The next two to four years are going to be very painful.
Upcoming Judicial appointments will make the federal courts far less protective of our liberties (especially women’s liberties), probably for the foreseeable future. Economic policies will hurt the poor, especially women and children, and exacerbate divisions between the rich and the rest of us. A Trump Administration will abandon efforts to address climate change and will roll back most of Obamacare. There will be no immigration reform, only punitive deportations, and God only knows what our foreign policy will look like.
Worst of all, Trump’s normalization of incivility and encouragement of bigotry will play out in a variety of ways, none good.
For women, the damage Trump has already done can’t be reversed through legislation, if and when America returns to its senses. During his campaign, we saw an embrace of historic cultural attitudes that objectify and demean women. His election signaled a return to widespread acceptance of “locker room” attitudes and behaviors that had finally been diminishing.
So – what can each of us do, especially those of us sitting here in overwhelmingly Red Indiana?
- As individuals, beginning right now, we can increase our support for organizations that work to protect civil and reproductive liberties, the environment and public education, among others. We will need them more than ever. A friend of mine and her husband, who stand to benefit from Trump’s proposed tax cuts, have decided to donate every dollar they save by reason of those cuts to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. We might even start a local “pledge my tax cut” campaign.
- Each of us can identify a harmful policy this administration will pursue that we feel passionate about, and volunteer with local organizations to mobilize citizens to do everything we can to defeat that effort or minimize its impact.
- Perhaps the most productive thing we can do is focus on local efforts to ameliorate the effects of likely federal actions. Most of the innovation and action on climate change, for example, is happening in cities, and it is much easier to influence local policy than state or national legislation. Those of us worried about the environment can make sure our cities are at the forefront of urban environmental efforts. There are other policy areas where—depending upon relevant state law—cities can at least partially mitigate the effects of federal action or inaction.
- We can–and we must– come together to create inclusive and supportive local civic cultures that make misogyny, bigotry and intolerance unacceptable. We are already seeing a substantial increase in racist, homophobic, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents; we need to create local environments that strongly discourage such eruptions. We have ready-made partners in those efforts, in arts organizations, civic and religious associations and the business community. (Former Mayor Bill Hudnut used to say that he was a citizen of “no mean city.” In the wake of this election, “mean” has taken on a double meaning. I hereby volunteer to help mount a No Mean City campaign, focused on encouraging a welcoming, inclusive, respectful civic environment.)
- In the longer term, as I have previously written, we have to reform America’s election system. We need to combat voter suppression efforts and get rid of gerrymandering and the Electoral College, both of which operate to favor rural voters over urban ones, and generally distort the democratic process. We should work with groups like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters to make voting easier, reform redistricting and get Indiana to sign on to the National Popular Vote Project.
- We absolutely have to improve civic education. “We the People” or a similar curriculum should be required for High School graduation. Trump made all kinds of promises that he could not constitutionally carry out. If more voters had recognized that he was totally unacquainted with the Constitution, it might have made a difference. In any event, democracy requires a civically-literate population; demagoguery relies on civic ignorance.
- We need to combat Trump’s effort to hollow out government and enrich crony capitalists via his proposed privatization of infrastructure and other government functions. In Indiana, we can begin by working to scale back Pence’s school voucher program, the largest in the country. Vouchers take money from public schools to support private religious ones. Research confirms that Indiana’s voucher schools have not improved student performance in reading or math (voucher students actually do worse than similar public school students) ; furthermore, public schools are where children from diverse backgrounds learn to live together. Public institutions should be strengthened, not abandoned.
There is plenty to do if we are serious about reclaiming America. And while we are engaging in these tasks, we have to resist efforts by the forces he has emboldened to marginalize and demean women and minorities–and we need to do so publicly, loudly, and persistently. We have to constantly explain to anyone who will listen why the bigotries he feeds are inconsistent with American values and the Constitution–not to mention human decency.
We can no longer sit back and depend upon the courts to protect our liberties. We will have to do it ourselves, through sustained and determined political action.