With the election of Donald Trump, the US has lurched towards political and social turmoil, an era where democracy is under attack. Progressives have a moral obligation to resist autocracy and injustice. Here are eight steps for building an effective resistance to Trump.
1. Be kind to yourself: Right now, I’m upset and angry. What I’ve learned from my experience as an activist is that before I take action I must be centered. I need to calm myself. Breathe.
In my experience as an activist, I am most effective when I am physically healthy. And, I need to be psychologically healthy by following my spiritual practice, which includes meditation and time in nature.
2. Take care of your family, friends, and community. Building the resistance begins at home. Most members of my family are terrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency. Treat your family with kindness and offer comfort. Extend that circle of love and support to your friends and community.
The Trump era has opened with bullying and bigotry. Progressives must stand up for all Americans. We must oppose bullying and bigotry and widen our circle of love and support to those who are victimized by Trump and his supporters.
3. Cultivate Compassion: The struggle begins immediately but the resistance will last four years. We must reach out to our adversaries with compassion.
At the heart of my nonviolent tradition is the maxim: “There is that of God in every person.” This teaches that when we engage others we first seek out their humanity.
In the present moment we have three sets of adversaries. The first consists of those progressives who, in the 2016 election, didn’t vote the way we did: perhaps they voted for Jill Stein, or wrote-in Bernie Sanders, or didn’t vote at all. We need to reach out with compassion to our fellow progressives and, without rancor, ask them to join us in the resistance to the Trump regime.
The second set of adversaries consists of those who voted for Trump because of economic worries. They share many of our progressive values, and our concerns about Trump, but on November 8th they set these aside and voted for Trump because they believed he was going to “fix” the economy. We need to reach out with compassion to our fellow populists and , without rancor or judgement, ask them to join us in the resistance.
The third set of adversaries consists of those who voted for Trump for other reasons. Some were motivated by bias, fearful of “the other.” Some were motivated by their religious beliefs and saw Trump as “the chosen one.” Regardless of why these Americans voted for Trump, we need to reach out to them with compassion and listen to what they have to say.
4. Focus: At the moment, there is so much to do, the darkness is so pervasive, that progressives will feel pulled in multiple directions. It’s vitally important for each of us to focus our energy and begin with simple direction action. (In India, Gandhi’s resistance to British rule began with a salt boycott. In Montgomery, Martin Luther King Jr’s resistance to segregation began with a bus boycott.)
5. Begin with small steps: There are three simple actions that all of us can do now. Actions that take little energy, but help to focus our attention, and build the resistance.
5a. Contribute to the National Popular Vote Initiative (http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/). This grassroots movement seeks to have the next President determined by the popular vote rather than the electoral college. It has bipartisan support and should succeed in the next couple of years.
5b. Demand that the national Democratic leadership represent all the Party not just Washington insiders. It’s a difficult truth that Hillary Clinton would be President if she had had rock-solid Democratic support. (According to the New York Times exit polls, Trump held 90 percent of Republicans while Clinton held only 89 percent of Democrats.) Clinton lost because some progressives saw her, and the national Democratic leadership, as not representing our values.
5c. Contribute to Planned Parenthood (https://www.plannedparenthood.org/). So many progressive organizations need our support that it’s hazardous to select one. However, Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides vital women’s health services, has come under unprecedented attack and will likely lose all federal funding.
6. Join with others. Developing a broad, mindful resistance movement is an exercise in community building. Start locally but move outside your circle of comfort to enroll allies.
7. Literally, stand up for democracy. It’s not enough to tweet or email or share a Facebook post. The resistance is about meeting face-to-face with our allies and (eventually) our adversaries. Go to a meeting, rally, or march.
8. Remember the midterm election campaign begins May 1st. Conveniently, Trump’s first 100 days in office will conclude on May 1st, International Worker’s Day. That’s when progressives should begin the political process of regaining control of Congress.
The resistance begins today.