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Help Build and Strengthen Your Resistance Community So It Survives Life After Trump

This OTYCD entry originally posted in October 2017.

Help build and strengthen your resistance community so it survives life after Trump.

Trump will go, but you must not. The resistance infrastructure–the local and national groups that sprung up after Trump’s election–will take a hit when he’s gone. Without such a powerful villain in the White House, at least some people will drift away, and some of those who drift away will never be as politically involved again. That’s inevitable.

You need to do what you can, now, to build and strengthen the fabric of your favorite local resistance group to help it survive in the post-Trump era.

How do you do that? You need to help your group build a life outside politics. Barbeques, bowling leagues, coffee klatches, pub crawls, gaming nights, concerts, parties, you name it–you need to help your gem of a group develop as many facets as possible.

Robert Putnam, in his classic 2001 book Bowling Alone, recognized and examined the decline of social groups that used to hold communities together–clubs such as the Elks, the Lions, and the Rotary Club, as well as churches, parent-teacher associations, and the like. It’s worth a read even though it appeared before social media really took hold. He makes it clear that these groups increased civic engagement and that civic engagement has declined with their disappearance.

But here’s the larger point: You need to do whatever you can to help make your Indivisible group, or whatever you joined that was born after November 9, 2016, become the new Rotary Club, the new PTA, the new church. And that means expanding its scope beyond the merely functional and giving it a social aspect.

Let’s be dead clear–the social aspect of the group should never be allowed to eclipse the functional aspect of the group. But you absolutely, definitely need to develop that social aspect. It’s vital. Why? Right now the function of the group is to stop Trump. What happens to your group when Trump is stopped? What then?

Yeah. You’ll need the social stuff to hold the group together while you revise and revamp your post-Trump mission. And that social stuff has to be in place and well-established by the time Trump goes, or else your group could go with him. And that would suck, because we need as many of these local groups as we can sustain.

Consider this example. Merrick Garland should be on the Supreme Court right now. It’s complete and utter bullshit that he is not. Obama did what he could, but he’s just the president, and he could only do so much.

Now imagine what would have happened to Garland if the resistance infrastructure that we have now was in place when Mitch McConnell refused to hear out a SCOTUS nominee in the last year of a president’s term.

We could have bombarded our senators with emails, phone calls, and letters demanding that they give Garland the hearing he deserved. We could have kept it up, stop-Trumpcare style, until enough senators relented. And because it’s only reasonable that the senators at least hear him out, it probably would have happened. And if the senators had heard Garland, they would have realized he’s a good guy who deserves a SCOTUS seat, and he may well have gotten it. Because that’s really why McConnell pulled that garbage move–he knew if the senators heard Garland, as tradition prescribes, they’d probably end up approving him.

We need to have that resistance infrastructure up and running in case we have another Garland situation. We need to have teams upon teams of folks practiced in the art of calling their members of Congress and ready to do it on a second’s notice. We can’t risk letting it all rot and fall apart after Trump goes.

So, while the notion of Trump leaving office is still abstract and without a fixed date, you need to identify and shore up the columns that (metaphorically) hold up your group. If all of those columns have Trump’s name on them, start (metaphorically) mixing and pouring concrete to make some columns that don’t.

Now, you don’t know this, but we at OTYCD can sometimes read your mind. We can hear you thinking, ‘But I’m an introvert.’ We get it. So are we. We’re not asking you to host monthly catered dinner parties with china and sterling silver and linen napkins for 36. We’re asking you to think about what social stuff you’re willing to do on a regular basis, and commit.

That doesn’t mean you, personally, have to open your home or pay to hire a hall. It could well mean helping someone else in the group host a social event. That works. And if you do open your home, you can set limits and enforce them: “You must RSVP by X date and the maximum I can accommodate is 12.” Really, you can do that.

Think about what you can do. Then do it, with an eye toward serving the future of your group.

Community Activism · Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare · Use Your Power, Recruit Friends

UPDATED: Meet a Family Who Will Suffer if the Republicans Destroy Obamacare. Then Recruit Your Red State Friends to Call Their Senators and Oppose Trumpcare With You

UPDATED FOR INSPIRATION: On the off-chance that you don’t know anyone who will be directly and catastrophically affected if the ACA is repealed and replaced, please read this post by Hugo award-winning editor and podcaster Lynne M. Thomas, whose daughter, Caitlin, has Aicardi Syndrome. Thomas lays out just how her family would suffer if Obamacare is destroyed. Please read this and hold the Thomases in mind when you make your calls–especially if your senator is Mitch McConnell.

 

Read An Open Letter to Mitch McConnell and the GOP, by Lynne M. Thomas:

An Open Letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell and the GOP

 

IMPORTANT RED ALERT UPDATE for June 2017. Mitch McConnell has invoked Rule 14, which fast-tracks the AHCA in the Senate. Their aim is to pass something before the July 4 recess. The best time to stop this wretched bill is now. If it gets back to the house, something like it gets passed.

We know you’ve called your reps over and over on this, and this isn’t the first time we’ve asked you to take to the phone.But you now need to call your Senators, daily, AND urge your red state friends to call their Republican senators, daily, on this, through the end of June. The AHCA is literally life and death for many. Please make this effort.

 

IMPORTANT RED ALERT UPDATE May 26. Ok all, see this May 25 tweet from Topher Spiro, who writes often on health care issues and tweets as @TopherSpiro:

INTEL: Several GOP Senators have privately said this recess is the test – if they get blowback at home, they’ll tell McConnell it’s over.

We know you’ve called your reps over and over on this. Now it’s time to call your Senators, daily, AND urge your red state friends to call their Republican senators, daily, on this. The AHCA is literally life and death for many. Please make this effort.

Pull out your address book. Identify how many friends you have in red states. Recruit them to call their members of Congress.

In the past, OTYCD has asked you to call friends and family in red states to urge their Republican MoCs to vote against cabinet nominees and legislation. Today, we’re asking you to take some time to sit with your address book, identify who your friends are in red states, and see who among them you can call, email, or nudge on social media to push back against nasty things the Republicans are trying to do.

Living in a solidly blue state is a double-edged sword. Your MoCs agree with you, but it’s the Republicans who own everything at the moment. Republican MoCs in other districts and states won’t listen to you (and rightly so) because they need to concentrate on their own constituents.

The next-best thing you can do, once you’ve done what you can do directly, is urge friends in red states to call their MoCs and speak out.

So, step one: Pull out your address book, or Christmas card list, or whatever database or master list you keep of friends and their contact info. Ideally, this info includes street addresses.

Step two: Identify who lives in red states.

Step three: Rank the red staters in order of how strong your relationship is.

Step four: Now, think. Who have you talked about politics with on this list? How did it go? Reshuffle the list to move those who share your politics, and those who may not share your politics but who seem sane and like to talk politics with you, toward the top of the list.

Those with strong bonds and who share your politics should be on top, followed by those with strong bonds who show an interest in politics, but who might not always agree with you 100 percent. Then come the people with more distant relationships but who share your politics, followed by more distant relationships with politically aware people who seem sane.

Also, be alert to sharp exceptions. You might have someone in your orbit who’s largely apolitical except on a specific issue that damn near consumes them. Many mothers of school-age kids who didn’t care about politics or were only mildly interested got pretty damn interested right quick when Betsy DeVos was nominated to run the department of education.

Sift these single-issue red state folks out and rank them below the broader-interest folks. If you agree with their outlook on their single issue, make a point of engaging with them on that issue alone and sharing action items that would interest them.

Step five: Look at the first group–the people you have strong bonds with and who you share the same political outlook with. How often are you talking to them? Can you invest more time in them? These are the people you want to cultivate first.

And when we say ‘invest more time in them,’ we mean overall. Do NOT make it all about politics! Work on maintaining and strengthening your bond first and foremost. Use the 80/20 rule that social media mavens tout: For every action that serves your goals (in this case, urging your friend to call their Republican MoCs), perform at least four other actions that have nothing to do with your goals. (Bonus points if most or all are in service of your friend. At least half of the four should be.)

Once you feel like you have things humming along with the first group (and take as much time as you need to reach that point–never rush it!), then turn to the second group: the people you have strong bonds with, but who you don’t really talk politics with.

In the course of strengthening and maintaining your bonds with them, try dropping mentions of how you feel about something that the Republicans are trying to do. Don’t be angry, do be factual, and make it clear that you are stating an opinion.

Pay attention to how they react. Stick to the 80/20 rule. Keep watching how they react. If they show a pattern of changing the subject, showing annoyance, or actively shutting down, lay off for a few months and try again. If they ultimately ask you to quit it forever, then quit it forever. It’s more important to show that you’re able to listen to them and honor their requests.

If they show a pattern of reacting positively or even neutrally, stay alert to political events that are happening locally that they might like, and encourage them to go. Maybe it’s a Town Hall meeting with an MoC. Maybe it’s a protest. Maybe it’s giving them a ride to the polls. Think about what they would like best, tell them about it, and if you live close enough, offer to go with them.

Future posts will elaborate on cultivating the more distant red state friends and family on your list. But overall, remember:

Friendship comes first. If you wouldn’t want to invest time in this person if they lived in a blue state, then don’t bother. Just don’t. Don’t treat fellow human beings like a 10-point buck you’re dying to bag and mount on your wall. People can smell that crap a mile away.

Remember the 80/20 rule. For every time you talk about politics or ask them to do something political, you should be doing at least four other things that aren’t about politics, and at least two of those four should be things your friend enjoys.

If they complain that you’re talking about politics too much, back off. Again, see points one and two above. Don’t completely stop talking about politics, mind you, if talking politics is part of who you are. But listen to your friend, give it a rest for a time, and keep your talk to venting rather than you asking them to do something.

This is soft activism, and no form of activism yields results overnight. This is gardening. This is exercise. It takes time. Remind yourself that it takes time, and that it may not pay off as spectacularly as you hope it will. But you will have succeeded in deepening a relationship with another person who you care about, and you will have gotten them to think about and care about making a difference. That’s worth it. That’s always worth it.