Feeling overwhelmed with the effort of attempting to fight against President Darth Trump and his cavalcade of Sith? You're not alone. (My therapist has instructed that I'm only allowed to look at the news 10 minutes a day for the sake of my sanity.) However, experts are noting that America's political institutions, as they stand, allow for small acts of resistance to add up to significant gains. The actions of battling Trump on a small, local level have already led to some good results (public pressure from constituents, for example, has led two Republican Senators to announce that they won't support the woefully inexperienced Betsy DeVos for secretary of education).
Understanding what the best actions are and how they help, though, can be confusing if you're new to it; so Bustle turned to a founder of Vote.Org, a revolutionary voter-turnout organization, to give us an insight. Debra Cleaver is the brains behind Vote.Org's get-out-the-vote texting system, which connected with millions of unregistered voters by SMS before Election Day last year, and she has some suggestions for small, easy methods to ease you into the protesting process.
"Protest and making your voice heard are perhaps some of our most important American values," Cleaver tells Bustle. "There’s a reason why they’re enshrined within the first amendment. Little things you do add up every day." If you're new to protesting an administration, Cleaver's three steps are here to make your life a bit clearer.
Step One: Vote In All Elections
Yes, your vote matters, and encouraging other people to vote matters too. "President Trump was elected by about 25 percent of the country," Cleaver Bustle. "Over half the country doesn’t vote in presidential elections and it’s even worse in midterm and municipal elections. So, your very first step is committing to vote in every election, no matter how small."
If you've never been particularly politically motivated before, you may not even know whether you're able to vote, but Cleaver notes that "you can check your registration status, register if you need to, and be reminded of elections over at Vote.org." Check up on your status and hassle other people to get registered and interested, too. The other thing to remember is that elections and political careers start small, and that the smallest elections don't wait for four years: who you elect into power in your local constituency matters. "Municipal elections are happening around the country in 2017," Cleaver told us, and the midterms in 2018 should also be a target for your political support.
Step Two: Use Your Voice
There's a lot of emphasis at the moment on the importance of physically calling politicians to represent your views on specific subjects, so that they know that people are energized for or against a cause. "Add the local and DC numbers of both your Senators and your representative in Congress into your phone," Cleaver suggests.
The other part of the calling issue is consistency: to keep contacting people in the relevant offices not just once, but as many times as you need. Cleaver told says that it should be as regular as brushing your teeth: "make it part of your routine to call them daily. Got a driving commute into the office? That’s a perfect time to make five minutes worth of phone calls to make your voice heard on the issues of the day." (If you're not comfortable with phone calls, here's a guide to how to make your voice heard via other means, whether it's through getting other people to call or supporting in other ways.)
Cleaver also makes the point that it doesn't have to be a dissenting call. "It’s important even if your elected officials agree with you," she told us. Calls of support are just as important and empowering to elected officials as calls of anger; they let them know where the opinions lie in their constituency.
Step Three: Make Yourself Visible
The power of protest is one of the major forces shaking up American politics at the moment, from the Women's March masses to protests at airports across the nation about the Muslim ban. Cleaver believes these play an important role in resistance, even if you feel your presence is symbolic or perfunctory. "Just show up," she says. "If you’re energized by a cause or maybe you feel a need to protect the people in your life you love, always show up."
Protests are an interesting social phenomenon that can make real social change, but even if you're just there for symbolic value, that's a hell of an asset. Cleaver emphasizes readiness and a willingness to make yourself available. "If you read that people are gathering at the airport," she tells Bustle, "drop your plans for that happy hour and go. If you hear about a protest at city hall or the capitol, make plans to be there."
It's the small things that matter, from getting your voter registration right to making a handmade sign saying THE LAND OF THE FREE and yelling on the steps of the Supreme Court. If you have protesting friends, get them to keep you in the loop about new events, and when the moment comes, gather your mates together and go out prepared to do something little to change the world.