When you’re living in a red state, resisting the Trump administration's barrage of anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric can be downright discouraging. I know because I’ve been wondering about effective Trump resistance in a red state since he was elected. Before Nov. 8, I was the girl in the neighborhood with the Hillary Clinton buttons and Planned Parenthood stickers who could at least smile because Obama was in office.
I was born, raised, and currently reside in the occasionally great state of Tennessee. Standing up for my progressive ideals while maintaining relationships with my more conservative friends and family has always been a balancing act. After organizing with Hillary for America in Tennessee, and realizing that most of my neighbors probably voted for a man that, quite openly, stood for everything I was against, I realized it was time to stop juggling. Social consequences be damned, it was time to be more aggressive about what I believed in.
People like myself have been participating in a more frustrating routine as of late. The endless calls to the representative who doesn’t care about you, the struggles to campaign against the conservative politicians who keep getting reelected because of the (R) next to their name, and the frustration that comes with the territory of being progressive in the Bible Belt — it’s enough to make you want to nap until 2018.
But then, you remember that this isn’t a matter of just having your opinion heard. At a time where our some of our neighbors may lose their health care coverage, their homes, and their rights, it’s a matter of survival.
So, what’s a progressive to do in a red state? Here are some tips for making your voice heard and keeping up your resistance momentum:
1. Don’t Stop Annoying Your Representatives
Don’t stop calling them. Don’t stop writing letters and emails. Show up at their offices. Publicly shame them for supporting legislation that oppresses you. Make it known that their constituents are not happy with the decisions they are making. Often, the responses you get are the standard, “Thank you for your input, I’m totally sure he’ll care,” or even the dismissive, “You are not the majority,” or “You’re paid to protest, aren’t you?” There were many times where I called my representative and I just felt like I was yelling into a void that only returned passive aggressive emails. Make it clear that you’re here to stay. You’re here to hold them accountable. And if the pattern of voting against the well-being of their constituents continues, you will be there to vote against them when the time comes. Challenge their narrative that all red state residents support conservative decisions.
A great tool for calling your representatives about the issues you care about (with a handy script, no less!) is 5 Calls. Five calls. Five minutes.
2. Campaign Like Hell
Challenging the status quo in a red state is never easy. Many people who have tried running against incumbent Republicans in these states will tell you that it gets downright awful. Watch campaign ads against Harold Ford Jr. from 2006 to get an idea. This is where grassroots campaigning is so important. Part of the reason why conservative candidates keep getting reelected in red states is the bombardment of misinformation about more progressive candidates. This misinformation about personal history and policy needs to be addressed from the ground up. Don’t be afraid to recruit your friends for canvassing. Don’t be afraid to challenge your friends and relatives when they bring up misconceptions about progressive politics. Don’t be afraid to make calls, knock on doors, vouch for your candidate every chance you get. There is no strong candidate without strong supporters. If you want to get your nightmare representative out of office, you need to do the work.
You can find your state's Democratic Party on the DNC website here. Don't be shy about giving them a call or an email to see how you can help local Democratic candidates in upcoming elections. They're always happy to hear from potential volunteers!
Swing Left is a website focused on supporting progressives in your closest swing district. If you live there, there's information on how you can volunteer. If you don't live in a swing district, Swing Left also gives you information on how you can still help out by raising awareness.
3. Support Local Organizations
When you live in a red state, you have to stay especially vigilant about local legislation threatening reproductive rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of many marginalized groups in general. This is why it’s so crucial to support organizations that fight for the rights of women, immigrants, people of color, and LGBT people in red states. Donate to your local Planned Parenthood, local immigrant rights coalitions, LGBT rights groups that focus on your state. While your occasional donation to the ACLU is probably appreciated, there are places in your neighborhood that desperately need the money and can probably do a lot of good in changing things in your state.
4. Stay Connected
When I volunteered as an organizer for Hillary for America, I learned a lot about the importance of building a community of people to canvass and organize with. I worked with my local Democratic Party to recruit volunteers. I leaned on a lot of like-minded individuals for support, and built relationships with people who continue to resist under Trump. When you build a community like this, you empower people who otherwise wouldn’t have made those phone calls or knocked on doors or gone to protests. It’s easy to feel small in a situation where you consistently feel suffocated by oppressive rhetoric, but there is strength in numbers. If you don’t know where to start, you can contact your local Democratic party or a similar alliance that seeks to resist oppressive legislation.
5. Challenge The Status Quo
We've all done it — kept silent about politics at the dinner table and ignored our co-workers' bigoted comments out of convenience. Many of us have the privilege to stay silent. Or we stay silent in order to survive. In any case, silence has shown to be ineffective. We have to be unafraid in challenging the narrow ideas of those around us. We have to be visible. The right wants to perpetuate the myth that we aren't "real Americans." Prove them wrong in every small way you can.
6. Don't Lose Sight Of The Local
Your member of Congress not holding a town hall? Plan an "Empty Chair" event and submit it here --> https://t.co/hv53lN7Abn— Town Hall Project (@townhallproject) May 18, 2017
It's often said that "all politics is local" — and that's why we need to show up en masse to remind them who they work for. A great place to start is a town hall meeting. You can find out about town halls near you at Town Hall Project.
Maybe you might even run for local office. Emerge America is an organization that empowers Democratic women to run for office, and provides training for people who are interested in running for office, but don't have all the tools to do so.
7. Don’t Lose Hope
When you’re an in environment where your ideas and values are regularly called into question, it’s easy to want to give up. But there are so many people like you and so many people depending on your ability to speak up. All the blue dots in red states need to stick together, and prove that just because you’re in the minority, doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference. Remember what’s important, and don’t compromise your beliefs for the comfort of other people.