Several of us who started our activism in November or December or January are feeling a bit burnt out. That is perfectly normal. We’re going to keep pushing through, however. We’ve been able to stem some, but not all, of the worst things the new administration has tried to do. Things are moving ever onward. There’s still a lot to do.
What provides me the most hope, however, is the huge amount of change within the activism community as time goes on. Here’s my view of the greater national movements in the context of the university town where I live:
When we started, the activism movement in town was the local democrats (disorganized, unfocused, etc.), the pro-Bernie democratic socialists (less disorganized, but extremely small and a bit paranoid), the campus democrats (I got kicked out of their first meeting for asking if they had an agenda and have not been back), and a local faith-based group that helps with immigrant concerns (very organized, but not ready for Trump).
Now the local democrats have outgrown their meeting room and have had to move to a bigger space. Their meetings are more likely to follow an agenda. They’ve fixed their broken mailing list. They’ve had a local meet-and-greet in which they invited all of the local progressive groups in the area to discuss what they do and what their needs are. They send out a monthly mailer with information on upcoming events, and there are now upcoming events. They’re still mainly focused on voter registration and working with the local faith-based immigrant protection group, but those are especially important concerns. Most of the active people in this organization are baby boomers.
The democratic socialists have also grown. They’ve started having monthly meetings again. We don’t interface with them much, but they do send out helpful newsletters.
I suspect the campus dems are still very anti-anybody-who-wants-to-do-anything-besides-complain because nobody has heard from them. Which is a shame, because 8 years ago they were a really strong organization. Maybe when their current leadership graduates there will be some change.
The interfaith group has been gearing up for ICE raids and similar things. They’ve been working with a related group in a major city to set up procedures and training for raids. (My DH has been helping them a lot with the technical aspects– at some point in the future he will provide a post here about how to best provide mass alerts in a way that the government can’t use to capture people. It is not an easy problem.)
We have some new groups. One of my colleagues started a town Indivisible group and it has grown rapidly. Their meetings are focused and organized. They have a great weekly newsletter that has federal, state, and local action items on it, as well as an active twitter feed that keeps getting blocked and unblocked by our state rep. Indivisible works well with our state group (technically the Indivisible group run by the most liberal city in our state) and the federal group. It is a fantastic organization, at least in our state. This group seems to have drawn mostly professionals and a few really amazing college students. They generally meet in the evening or on weekends. They’ve been central in pressing our representatives for town-halls, making sure people are at local protests, and so on. They’re looking for principled moderate Republican candidates to primary our tea-party jerks.
Action Group Network, Barack Obama’s group, hasn’t made inroads into our town yet. Their emails aren’t the best either and I can’t really figure out how to tell you how to subscribe to their mailing list, despite the fact that I’m on it.
A recent addition has been meetup’s activism group #resist. In our town, this one seems to be run by SAHP– they tend to meet during the day. They email a lot but they’re not very organized, they’re pretty unfocused, and their meetings get derailed with long philosophical discussions about things like the Overton window (at least, according to the emails they send, we haven’t been to a meeting).
My sister has been seeing similar changes in her big city. When she started everything was in disarray. The Dems were a joke. Nobody knew what anybody else was doing. They’re still not as organized as the liberal city in our state, but there’s a new head to her local dems and the local activism groups have had a leaders meeting (put together by my sister) and know who each other are.
In addition to the local groups, there are now some really amazing new online places to get info. My favorite of these is 5calls. It is doing such a great job that many of the weekly newsletters we subscribe to will just link to them. Swing Left provides information about flippable districts and will email you about candidates who could use your donations– like for replacement elections that happen out of cycle. Here’s information on legislation happening in your state.
Another change has been that instead of just asking for more donations if you donate, places like the ACLU or Brennan Center for Justice etc. will email with updates on what is going on and requests for action.
I am hopeful because I have seen how the resistance is growing and changing. It’s organizing. More people are getting involved. We have momentum going. The snowball is getting bigger.
And I know if you’ve been doing this since January or before, it may be hard to keep up that pace. I know I’m no longer calling 4 days a week every week and I don’t always call on Monday like I used to. My life is busy with work and home. But I do make my calls. And I’m getting much more involved in state politics too– both of our state representatives have been consistently voting against university interests because nobody has been paying attention. That is going to change. And it’s going to change because I know I’m not the only one paying attention now.
So again, what can you do?
Check out the local groups in your area– chances are there’s a lot more to choose from than there was back when you last checked. Even if you don’t attend meetings, you can get on mailing lists. You can donate. You can be aware of what is going on. You can join this movement and add your voice. Because we’re a lot louder in chorus than we are individually. And it’s easier than ever to join a choir.
And if you don’t have a local group in your area, you can start one. I can tell you that setting up an indivisible group is pretty easy. The parent organization will set up your webpage, twitter, secure communication, etc. and provide training for how to run meetings and so on. It is work, but it’s directed and efficient. Setting up a #resist group is easy as well, though without the structure from the parent organization it may be harder to sustain, but maybe not!
Or, if you want to help a current organization, you can make a big difference there as well. Once she finally got in touch with DH (months after he’d emailed), the head of our local dems figured out that yes, their email list was broken and hadn’t processed anybody who had emailed to join since November, and yes meeting the other activist organizations in town was a great idea for a meeting, and so on. Small fixes can make big changes. That’s what organizing is all about.
What does the activism organizational landscape in your town look like? What groups have I missed that people should look up in your state? Where do you get your information? What else have I missed?