In Boston, when I worked as a journalist, I saw neighborhood organizations work closely with elected representatives to push through changes that were important. I saw it work.
And yet, I never really tried to contact my representatives myself. Partly, it was because I thought I’d go back into journalism, and I didn’t want to cross lines of advocating for certain things that would end up being a conflict of interest later. But maybe more than that, I trusted that other people out there were working on my issues for me, lobbying politicians, making calls. Someone else was fighting for my right to get an abortion if I needed one, for the environment so my future children would have clean water and safe air, for the refugees across the world whose only “mistake” was one they never had a choice in: being born within the borders of war and strife. And maybe also, the issues seemed to big, the causes too many, my impact too small. Where would I even begin to start?
“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. ”
— PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
But over the last two months, as I’ve put the meditation retreat experience behind me, I’ve started to believe in my ability to make an impact, of being a small cog in a gigantic wheel, and of fighting directly for what I want, instead of trusting someone else to do it for me. The more foot soldiers we have on the ground, the less likely anyone like Trump will be able to come to power again, and the less power he will have while he occupies the presidency.
So, in case you were wondering too, about where to start when there are so many issues you care about and so little time and your impact seems so small, below are some quick tips that helped make it easier for me. Note that these tips are specific to federal leaders, but will also work for the state.
- Who represents you? Figure out who your representative in the House is and who your two senators are, and their contact information. Enter your zip code and this website will tell you. Keep their contact information handy: Write down their numbers and email addresses in your phone.
- Find out what your members of congress stand for. See how they’ve voted on past issues at VoteSmart.org.
- Find a group: Your state or your city or even your neighborhood probably already has a group that is fighting against Trump and his policies. Sign up for their email list and show up at any meetings you can to figure out where you can plug in. The Indivisible Team has a place where groups can register that they exist, making it easier for your to find one to get involved with. Find a group on the Indivisible website.
- Call your members of congress about issues that are important to you. You will likely NOT be able to call about everything you care about (since you likely have other things that fill up your day). Trust that other people are calling too. Pick a few topics (or one topic) you care about, and follow the news on it. Call to ask where your congressperson stands on an issue and let them know what you think: agree or disagree. Calls are tallied and shared with senators and representatives. You can email too. These calls can be awkward. But the person answering is just a person, just like you, so stick with it, get your point across, with a quick sentence, or a long story, and hang up. You got this.
- Show up at town halls: Your representatives and senators hold town hall meetings. Call them and ask when the next one is. Town halls can be long, and they can be contentious, but don’t let that scare you off: you don’t have to be contentious, you can stay as long or as little as you want, and you don’t have to talk. But, you can talk if you want: this is sometimes your only chance to see your elected official in person and ask them exactly what they plan to do about “x.” Showing up, asking questions, applauding positions you believe in, and demanding change: these things all matter and affect your representatives when they go back to capitol hill and wonder what their constituents want them to do. Whether you say anything or not, still show up, listen, and learn.
- Hold them accountable: You can help keep your congressperson in office or you can elect someone new who is more responsive. If you aren’t getting a response to your calls or questions, if they didn’t answer your question at a town hall, or if they are not doing what they said they would, make it known: post on their Facebook wall, .@reply to them on Twitter, connect with a reporter: make it known they are not listening when their constituents are feeling. It may feel awkward at first, and it may feel like you are butting in, but a representative’s/senator’s job is to serve: they answer to you, and the only way you’ll see the changes you want is if you demand answers and action.
I got all this from some very new experience (i’ve attended local meetings, called reps, and emailed them, but no town hall yet), but also from this insanely helpful and simple guide to how to resist the trump administration. The guide talks about how the Tea Party revolted against Obama (and, it must be noted, won a lot), how we can now use the same methods they used but for a moral, reasonable cause, how members of congress operate, how to find or organize local groups and, how to locally advocate in ways that really work.
Happy #resisting. As Indivisible says, “we will win.”