Wednesday, November 9, 2016 I woke to news that Donald J. Trump would be the 45th President of the United States of America. A visceral sickness came over me. I did not want to get out of bed, and I barely had an appetite. By Friday my acute depression had transitioned to anger, and I’d planned on staying there a while. It wasn’t until a former classmate – now teacher – lamented on my facebook status about having to field questions from her Latinx students who were legal U.S. citizens as to whether or not they would be deported now that Trump was president. I responded with empathy, and she replied with a challenge: “What do we do now?”
I hadn’t gotten quite that far in my grieving process to begin to postulate solutions, so I offered an incoherent version of the following points. One week later, this is the refined, more eloquent version of what I believe are the next steps forward in Trump’s America.
- Begin mobilizing voters now:
The USA ranks 31st among 35 of its peers in the developed world in voter turnout. Only 46.9% of eligible voters participated in the 2016 Presidential elections, which is not a historical anomaly for America unfortunately. While it’s not lost on me that for the 1st time in 50 years, Americans went to the polls without the full protection of the Voters Rights Act ultimately disenfranchising a specific sect of voters, even before the SCOTUS decision to repeal parts of VRA, Americans sucked at voting. Why we, the “freest” country in the world, don’t exercise our greatest freedom in greater numbers – I don’t know. What I do know is that midterm elections are just 2 years away, and we have an opportunity to #TakeAmericaBackAgain starting with Congress. We should send a strong statement to the establishment by turning out in record numbers to hold elected officials accountable, but we must begin mobilizing now.
- Begin to build up a viable third party candidate:
RIGHT NOW – not the year of the next presidential election. We have a right to vote in favor of someone, and not just against someone as in a “lesser of 2 evils”, because this last election taught us that doesn’t work. People actually need someone they believe in who they can be excited to show up to the polls and vote for. 3 candidates give us a better chance of that, but only if we build up a viable third party over time with the proper exposure, support, and ground game to compete with the 2 major parties. At the very least a third party candidate should have enough support to participate in debates so that the American people can hear where they stand against in comparison to major party nominees. Remember, Bernie Sanders only ran for president as a democrat because he understood the system and knew that would give him the best chance to win the nomination, but he has governed for the last 30 years as an independent. Perhaps it’s time we reshape the system, but in order to deconstruct a 2 party system that has never been challenged in the history of American politics, we must begin now for elections 4 and even 8 years from now. At the very least our democracy can mirror parliamentary systems like the UK and Australia where 2 major parties dominate major elections but third party legislators win and hold a number of seats in government – which can then be an impetus to much larger victories.
- Identify and elevate local leaders who have a heart for people and a high ceiling for achievement:
Barack Obama was a lawyer turned community organizer that the people built up to the Presidency – not money or pedigree. While his presidency wasn’t perfect – I’d say that Obama emulated the best in humanity, and that his administration reflected a deeper connection with everyday people than any administration before. Conversely, the U.S. Presidency is the first job that Donald Trump has ever had to apply for, highlighting his privilege and his disconnect from society at large. I don’t expect a Trump presidency to look any different – and we shouldn’t either as long as we continue to lift up the people who only show up to our churches when its election season. Our next leaders are already among us and we should be grooming and cultivating them for public service.
- Support social enterprise on a community level:
Invest in your friends chasing their dreams We donated millions to candidates who are already millionaires and ultimately won’t serve our immediate needs, but won’t give $20 to the GoFundMe and Kickstarter campaigns of the millennial who grew up on the same street trying to start her own business. Likewise, those who do own businesses should have a mandate to hire 1st within the community it serves, and when appropriate, offer internships and apprenticeships as an impetus to entry level positions for people who dont have access to a standardly required college education. College isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean everyone doesn’t have the capacity to learn the skills they need to have to be successful in a specific industry.
- Pay closer attention to local legislation:
Republicans claim to be about smaller government (they aren’t but let’s assume they are for the sake of this argument). Smaller government presupposes that legislation on the local level dictates more of our daily lives than federal legislation (it does no matter how big/small federal government is), but voter engagement and turnout doesn’t reflect this fact. It’s quite the opposite – leaving us to vote every 4 years for a president to come and save our failing local schools and clean up our dirty police departments, when we should be more attuned to our gubernatorial and mayoral elections where state budgets are negotiated and police chiefs who shape the culture within police departments are appointed, respectively. Research indicates that the more citizens are engaged in local politics, the more likely they are to vote nationally (see #1), however voting nationally does not produce the same voter enthusiasm locally – so our work must begin at home.
- Continue to organize and execute protests, but do so with concrete demands:
Protest is our constitutional right. It’s the language of our marginalized ancestors. It has a purpose: to unite people to draw awareness to a common interest. However, protests should not only bring attention to what’s wrong in the world, protests should more importantly produce recommendations for what’s right. There is no use in marching against something, if we can’t articulate what we are for. We should be clear about the change that we are demanding when we assemble to exercise our 1st amendment right – pre-planning within our churches, schools, and community centers at the leadership of our community organizers (see #3). Marching might not be for everyone, but taking to the streets isn’t the only form of protest. Boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning are also effective ways of protest, as well as petitioning to our elected officials. So whether you are a boots-on-the-ground type of person, the kind of person who wields power in their pen, or the social media activist with a huge following, utilize your platform to effect change, but be clear about what you are asking for in exchange for the status quo.
- Love your neighbor, but hold your neighbor accountable:
Don’t be afraid to have tough conversations with people who don’t look like you but who you are in relationship with – coworkers, spin partners, church members. I believe you cannot change anyone’s mind on anything significant without having a relationship with them. That being said, stop giving breath to the trolls – the people you encounter who harbor hate in traffic, or in the line at Starbucks, or in the comments section of any article on race on the internet, because you’ll probably never encounter them again – so don’t waste energy on them. Save that energy for relationship building instead.
- Affirm our children daily for who they are:
The decisions we make as adults will impact generations to come. Apologize to our children for the mess that we’ve made that they will ultimately spend their lifetimes trying to clean up – then raise them to be better than us. Every child is born in love; hate is what they learn from us when they get here. Let us preserve the likeness of children and cultivate the love that is innate within them even when the world forces our worst selves onto them. Resist the urge to surrender to the forces of negativity for the sake of the future of our children – they should be inheriting a head start, not backward steps.
- Pray, if you are into that type of thing:
Prayer is preparation for planning and acting on the aforementioned. Prayer CANNOT be the foundation for complacency; prayer MUST be connected to action. If you are not the praying type, at least be willing to believe in something bigger than yourself – something that we share. Our animalistic nature is to do whatever we must to ensure our own survival even if it’s at the expense of others. That’s often what we do when we vote. But I believe our human nature to love one another is a much more powerful force, one that allows us to make decisions with the whole of the country in mind and not just personal interests. Everyone wins when we lead with our shared humanity.
I did not vote for Donald Trump and I do not respect him as a person based on the hate infested campaign he ran; however, I do respect the office of the presidency, and I want to see the President succeed. Donald Trump is the pilot of a plane that we are all on, and if he goes down we go down with him. Therefore I will not intentionally obstruct his leadership, but I will be wearing a parachute for the next 4 years while executing these steps to a more qualified pilot in the cockpit and a more informed and involved passenger in the cabin. Join me! #UBtheCURE