Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!
— Donald J. Trump, President-Elect
Happy New Year to you too, Donald, and the same to all the readers who may be not be so happy about the prospects for our country in its new incarnation as a reality TV show unfolding in real time.
This column is aimed not at Donald but at all those people (the majority nationally and the overwhelming majority in our central New Jersey readership area) who have been reduced to wringing their hands in despair at the election results. The message is simple: Wringing your hands won’t do any good and, yes, there are plenty of things you can do that will help all of us move forward. Here goes:
Put the public good over politics. That begins by quitting the game of political correctness, one that can never be won. The latest case in point: The Russian hacking of various political websites and whether the timing of Obama’s sanctions was politically motivated. Who cares? The real point, as demonstrated in 2013 when the Chinese hacked into the Pentagon, in 2014 when North Koreans hacked into Sony, and now with the Russian intrusion into the Democratic National Committee, is that our electronic infrastructure is vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Forget the politics. What are we doing about it?
Many readers will argue that “words matter.” But you can also argue that there are other issues more important than words. Even when arguing the issues, the opposition may try to deflect your arguments by telling you to “get over” the election outcome. Ignore them. If you respond then you just proved their point: You’re not over it.
Stay informed. This may be easier said than done. First because lots of folks admit that they just can’t stand to watch, listen to, or read the news anymore. Second because the news media is going through its own painful re-examination of its role in this brave new reality TV world. Staying informed may now also mean following some of the major players, including our new president, on Twitter and Facebook. It’s possible that Trump may never hold an old-fashioned news conference. He can reach his public through Twitter, not through the press and its annoying questions.
In a recent interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, urged his fellow liberals to “watch Fox News. We are in our own bubble as much as those who are in the Fox News bubble. You need to see who your adversary is and not have any illusions. And there are convenient illusions, like that they’re all racists or Trump’s election is just ‘whitelash.’ Liberal academics need to engage with conservative ideas, have conservative speakers and professors on campus, learn something, try to build bridges.” That goes for us non-academicians, as well.
Voice your opinion. All the time-honored channels still work: letters to the editor, calls to senators and representatives. And support your local community newspaper, many of which are now the lone reporters of the action at the county and congressional district level. Remember: the reporting of the Bridgegate scandal began with the reporter at the Bergen Record who wrote a column on commuting issues. Without him raising the alarm about traffic problems in Fort Lee we might be looking at a Vice-President Chris Christie or — worse — Attorney General Chris Christie in the Trump administration.
Do not ignore the social media. If Trump can use Twitter, so can you. You may not have 18.4 million followers, as he does, but you can tweet and re-tweet and find ways to get your views amplified.
Work together. There is strength in numbers. Michael Moore, the political activist/filmmaker has published a list of “Five Things You Can Do Right Now About Donald J. Trump.” He suggests we form “rapid response teams,” consisting of 5 to 10 friends, family members, co-workers, etc. to e-mail elected representatives , make calls, post on social media, go to protests, or organize others.
You could gather that rapid response team and pay a visit to your congressman’s local office or to attend town halls, such as the ones that representatives held in the early days of the Obama administration, when Tea Party types showed up to sow fear and loathing about the new affordable Care Act. In the brave new reality TV world, you can show up and spread some honest facts and raise some reasonable questions.
Be for something. I’m beginning to hear some talk about people organizing to attend the “million woman” march on Washington the day after the inauguration. What’s the point of this protest? Without one, the Trumpian response will be a Tweet to the effect that “a million women gather in Washington because they lost and don’t know what to do.” How about a cause, such as increasing the federal minimum wage to $12.50 an hour (it’s been stuck at $7.25 since 2009)?
Remember that the federal government isn’t the only agent of change. Bothered by the Trump administration’s indifference to minimum wage laws? If you are a business owner you could bump your minimum wage workers up to fairer hourly rate. If you work at a business that employs minimum wage workers, you could urge your management to raise that wage. My guess is that — in progressive central New Jersey — a company or eating establishment that pays more than the minimum wage would be able to use that as a bragging point.
Bothered by Trump’s uncaring comments toward undocumented immigrants and their natural-born children? Go to work on behalf of immigrants. On December 21 U.S. 1 reported on T.K. Oluwafemi, coordinator of volunteers at the Princeton YWCA. She could use teachers of English as a second language.
Bothered by the Republicans’ zealous determination to repeal Obamacare? Make sure your family and employees or fellow workers are covered by health insurance. Repealing the pre-existing conditions clause and the mandate may not be as easy as Republicans think.
What about the Trump administration’s indifference to women’s reproductive health? Trump has waffled on abortion, but the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, is a “personhood” advocate who believes life begins at conception and has spoken out against several common birth control methods. Bothered by this? Put your local Planned Parenthood on your charitable giving list.
Bothered by the look-the-other-way stance toward the obvious conflict of interest between the nominee for secretary of state (the CEO of ExxonMobil) and big energy? Don’t buy so much energy. You by your lonely, hand-wringing self can’t make much of a difference. But remember that you are in the majority who voted against Trump. Consumers who have opted for fuel efficient cars and energy efficient houses already have made a noticeable difference in energy demand.
At work make sure the office thermostat is set so that less energy is used at night than during the day. Do the same at home. Better yet, take a day or a weekend or a whole week this summer and live without air conditioning at home. (Full disclosure: I gave up AC at home about 15 years ago and I have survived.) Imagine what the folks at Big Energy would think if a million people (or 10 million) gave up AC for a week?
The beauty of this energy protest is that it would also demonstrate real resolve in the fight against climate change, an issue that was hardly mentioned during the 2016 campaign and an issue some Trump administrators do not even recognize as an issue.
Yes, those of you who fought Trump in 2016 did lose. But you have hardly run out of things to do. The new year may not be so bad.