have to do a lot more work and you won’t be paid very well.
But if you are a liberal and you want to make a difference, keep in mind that by doing those things, you have an impact on the conversation.
Even if you show up for a caucus, your voice is amplified. So commit to at least that one night a year. It is something tangible you can do to advance the ideas about which you feel strongly.
Especially if you are represented by someone who does not share your ideology, you need to tell them. You need to tell them clearly and cogently and without malice.
They have to know that they represent everyone and not just the people who voted for them.
If you are represented by someone who agrees with you, though, you need to write them too. Because they are going to be trying to get things done in an environment that is actively resistant to most of the things they believe. It’s a shitty job. And it’s a job you don’t want.
So an encouraging letter is helpful. A letter that tells them they are not alone and you are fighting for them in the trenches is helpful.
Write online. Write about what you believe and why. Defend what you believe. Stand up for it. Stand up for yourself. Try not to shut yourself off from the world. Unless you need to step away. I completely understand if you need to do that. When you have enough spoons, though, I hope you come back.
You don’t have to do any of these things. But if you do none of these things, you are just as culpable when the rights of your GLBTQ friends are taken away. You are just as culpable when the environment gets worse. You are just as culpable when women are denied access to health care or thrown in prison for choosing to abort a pregnancy.
We can’t just say “don’t blame me, I voted for Clinton,” because we aren’t done. If you are a liberal and you believe that it can be better, you have to work for it.