What Comes Next? A Guide for How to React to the Election

I should start off by saying I am not a political scientist or commentator or expert. I study and write about media and rhetoric will get back to that soon. But I also study gender, race, and culture and, thus, like most people, have been consumed by this election. In short, I have a lot of thoughts.

There have already been many articles written about what to do after the election, but they have been targeted at a narrow audience. Regardless of partisan affiliation, Americans need to come together now. It may sound clichĂ©d, but it’s true. We are already more ideologically divided than ever before. Now, Americans have elected a man who more often than not uses divisive rhetoric rather than unific, empowering segments of the population who already have power while further disaffecting the marginalized.

No one wants to be made to feel they are complicit in someone else’s pain. While many, many Trump voters are not explicitly and overtly sexist, racist, xenophobic, or homophobic, they voted for a man who is. White people overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. These votes are emblematic of a white supremacist system that privileges some lives over others. (I highly recommend you read this for a primer on whiteness.) It is time for white people to recognize what they have done. White liberals also need to reckon with this.

Below, I have listed some things that everyone can do following the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. Unless we want the divide between Americans to grow further, it is time for all of us to talk and listen to each other, and treat each other as human beings.

If you voted for/supported Trump:

  • Talk to someone who is different than you. Many people are scared right now. Trump ran on a platform promising to ban Muslims, build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and repeal marriage equality, just to name a few of his platform issues. He has flip-flopped on many of these issues and it will remain to be seen what he will do in office. However, he has actively sought support from radicals and hate-mongerors like Alex Jones, and appointed Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist to his cabinet, not to mention David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Thus, it is easy to see why people may be afraid. Even if you personally do not feel this fear, and may even be excited, talk to someone who is not white/not straight/not Christian/not a natural-born citizen. Listen to them. Attempt to understand their fears and where they are coming from. What can you do as an individual to make these fears lesser? Can you talk to your fellow friends and family members who supported Trump about these fears?
  • Vary your information diet. Nonprofit, nonpartisan fact checkers have found that Donald Trump lies more often than he does not. Of course, virtually all politicians (and people), lie and bend the truth from time to time. But when comparing Trump to other politicians, he lies far more often. Read and listen to nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism to help parse through what Trump says. NPR and BBC are two well-established organizations that you can read, listen to, and watch. (Additionally, reading/listening to news sources outside of the States allows for objectivity on our politics.) Most states also have nonprofit/nonpartisan publications (for example, Oklahoma Watch or California Watch). ProPublica is also a good source for investigative journalism.

If you voted for/supported Clinton:

  • Don’t just wear a safety pin. Be a true advocate. By all means, wear what you want. But as Roxane Gay, along with several other people, got at on Twitter, the safety pin has logistical issues (how hard is it to find someone with a safety pin when you’re being harassed?) in addition to kind of being a cop-out. I tend to agree. It feels a bit like hashtag activism to me. Rather than wearing something, show your beliefs and values through your words and actions. If someone is being bullied or harassed, step in. Don’t be a safe space for people to come to. Push back against those who are making public spaces dangerous.
  • Support diverse and independent voices. The Trump campaign has spent a year and half attacking the media and sewing distrust in journalistic institutions. Liberals, too, blame the media for the rise of Trump. Yet, we will need them more then ever to hold Trump accountable. Subscribe to a newspaper (The Washington Post and The New York Times have been particularly excellent this year). Donate to your local NPR or PBS stations. Furthermore, as diverse voices are pushed to the margins, we need to support artists of color, female artists, LGBTQ artists, and more who will create vital and important counterculture under the Trump presidency.
  • Listen and talk to Trump supporters to the extent that you can. I said it once, I’ll say it again:  don’t block/unfollow/unfriend someone purely because of how they voted. If they are attacking you in the way that the alt-right does, protect yourself. But do not groom your newsfeed and timeline so that only people who think like you live in it. Now is the time to talk to people who voted for Trump. Ask them why. What do they think he will do as President? Communicate to them your hopes and fears. While some Trump supporters have engaged in reprehensible activity, many of them are average people who are concerned about the economy and ISIS. Connect with them on a human level. Work to bridge the divides that Trump won’t.
  • Support your favorite cause. Slate already compiled a great list of things you can do depending on what you care most about. Planned Parenthood and ACLU have seen spikes in donations after the election. Not everyone can afford to donate. Then you should volunteer your time. Those who can do both absolutely should.

If you voted for/supported Third Party candidates:

  • Find and support a strong candidate. There is a lot to be said for the argument that we need a strong third party in this country. This election may have shown more than any in recent history why. However, neither Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or even Evan McMullin were those candidates, for a variety of reasons. If you truly care about building a third party, find a strong candidate and support their campaign from the ground up.

If you didn’t vote/don’t care:

  • Engage. We are taught that talking about politics is rude. I used to think the same. But frankly, this is a way for the elite to disempower the public. Politics effects every aspect of our lives. If you care about the cost of gas, your health, whether your brother or sister may see combat, civil rights, or education, these are all issues we elect politicians to decide. If you don’t vote and engage in civil discourse, you have no control over what happens to you, your friends, or your family. That said, as someone who got a terrible education in civics and government, I felt stupid when people discussed politics and disengaged for that reason as well. But I finally started asking questions because I wanted to know. I did my own research. I started listening to podcasts and public radio. (I cannot recommend the NPR Politics Podcast enough.) Read. Discuss. Engage.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.

Molly

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