We’re two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, and he’s made it clear that he isn’t going to take his time Making America Great* Again. He’s already introduced a dizzying number of policy changes that affect everything from abortion funding to the inner workings of the National Security Council — and his opponents are responding in kind with protests, boycotts, and seemingly endless calls to Congress. If you’re inclined to join the #resistance, make sure you take the necessary steps to prevent Trump from getting the better of you.
All Americans, regardless of their political affiliations, are in uncharted territory now. Trump is a singularly unique politician, and wholly unlike any president America has had before. Even outside of Trump, American politics is a different beast than it was just 10 years ago — historical levels of partisanship, evolving terrorist threats, the heightened role of social media, the rise of fake news, and other factors have fundamentally transformed the political landscape we’re operating in.
This means that anyone who opposes the current administration is fighting on far different terrain than when, for instance, George W. Bush was president. Things are different now, and modern-day liberal activism presents plenty of pitfalls and hazards. Here’s how to avoid them.
Look At What Trump Does, Not What He Says He’s Doing
Days after taking office, Trump issued an executive order that mandated the immediate construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall — at least, that’s what Trump said it did. In actuality, the order did nothing more than direct the DHS to identify spare funds that could be used to construct a wall at some undetermined future date. That’s very different.
It wasn’t the last time the administration falsely represented the content of its policies, and it probably won’t be the last. It’s impossible to fight back against Trump without knowing what he’s actually doing, and there will be plenty of misrepresentations of what he’s doing. The next time the administration announces a policy, read beyond the headlines, do a bit of research, and don’t take the White House’s word for it.
During his first 10 days as president, Trump blocked immigration to the United States from seven Muslim countries, suspended America’s Syrian refugee program, gutted the National Security Council, purged the State Department, ended funding for NGOs that promote abortion access, pledged to defund sanctuary cities, expedited deportations of undocumented immigrants, and announced plans to repeal Obamacare and complete construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This isn’t even addressing his cabinet appointments.
With so much coming out of the White House, it’s easy to get overwhelmed — and that’s exactly what Trump wants. Every single one of these policy announcements requires your attention, but by announcing them all at once, it's possible Trump is hoping that at least a few will slip through the radar. Don’t let them. This is essentially a game of whack-a-mole: Trump’s policy moves are the moles, and your attention is the hammer. Stay alert, and don’t let one outrageous policy distract you from the others.
Don’t Let One Victory Distract From The Next
In totality, the airport protests that erupted after Trump rolled out his immigration ban were successful: They brought nationwide attention to the odious policy, and eventually prompted the Trump administration to partially backtrack on its most egregious elements. Success!
Except there are still about a million other equally horrific policies Trump wants to implement, and if there’s no pushback against them, he’ll be successful in implementing them. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and though victories are absolutely worth celebrating, don’t let them distract you from the next fight — or earlier fights that haven’t yet been won.
Beware Of Trump Trolls And Fake News
Opponents of Trump have latched onto a lot of news stories lately that made the president look bad, including reports of Trump Photoshopping his hands to make them look bigger (this rumor was false); an immigrant’s mother dying because of the Muslim ban; and Trump threatening to invade Mexico (Mexico denied anything negative happening in the conversation). There’s only one problem: All of those stories were misleading, incorrect, or outright hoaxes.
Because Trump is so legitimately awful in so many ways, it’s tempting to believe that every negative story about him is true. But spreading misinformation about Trump is extremely counterproductive: If enough fake news about him gets spread and debunked, it’s going to get a lot harder to convince people of the actual terrible things he’s doing. Approach incriminating stories about Trump (especially the really incriminating ones) with caution, and consider waiting an hour or two for verification before retweeting.
Pay Attention To Boring-Sounding Stories, Too
Earlier in January, Trump appointed one of his top advisers to sit on the Principals Committee of the National Security Council (NSC). That may well be one of the most sleep-inducing sentences I’ve ever written as a journalist (and that’s saying something!), but despite the technical wording, this was a monumental and troubling change in government policy. The NSC holds enormous sway over America’s foreign policy, and the adviser in question was Steve Bannon.
In politics, highly-consequential decisions often sound boring and uninteresting on paper, and thus receive relatively little media attention. But sometimes, the driest-sounding announcements are the most consequential ones. Be ready for Trump to cloak appalling proposals in innocuous language, because he’ll almost certainly continue doing this.
Hold Democrats Accountable
If you’re a progressive, your feelings about the Democratic Party at this point in time may be... complicated. But the fact is that in the short term, congressional Democrats are the only check on power within the United States government. For the time being, any path to stopping Trump runs through the Democratic Party.
According to BuzzFeed, Washington Democrats are currently debating among themselves whether to compromise with Trump or, alternatively, adopt the Tea Party-esque strategy of opposing the president absolutely at every turn. What the party decides to do, both with regard to this larger question and in individual congressional battles, will depend in part on what their constituents tell them they want. The long-term health of the Democratic Party won’t become apparent for years; until then, it’s time to pick up your phone and start holding Democrats’ feet to the fire.
Take Care Of Yourself
Given Trump’s stress-inducing tendencies, stopping his agenda must be priority number one for progressives (and moderates, and conservatives). This is a political fight that has to be waged — but if you wear yourself out, you aren’t going to be able to fight it.
Although self-care may seem a bit, well, selfish at this point in time, it isn’t. It’s necessary: The process of staying informed about Trump and the government is itself emotionally and physically exhausting. Resisting Trump is a noble battle to wage, but always give yourself permission to step back from politics and ease your mind when you need to without feeling guilty about it. Think of it as recharging for the next round — and reminding yourself of the positive things in life that makes this fight worth having.