“Because Citizens Resisted”: RoomZoom’s Guide to Citizenship Under President Trump

By Taylor Smith

In recent weeks, our blog has touched more regularly on the political sphere, whether reflecting on post-election shock or inviting you to call your representatives. It seems that ever more each day, those opposed to the current administration are scrambling to engage in politics, and to resist in any way they can. But not all resistance is created equal. While it can be easy to become complacent if you’ve attended a protest or two, it’s crucial to consider how to resist this particular administration most effectively.

In “How to Build an Autocracy,” the cover story for the March issue of The Atlantic, David Frum imagines a second Trump term in which cronyism thrives unchecked, the media steadily shifts pro-Trump, and voter suppression slowly silences vulnerable communities. This vision of a quietly corrupt future, Frum points out, is not entirely unlikely. On the surface, this possible American future doesn’t look that different from the America of today because erosion of democracy often happens out of public view. Local courtrooms, voting booths, classrooms, congressional offices, and back rooms where political favoritism is sold every more freely are the mundane settings where democracy is either strengthened or weakened. Making them harder to understand or discuss, these seemingly disparate events happen daily and aren’t necessarily recorded at all by the media. Comparing the current state of affairs in the United States to similar circumstances in Hungary, South Africa, and Venezuela, Frum posits that the Great Experiment is indeed susceptible to a recession of democracy that we see in the recent history of these countries.  Crucially, public indifference is President Trump’s foremost tool in chipping away at the checks and balances the founders constructed.

The key to preventing such a recession is recognizing that our present circumstances are not normal, and therefore our usual (often passive) modes of resistance are insufficient. Staying informed and informing others via social media, Frum writes, risks playing into Trump’s persistent characterization of all media that endeavors to hold him accountable as little more than partisan opposition. Trump has learned to weaponize civil unrest, too, seizing upon any messaging or behavior that can be construed as offensive and emphasizing it so as to further divide the populace and demonize those who speak out against him.

So what do we do? Frum lays out the best ways to protect our democracy, among them backing legislation that would compel the release of presidential tax returns and insisting upon an independent investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 election. The easiest and most pressing task is simply calling your representatives. Below we’ve listed the most useful and accessible action resources available to Americans who wish to stay vigilant and actively resistant in our new reality. Demoralizing as recent events may seem, the power to prevent Frum’s vision from materializing does lie at least in part with the people. “If the story ends without too much harm to the republic,” Frum writes, “it won’t be because the dangers were imagined, but because citizens resisted.”

To maintain your grip on the big picture outside the 24-hour news cycle, you can read Frum’s full article here, and check out Jake Fuentes’ piece outlining the threats to democracy beyond the immigration ban and how we can combat them.

1) POPVOX

What is it?

A “civil engagement platform,” POPVOX brings policy into the social media age with congressional data and personalized updates on the legislators and issues you care about. Follow state and federal lawmakers to keep tabs on their positions and actions and make your voice heard by posting your stance on upcoming legislation.

What’s required of you?

Sign up with your email address, Facebook, or Twitter, follow people, and share your positions.

How often?

You can subscribe to their weekly newsletter and check the site as often as you’d like.

What’s useful about it?

POPVOX takes the nitty-gritty of the legislative process and presents it in plain English so it’s easy not only to stay informed, but also to act on that information.

2) Call the Halls Guide

What is it?

An e-book guide to effectively communicating with your Representatives. After her viral post-election Tweet thread, erstwhile Congressional staff member and current writer/editor Emily Ellsworth decided to put all her tips for reaching your representatives (who to call, how to research them, what to say, how to meet with their staff members, etc.) into a 21-page book titled Call the Halls: Contacting your Representatives the Smart Way.

What’s required of you?

You can purchase the book on Gumroad using this link, and even name your own price. Just make sure that price is at least $10. The woman’s gotta eat.

How often?

Once you complete your purchase you can refer to your guide as often as you need, and you’ll receive any and all updates Ellsworth makes.

What’s useful about it?

If you’re new to reaching out to government officials, advice from someone on the inside is invaluable.

3) Indivisible Guide

What is it?

Much like Call the Halls, indivisibleguide.com houses a round up of pointers from several former Congressional staffers in Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Resisting the Trump Era. In an effort to “demystify congressional advocacy,” their site also lays out an action calendar and invites readers to email them and form local Indivisible Groups as the original authors work toward establishing their nonprofit.

What’s required of you?

Simply download the guide (for free!) on the home page and refer to it as needed.

How often?

As often as you need it.

What’s useful about it?

Just like Call the Halls, Indivisible Guide serves up insider tips. What sets this site apart is the inclusion of an action calendar and the opportunity to join or register local “Indivisible Groups,” or coalitions of concerned citizens who wish to resist together.

4) The 65

What is it?

The 65, which gets its name from the roughly 65 million U.S. citizens who did not punch in our current president’s name at the polls, is a handy website dedicated to helping dissatisfied Americans continue to speak out on behalf of progressivism. In addition to scripts for calls to Congress on over a dozen issues ranging from health care to specific cabinet picks like Betsy DeVos, the 65 homepage offers a weekly call to action with a quick summary of the issue at hand, a script, and a customized checklist of phone numbers based on your location.

NB: 5calls.org similarly invites you to call your local representatives and presents key issues in bulleted format. Added touches: the option to enter your result, and a running tally of calls made to boost your spirits.

What’s required of you?

The 65 does most of the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is fill in your state and zip code to get your representatives’ numbers, and follow the scripts as you call them.

How often?

Once a week.

What’s useful about it?

The 65 makes it easy to turn your feelings into actions that may seem small, but add up quickly.

5) Swing Left

What does this accomplish?

Swing Left is mobilizing for 2018 where it counts the most: the swing districts. Enter your zip code and email and the grassroots site will point you to your nearest swing district and send you weekly updates with ways to get involved, such as canvassing or fundraising.

What’s required of you?

Just sign up, and choose the opportunities to contribute that work best for you.

How often?

You’ll receive emails once a week at most.

What’s useful about it?

With a new source of immediate alarm cropping up seemingly every day, Swing Left is a convenient way to keep your eye on the long-term prize.

6) Take Action NYC

What does this accomplish?

Take Action NYC’s straightforward protest calendar keeps you up to date on all the latest protests and meetings. They also list activist groups and tips for getting involved safely and responsibly.

What’s required of you?

Take a peek at what’s coming up, RSVP on Facebook as needed, and show up.

How often?

Ongoing.

What’s useful about it?

On the upside, constant demonstrations and meetings mean that people are taking action. The downside? It’s pretty hard to keep track of all the events. Take Action NYC compiles all the goings-on for you.