“Vive la resistance!”
Isn’t that what they shouted during the French Revolution while storming the Bastille? Or maybe that’s an alternative fact. Anyway, fast forward to 2017 America: Trump is president even though Hillary won by close to 3 million votes; millions of women (and men and kids) across the country marched the day after his sparsely attended inauguration–raising our voices in one collective roar of “NOT!” What I hear a lot these days is, “Where do we go from here?” Fortunately, there is one simple answer to this burning question. It’s called (she says, mysteriously) “The Resistance.”
What Is “The Resistance”?
While I can’t say for sure who initially coined the term, generally speaking “The Resistance” is a direct response to Trump’s election. For many of us, Donald Trump is not just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill Republican who somehow snatched victory from the jaws of a likely defeat but, rather, is an existential threat to the very fiber of our republic and its core values and principles. Our genuine concern for our friends and neighbors, not to mention ourselves and our families, has suddenly made political activism seem necessary even if many of us had never thought so before. Indeed, many who marched on January 21st have said that it was the first time in their lives they had ever participated in a political demonstration. This passion and dedication to a cause is what ultimately drives The Resistance and, with continued perseverance and tenacity, is what will help us and our democracy survive the next two to four years of a conservative Republican-led government with a fascist leaning president at the helm.
What to Resist (or What Not to Resist)?
Implicit in the idea of resisting is defining what to resist. The Women’s March had a simple unifying message that could be embraced by anyone (other than a sexist, misogynistic bigot): justice and equality for all women. However, the specific reasons driving each individual who marched could be very different. Also, it’s one thing to travel to a march site and spend a day in protest. Continuing to resist the Trump Administration, however, with all of progressivism seemingly under assault can’t help but feel overwhelming. There are so many issues–from appointments and nominations to the fate of the Affordable Care Act to the Muslim Ban–and the list continues to grow with each passing day. It is only natural to wonder what to spend our valuable time focusing on now that we’ve returned home to our lives with all of our daily duties and obligations, such as work and raising children and running a household. Perhaps you didn’t march, but you wish you could have. You may now be wondering how to proceed, when there are so many options and avenues.
In my view, each one of us needs to decide what issues are most pressing. What was most heartbreaking to you when you realized that Trump and not Clinton was going to be our President? What concerns you most as a woman, and a mother, and an American? For example, after a few weeks of grappling with this question and making a lot of contributions to and joining various organizations, I realized that I gravitated to a few issues in particular, such as gun violence prevention and women’s rights, as well as Trump’s horrid nominations, like Betsy DeVos. I also realized that I had strengths and skills that I could bring to The Resistance that could be helpful, and that a priority of mine was electing more and more Democrats in Congress and state governments after learning of the alarming eight years of losses during the Obama Administration. Finally, I considered how much time I could devote on a regular basis. Like exercise or relaxation, fighting in The Resistance is an investment in yourself and your family, as well as your country. You should be thinking along these lines if you feel you don’t have any time or energy or resources to participate in The Resistance. We don’t all have to do all the work all of the time; but we all should do what we can, when we can, and that will be plenty. Think about how you were just one person in a pussy hat in a mass of people, but that mass of people had power that day, and still does! In sum, pick issues that matter the most to you and that you are passionate about, and fight like hell whenever, wherever, and however you can.
Does Resistance Work?
The short answer is YES, but the new administration will inevitably do things we don’t like and will get away with it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop it from happening nor that we shouldn’t be pleased with small but significant victories. Believe it or not, the risk of doing nothing is letting the administration get away with murder (figuratively if not literally). Conservative republicans and the white supremacists who helped Trump to victory are hungry to decimate the gains of progressivism over the past eight plus years. It’s our job to minimize the damage and stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. How so?
The Resisters’ Arsenal
No, not that kind of arsenal! We progressives are a peace-loving group, yet the analogy is apt. Here are the various means we have to carry out The Resistance.
21st Century Tools
This is not your mother’s revolution. We are fortunate to have some cutting-edge tools that have been relatively underutilized by progressives. Until now.
A social media platform generally used by women for socializing–sharing pictures of our kids and vacations amongst a list of “friends”–has been transformed over time for use in The Resistance. Unfortunately the dark forces figured out before we did that the tool–used by an astonishingly high percentage of American women as a news source (65%)–could be used for political purposes. Fake news became an insidious and very real problem in the run up to the last election as conspiracy theories and wholly fake anti-Clinton propaganda began making the rounds in segments of the population that ended up breaking for Trump.
Several moms, however, have been able to parlay the power of Facebook into creating an enormously powerful tool to effect social, political, and cultural change. Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America–a mother of five who posted publicly to Facebook shortly after the Sandy Hook Massacre–started a gun violence prevention movement that now has active chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and goes toe-to-toe regularly with the Goliath-eque gun manufacturers’ lobby known as the NRA.
In the case of Moms Demand Action, the private, social element of Facebook was jettisoned in favor of a decidedly public and political role. During the campaign, however, a mom (Libby Chamberlain) started Pantsuit Nation, attracting millions of followers, predominantly women, to a “secret” Facebook page where they could share their stories of unabashed admiration for Hillary Clinton, as well as pictures of women wearing pantsuits as they cast their ballot for the person we thought would be our first female president. While the group transformed into a charitable organization post-election, the power of this group ultimately lies in having created an environment where many feel safe from Internet trolls and can bond together. Given the deafening silence and animosity that I personally have received from my personal Facebook “friends” when daring to broach politics, this is an invaluable and empowering thing, particularly for those women and moms who live in red district or states and feel isolated and alone in their progressive views.
Most recent, the Women’s March on Washington sprang up first as a Facebook event page where women and the men who support us could go to the page and express that “yes” we planned to go or that we were at least “interested.” The media began reporting about a group of 200,000 expressing on Facebook they intended to participate, which gave the Women’s March a legitimacy and built momentum that otherwise may never taken hold, resulting in hundreds of thousands more people attending in Washington, D.C. alone. Moreover, smaller satellite groups by state formed their own Facebook pages to facilitate getting us all to the March or setting up their own sister marches closer to home.
Bottom line: Facebook is a dynamite tool for planning and organizing a political event or even a movement, and spurring folks on to engage and activate regardless of the views of their personal networks.
All progressive moms ought to be on Facebook, especially since so many of us are already using the platform. The more politically active you are, the more important it is to consider having a separate Facebook page you can make public. That way, if Facebook is already an established feature in your life for socializing, you can maintain both uses if you choose. Once you decide to “go political” you can readily share on your page events action items and legitimate news items that you have come across. You can also determine what you want to share with your Facebook “friends” vs. strangers. I find that there is still a way for me to nudge my personal network of “friends” on Facebook, but in a slightly different way than when I post as The FeMOMist.
Indeed, a recent Washington Post article points out that so-called “slacktivism” (a pejorative term for voicing one’s political opinions on social media) for The Resistance does in fact serve a useful purpose. It helps close a perceived enthusiasm gap, something that Clinton never ultimately accomplished, while Trump supporters were able to parlay social media postings into real life cheerleading, and ultimately pulled out the win in the electoral college.
Twitter is another social media platform, one that until after the election I didn’t understand nor used regularly. Let me be blunt: I got with the program quickly and all progressive moms should too, pronto. Like it or not, we are in the age of a Twitter presidency. Trump didn’t just start tweeting recently–he’s been tweeting for years, building up a massive, loyal fan base. While women were dominating the Facebook scene, men flocked to Twitter and became an ongoing source of instant gratification for Trump, as he heard positive reinforcement every time he posted about, for instance, his false birther theory regarding Barack Obama. For years, many women not only shied away from Twitter because they didn’t get its value (why say something publicly in 140 characters or less when you could be much more private and wordy on Facebook?), but also Twitter became known as anti-women in the sense that stating a feminist viewpoint could result in taunting, bullying, harassment, and even personal threats of the worst kind. Fortunately, I think we are now observing a cultural shift on Twitter. First of all, there are many more women who are using pseudonyms or other devices to protect their privacy while speaking their mind. There is then in turn safety in numbers so the Twitter trolls and bullies are less apt to get a toehold (not to mention that they now can easily be blocked if they become a nuisance or worse). Secondly, those of us who are on Twitter see that there is a certain art to being clever and witty and simultaneously making a strong and valid point succinctly, in 140 characters or less.
If you aren’t already on Twitter, but you fancy Facebook either for socializing or political grandstanding, you need to sign up for Twitter right away. Twitter is just as easy to use as Facebook and the learning curve is low for those already Facebook literate. The true power of Twitter comes in our ability to create buzz and enthusiasm (or widespread outrage) around an issue in a relatively short period of time due to the use of hashtags. To be a real voice on Twitter is to harness the power of the hashtag. I speak with some authority because I went from having less than 100 followers on my “The FeMOMist” Twitter page in mid December to over 2,300 followers as of this writing, and counting. Despite that rapid growth, I managed to avoid attracting only the very occasional troll.
So how did I do it? Hashtags. Hashtags. Hashtags. And repeat after me: do not rely on self-made hashtags but rather seek out the hashtags that are already in use and the followers will come. I began using #TheResistance and #DemForce and #ResistTrump regularly in my tweets. My profile bio is filled with hashtags like #womensrights and #feminist and #indivisible and #WomensMarch. By using and searching for these Twitter terms of art, I now have thousands of followers–either because they found me through similar means or I found them through my own targeted searching, followed them, and they followed back.
Whenever I happen to be on Twitter (and truth be told, Twitter does become addictive–more so than Facebook), I look at whatever hashtags are trending in the short term. Then I think if there is something I can say using that already popular hashtag that advances the ball politically, even if the hashtag itself isn’t especially political in nature. This is where creativity and wit is important–something the average Trump supporter lacks (#sorrynotsorry if I offended anyone just then).
For example, last week the hashtag “PaulRyanin4Words” was trending for hours. I jumped right on that bandwagon, tweeting “Somehow standing without spine,” and got hundreds of likes, retweets (the equivalent of shares on Facebook), and replies. All told, 46,000 people somehow saw or interacted with that tweet. (Yes, these stats are readily available for Twitter users who want to monitor such things). Now that’s an impressive number to someone like me who is used to being ignored on her personal Facebook page when posting something political!
Another very popular tweet of mine posted the morning after the March. When women were still very revved up from the day before, the hashtag #FeministToDoList began trending. A natural fit, I posted with that hashtag, defiantly tweeting “World domination, but first” and listed a few things I think are critical to success post-march, such as calling our members of Congress, attending town halls, and voting for Democrats (more on this later).
Bonus to all of this tweeting by progressives is that Donald Trump himself has been obsessed with Twitter for years, uses it in a blatant attempt to circumvent the media, and is very easily rattled. It is not a delusion of grandeur to think that one of your postings (or a posting you help stay alive through retweets or what you say in your reply to one of his tweets) could have an impact on our POTUS who is known to become temporarily distracted from his undesirable goals.
Incidentally, if you want to follow my Twitter feed, click here. I am a regular, daily tweeter. If you’re not already a member, then by all means, sign up today!
Listservs & Google Groups:
Finally, another highly effective tool for organizing via the Internet is a listserv, such as a Google Group. Join a community group these days that is committed to political action and more likely than not the means for keeping everyone informed in between meetings will be a listserv. The challenge to these groups is making sure they aren’t infiltrated so that the free sharing of information isn’t put into the wrong hands. Moderators can be as vigilant as necessary.
Traditional Tools of the Resistance
All of these means have one thing in common: historically, these actions have been effective because, when individuals are powerless in the face of the powerful, pooling individual action into mass action is empowering.
The hashtag #GrabYourWallet is all over Twitter, thanks to a woman who started the spreadsheet by the same name, designed to boycott businesses that funnel monetary gains to Trump and family members such as Ivanka. A fairly comprehensive, often updated list is now available that enables us to hit businesses where it hurts and helps to minimize the conflicts of interest inherent in these business dealings that Trump stubbornly refuses to end or relinquish. Does it work? To some extent, yes: multiple businesses have stopped selling Trump products, citing reduced sales and most recently, Nordstrom.
The first action item of the Women’s March’s “10 actions in 100 days” initiative involved writing scores of postcards to dump on Congress and Donald Trump. Are these snail mail entreaties effective? Well, numbers do matter. If for example a representative in Congress suddenly receives hundreds of letters on a given issue, that is something that is difficult to ignore (especially if they come from constituents). During the DeVos confirmation process, Democrats read aloud on the senate floor from letters they said they had received from constituents. (Also, two Republican senators decided to defect from their party and vote against DeVos for Secretary of Education, after receiving thousands of calls from constituents.)
Letters to the Editor
Although so many get their news online now, if enough constituents write to a newspaper about a certain issue, the paper is more likely to take a stand on that issue in an editorial or investigate and report on the subject. At a minimum, letters to the editor may appear in the newspaper itself and sway a reader who is on the fence about a certain matter or even officials who monitor such letters. Local and state issues that might otherwise get brushed aside can also be handled effectively in this manner.
Protests & Rallies
We all saw the power of marching and protesting on Inauguration Day, January 21st, and virtually every day since then. Peaceful protests are as American as apple pie, which is why it is extremely disconcerting that some states are even considering bills to penalize protesters for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of assembly. Protests and rallies generate enthusiasm (an example on the other side is the power of Trump’s rallies during the campaign season) and enthusiasm leads to ongoing pressure. There can be no question but that this form of political action can be highly effective, both in the short and long term.
Some major upcoming protests that appear to be picking up steam include a Science March on Washington, scheduled for April 22nd (which is Earth Day) and marches and demonstrations to demand that Trump finally turn over his taxes, scheduled for April 15th .
While we normally think of strikes as something an organized union does, there is nothing to stop us from organizing and striking on a given day to get across a point. For example, although a women’s strike did not achieve tons of traction when it was out-organized by the Women’s March scheduled for the same time, the organizers of the March just revealed plans of their own for a nationwide women’s strike on a date still to be determined. Imagine for a moment what would happen if women and moms stop doing what we normally do for a day. The point will be that we are undervalued and unappreciated for what we do and contribute to society and our leaders need to address why that is and work towards a viable solution.
Various organizations have begun relying heavily on its members to become effective unprofessional (and thus unpaid) lobbyists for their issues. This is nothing new for a monolith, such as the NRA, who regularly whips its most ardent gun nuts into a frenzy over a proposed piece of legislation and then unleashes them, but progressive groups are getting more and more ordinary citizens to participate in advocacy. Essentially a lobby day is announced by an organization via the tools mentioned above and members sign up. The organization does the heavy lifting, setting up face-to-face meetings where you can sit down and converse with your state legislators or member of Congress (or often his or her staffer). The volunteers receive a briefing beforehand of how to conduct the meeting and make the “ask.” Lobbying can be extremely empowering for us individually and also extremely effective. Think about it: how else do our lawmakers learn directly about why the passage of a bill is so critical to our own personal lives? A constituent sitting in her legislator’s office talking about how the Affordable Care Act literally saved the life of her mother who had been diagnosed with cancer is a priceless tool indeed. Generally you won’t be alone in such a meeting (small groups with fellow constituents is the norm) so it feels less intimidating than you might imagine.
Don’t have any time to spare, but contribute money regularly to various organizations and charities? Consider earmarking some of that money to go to causes known to be working for The Resistance. For example, if the Muslim Ban enrages you, give to the American Civil Liberties Union, which will use your contribution to file lawsuits against the administration and otherwise protect our constitutional rights. Other worthy causes and organizations are listed on my webpage with links to their website. If you know of others who are likeminded, and can afford to do so, encourage them directly or indirectly. (For example, I brag about my contributions on Facebook in the hope that others will take the hint and make their own contributions!) Incidentally, once you make a donation, you will then hear from the organization regularly on what it is up to or receive action items or invitations to events–and that can be valuable too.
Never underestimate the power of a cartoon or comedy sketch to slyly make a point to those otherwise unmoved. Political satire has been an integral part of our democracy since its inception. Michael Moore has said it is critical that we use this tool in The Resistance, particularly because of the thin skin of our new president. Indeed, Trump has tweeted about his disdain for Alec Baldwin’s impressions of him on Saturday Night Live. Far from stopping, SNL has doubled down like never before on its political satire of a sitting president and his staff (like Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and, most recently, Sean Spicer).
How can you use this tool? Share easily obtained video of the skits (such as the one below that aired on February 4th) with your Facebook and Twitter followers. Samantha Bee on TBS’s Full Frontal, Stephen Colbert on CBS’s Late Show, John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, and Trevor Noah on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show also have readily available clips of their hilarious yet blistering takedowns of Trump and his administration. Add your own barbed and witty opinions and comments.
If creative yourself, you can create your own memes, gifs, or come up with your own humorous observations about the Trump administration, and share them. There is much material to be mined and while the issues themselves are deadly serious, the use of satire and humor can be another very useful tool in fighting for The Resistance (and also for stress management in these uncertain times).
“Huddling” & Organizing
Huddling is a new term in political activism that has emerged now that the Women’s March organizers have listed it as one of its “10 actions in 100 days.” It is defined as a small group of people holding an informal conversation, although a huddle also conjures up images of a football team secretly strategizing in the middle of a game how to outwit the opposition. In practice, huddling is whatever we make of it in our own communities. Locally-led resistance groups are forming and meeting almost daily since the Women’s March. The same synergy and collective creativity that allowed us to organize sister marches quickly can now be harnessed in our hometowns to take on the challenges of the Trump administration.
Handbook of the Resistance
The value of this guide, which has become the unofficial handbook of The Resistance, spawning pockets of organized resistance all across the U.S., is that it succinctly describes, from the perspective of staffers of progressive members of Congress, how the Tea Party became as powerful as it did in such a short period of time. Spoiler alert: They did it by making countless phone calls to their members of Congress and regularly showing up to local offices and town halls for face to face interaction. These two simple things are highly effective means for getting your lawmaker to either vote one way or the other on a pending bill, or prioritizing a policy with which they may agree, but aren’t planning to champion. The underlying philosophy of Indivisible is that we as constituents literally hold the key to our members’ of Congress keeping their job and this (in addition to huge campaign contributions) is what motivates them to act or not act for any given matter. More constituents participating in concerted actions thus makes more of an impact.
Michael Moore made a show out of getting the enormous mass of people at the Women’s March on Washington to recite back to him the phone number to reach the Congressional Switchboard and promise we will call our legislators not just once but pretty much every day. 202-224-3121 is that number (and yes, I have it memorized and on my phone). However, sometimes that switchboard is jammed (which is a good thing) and you should also know all the direct dial and home office numbers for your senators (each of us has two senators), and member of Congress (each of us has one representative in the House). Then, when an issue comes up, you have those numbers at the ready and can quickly and easily make phone calls, even while standing in line at the grocery store or on a coffee break at work.
For a list of phone numbers go to these websites, find your members of Congress, and click on their names to go to their websites (with further contact information):
For U.S. Senators, click here and then click on their names. Once on their website you can generally click on the tab “contact” and then select “offices” for locations of home offices as well as local phone numbers.
To find out who your representative in the House is, click here and enter your zip code. Then click on your representative’s name to be sent to their website. You should be able to click on the tab “contact” and then select “offices.”
Here is a super-helpful spreadsheet with a list of upcoming Town Halls and local office hours and location.
Also, the website RiseStronger.org has a handy searchable database of events, including town halls, as well as protest and rallies, throughout the U.S.
Get your friends together (or your local huddle or organization of resisters), and pack the room, prepared to ask questions designed to put your legislator on the spot. Essentially make known that you are their constituent, this is an issue of utmost import to you, and you will not vote for them in the next election unless they do what you want. If you don’t want to ask the question yourself, make sure you wear homemade buttons or t-shirts and sit with those who do to show you are a collective, cohesive group.
Trends in The Resistance:
Bursting Out of Your “Bubble”
One thing we all have heard post-election, usually but not always in a negative light, is this notion of living in a “bubble” in this country. Really this is the idea that we all have a tendency to surround ourselves with people who think like we do, but I also believe that we can pick up our political views by osmosis. In other words, by living in or moving to a part of the country where seemingly everyone thinks a certain way, some “impressionable” (or perhaps more positively stated “open”) minds will ultimately become more like the majority, both culturally and politically. This is why breaking outside of your bubble (in addition to being a cheerleader to motivate your likeminded friends and relatives to act on their views) is very important if we hope to turn the tide in 2018 and beyond in favor of progressivism. If you are reading this and live in a red state or district as a progressive or Democrat or have friends or relatives who do (who are not dyed in the wool conservative Republicans or Trumpkins), you have a very special role indeed to play in The Resistance. Read on…
Running for Public Office
More and more women are seeking to run for public office following Trump’s election. Organizations such as She Should Run, Run Women Run, and Emerge America, in addition to Emily’s List, have sprung up to help support progressive women, including women of color, in their quests–whether it be to local, state, or national offices. This can be a logical next step for those of us who are already immersing ourselves in policy, advocacy, and activism. Also, the more women elected to public office, the more we can look forward to seeing a day when a white male president, signing an executive order taking rights away from women while surrounded by white men (which happened very recently in case you missed it), is a thing of the past.
Voter Registration & Canvassing
I think it’s fair to say that we progressives learned our lesson the hard way that campaign tools such as voter registration and face-to-face engagement is a full-time pursuit and not just for a few months before an election. Sign up with your local Democratic organization to go to neighboring red states and district starting now and laying the groundwork for 2018 and beyond. Midterm elections cannot be viewed as optional (and neither can presidential elections for that matter), and we must engage in outreach over the long term. (Obviously, don’t even think of not going to vote in every election going forward. Every. Single. Election. And vote for the Democrat in every contest. Every one!) Likewise, state elections are extremely important given that state governments are very powerful in this country. Many, many Democratic state legislative seats and governorships were lost (a staggering 900 seats according to Politifact) during the Obama years while, taking a four-year long victory lap to celebrate a great victory in the executive branch of federal government in 2008, and again four years later, we became complacent (and lazy. There, I said it.)
Red District/State “Buddies”
So, this is a term coined by and the brainchild of my friend and a state Women’s March lead organizer, Stacy Small. Each of us progressives must commit to locate a select group of friends or family in specific red districts and states and personally provide them on an ongoing basis the information and support they need to become effective members of The Resistance themselves. I cannot overstate how invaluable this tool can be in terms of winning elections and legislative battles on the state and federal levels of government. It requires us to start communicating with each other about politics, however, something that doesn’t always feel good or easy.
Even if you don’t have red state buddies yourself, you can still help neighboring swing districts vote blue in 2018 and beyond, by signing up with groups like SwingLeft.
Computerized Phone Banks
Finally, one promising tool of The Resistance to help us break out of our bubbles and make a real difference is utilizing phone banks that put us in touch with folks (albeit strangers) likely to be of the same mind as ours but in other states. We can then call them regarding a specific issue, educate them, and even patch them through to their legislator in a single phone call so that it is a constituent making the ask or comment. This exciting tool I believe is the wave of the future when it comes to The Resistance and may be one of the keys to turning the tide back in progressives’ favor in a more durable way than ever before.