Why We Must Now Fight for Issues, Not Elections

20263987 - toronto-june 26: toronto riot police (r) restrict protesters from entering g20 summit area at the metro convention centre on june 26, 2010 in toronto, canada.

IN JANUARY 2017, Republicans will control both houses of Congress and the presidency. Yes, there are circumstances under which a candidate other than Donald Trump could assume the highest office in the U.S., but a revolt of the Electoral College, while legal, would be unprecedented. We cannot hold out for that kind of long shot. With little more than a month to plan, we must prepare ourselves for a Trump presidency.

What few citizens seem to realize about the U.S. is that the small population of individuals that makes and executes its laws is in constant flux. In November 2017, New Jersey and Virginia will hold off-year elections to appoint new governors and legislators, and dozens of cities and towns across the country will vote to keep or exchange their local politicians. 2018 will bring the midterm elections, in which all seats of the House of Representatives, one third of the seats in the Senate, and most governorships will be on the ballot. In 2019, another off-year election will see citizens vote on the governors and representatives of Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. And then, dear reader, it will be 2020: the year in which we can finally change presidents.

Unfortunately, most voters have already set their sights on what might happen in 2020, ignoring three years of all-too-important off-year and midterm elections that determine which legislators are responsible for introducing, passing, and blocking potential laws at the state and federal levels. I am guilty of this as well. But, as Trump continues to confer power and positions upon avowed white supremacists, it becomes more and more clear that we cannot afford to ignore any opportunity to stop the upcoming administration from wreaking havoc on the planet, our values, and the lives of marginalized individuals and communities.

So, when I say that we must now focus on issues, not elections, what I mean is that we absolutely cannot spend the next four years sitting at home with our thumbs up our asses, waiting for the chance to elect Bernie Sanders, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Oprah, Dwayne Johnson, or Kanye West. As progressives, we are obligated to continue to fight for what is right for the U.S. and its citizens, no matter who sits in the Oval Office. In fact, with Trump and the GOP in charge, our mission only grows more important.

A lot of people don’t understand the anti-Trump protests that began immediately after Election Day, especially considering many — if not most — of them are concentrated in states that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. However, it’s important to remember that those states will be subject to the same federal government as deep red ones. Furthermore, the protesters are demonstrating their willingness to vocally oppose any anti-American actions on the part of the future president, more than — and perhaps instead of — their opposition to his election.

If the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that protests get attention. Even the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock, which were long ignored by mainstream media outlets, eventually became a staple of newscasts. Whether that attention translates into positive, legislation-impacting results remains to be seen, but it cannot be denied that movements need media coverage in order to grow.

That being said, we cannot expect street protests alone to solve the problems that may arise during Trump’s presidency. All of us must also be prepared to call our legislators, create and promote petitions, and be unrelenting critics of injustice. If we participate in boycotts, we should be vocal about where we are spending our money and why. Tell liberal and conservative legislators alike about your protestations, no matter what form they take, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Look, I understand. Protesting is exhausting, and a lot of us feel pretty inept when it comes to the active part of activism. Just as important as your personal protests are your contributions to organizations devoted to progressive causes: Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the SCPL, RAINN, The Trevor Project, and the ACLU, to name a few.

If you can’t make a monetary contribution, consider getting involved as a volunteer. Rape crisis centers need call center workers and administrative volunteers. Abortion clinics need escorts. Immigration and children’s defense groups need advocates to work with victims. These are invaluable contributions that almost anyone can make, regardless of how thin or thick their wallet is.

Finally, understand that everything you do between now and next November will be undermined — and perhaps even undone — if you do not vote in every election open to you. Help to elect your governor, Congress members, county officials, mayor, even your school board members. The small-town politicians of today could be national news tomorrow, and we are in charge of writing their resumes. Now, more than ever, that matters, and we cannot shirk our responsibility.