When Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in November, thousands took the streets to protest the outcome of the vote. For days, holding signs reading “not my president,” they showed their disappointment in cities around the US. But, Trump won the election, and per the rules of democracy, he is weeks away from becoming every American’s president—rallies won’t change that.
This, however, doesn’t mean that citizens are powerless in the face of the government, or that Trump, enjoying a Republican majority in the US House and the Senate, will have carte blanche to do what he pleases. Citizens have ways to resist laws and measures they disagree with, whether proposed by Trump or anyone else in power, through the democratic tools at their disposal.
A group of former US congressional staffers, including financial security strategist Ezra Levin, immigration advocate Angel Padilla, and public interest lawyer Jeremy Haile, has put together a US citizen guide to strategic resistance, inspired by no less than America’s Tea Party. Using the same methods conservatives employed to undermine US president Barack Obama’s agenda, progressive can halt president Trump’s, their document argues.
The guide, a widely shared Google doc titled “Indivisible: A Practical Guide For Resisting the Trump Agenda,” is advertised as “a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents,” and is aimed at both Democrats and Republican voters who oppose Trump.
The guide is divided into four broad sections, analyzing how grassroots advocacy worked against Obama, how members of Congress think (and how to influence their actions accordingly), how to organize local activist groups, and how to employ local advocacy tactics effectively.
The guide suggests focusing on playing defense rather than offense. Rather than pushing forward policy, they advise, focus on influencing representatives in Congress by making them feel their reelection is on the line.
The guide closes with a note of inspiration drawn from one of Obama’s best-known quotes: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
The document is full of insight about what does and does not work. (Example: members of Congress tend to listen to their own constituents, not voters from other districts, and they are more likely to answer actionable asks rather than vague requests.)
Whatever one thinks of the emerging Trump administration’s plans, this is a precious compendium on the importance of political engagement, and a reminder of the real power available through active participation.