By Joshua Holland
Editor’s Note: The subheadings in the article are also links to their websites.
The election of Donald Trump was a catastrophe for progressive America, but the damage may be mitigated over the long term by a remarkable surge of energy on the left in response to his election. As many as 5.2 million people participated in hastily organized Womenâ€™s Marches across the country, senatorsâ€™ phones have reportedly been jammed with calls protesting Trumpâ€™s cabinet nominees and other early moves, and, according to a poll conducted by The Washington Post, more than one in three Democrats say they plan to become â€œmore involved in the political process in the next yearâ€ as a result of the election. Thatâ€™s true of 40 percent of Democratic women, and almost half of self-identified liberal Democrats.
A large crowd gathers to hear Senator Ron Wyden speak during a town-hall meeting at Linn-Benton Community Collegeâ€™s activity center in Albany, Oregon, on February 4, 2017. (Courtesy of Town Hall Project 2018 / Trang Dang)
The widely held view that Trump is an illegitimate president whoâ€™s poised to enact an agenda combining the worst of House Speaker Paul Ryanâ€™s â€œgranny-starvingâ€ fiscal conservatism with White House consigliere Steve Bannonâ€™s ethno-nationalism has fueled the formation of dozens of new grassroots resistance groups. Some were launched by seasoned political operatives, others by people who hadnâ€™t engaged in activism in the past. Some were germinated during chats on long bus rides to the Womenâ€™s March. Not all of them will succeedâ€”some false starts are a givenâ€”but like any collection of innovative start-ups, it only takes a few successes to change the landscape.
Hereâ€™s an overview of some of the new efforts launched since November 9. Itâ€™s by no means comprehensive, but we started with a list of 75 new groups and whittled them down to some of the most interesting or promising. Theyâ€™re not presented in any kind of ranked order. Our hope is that knowing how others are standing up to Trump will inspire more readers to get involved.
When a handful of current and former congressional staffers posted a guide on Google Docs outlining the most effective ways for ordinary people to lobby their representatives, they had no idea it would blow up the way it has.
â€œWe believe that Donald Trumpâ€™s agenda does not depend on Donald Trumpâ€“it depends on members of Congress rubber-stamping that agenda,â€ says Ezra Levin, a former Democratic staffer and co-founder of the project. â€œAnd perhaps the only great thing about Congress is that members are responsive to their constituents. Every member of Congress wakes up thinking about re-election.â€
Levin says that Indivisible built on the Tea Partyâ€™s model of â€œpracticing locally-focused, almost entirely defensive strategy.â€ This, he adds, â€œwas very smart, and it was rooted in an understanding of how American democracy works. They understood that they didnâ€™t have the power to set the agenda in Washington, but they did have the ability to react to it. Itâ€™s Civics 101 stuffâ€”going to local offices, attending events, calling their reps.â€
Within hours of posting the guide, the website crashed under the weight of trafficâ€”Levin says that 1.5 million people have downloaded it so far. â€œBlown awayâ€ by the response, they decided to expand the project with a local focus. â€œThe really exciting thing thatâ€™s happened is the emergence of Indivisible groups across the country,â€ says Levin. The website allows you to enter your zip code and connect with like-minded people in your community. Levin says that 5,300 groups have registered so far, and 200,000 have signed up to participate. â€œAnd whatâ€™s so exciting is that the majority are brand new people who are coming together post-election to figure out what to do.â€
#KnockEveryDoor co-founder Zack Malitz says that â€œin the 2016 election, Democrats didnâ€™t invest enough in going door to door and talking to voters. And where they did, they didnâ€™t reach out to people who needed to be persuaded or who were perennially discouraged from voting.â€ So he and some other former Bernie Sanders campaign staffers and volunteers got together and decided to organize canvassers toâ€¦knock on every door in the country.
â€œTalking to every voter requires a new approach to organizing,â€ says Malitz. â€œYouâ€™ll never be able to hire enough field organizers to support that kind of effort if you assume that a volunteer has to be directly in touch with a campaign staffer before they can get to work. So our approach is radical trust in volunteersâ€”not just to knock on doors, but to organize their neighbors to knock on doors, to lead canvassing trainings, to barnstorm their communities, and even to run critical pieces of campaign infrastructure and technology. Thatâ€™s the only way you can organize at a scale where it really is possible to knock on every door.â€
The group launched just two weeks ago, and 2,000 people have already signed up to participate. Last weekend, they held 17 canvassing events around the country. You can join the effort at the link above or chip in a few bucks to support this work here.
Swing Left was launched by a small group of friends who had little experience with political activism. The goal is to sign up progressive activists in safe congressional districts to canvas in the nearest swing district and ultimately flip the House to Democratic control in 2018.
â€œVoters in â€˜safeâ€™ districts tend to feel powerless about their impact on local elections that have national repercussions,â€ says co-founder Miriam Stone. â€œAt the same time, House midterm elections, including in swing districts, tend to receive less attention than other races. We formed Swing Left to provide a simple way for voters living both inside and outside of swing districts to come together and channel their time, resources, and ideas to help progressives prevail in these critical races. We believe thereâ€™s something powerful in the idea of individuals personally connecting with each other and rallying around specific, local Swing Districts.â€
Over 280,000 people have signed up so far, according to Stone. So far, the organizers have covered the costs of the operation out of their own pockets, and theyâ€™re now looking for funding as well as volunteers.
This organization, launched January 20, is committed to recruiting and supporting millennials running for down-ballot offices. â€œIf youâ€™re a young progressive whoâ€™s not necessarily part of the system or familiar with politics, there was really nowhere for you to go to ask for help if you wanted to run,â€ says Amanda Litman, a former Clinton campaign staffer and co-founder of the group. â€œCandidate recruitment is a time-intensive activity that requires a lot of manpower and resources, and itâ€™s something that the state parties and state committees just couldnâ€™t do properly because theyâ€™re already doing so much. So weâ€™re trying to fill that gap.â€
Millennials who want to get into electoral politics will be able to access training, pick the brains of experienced mentors, and in some cases get help with funding and staff. Litman says that in less than two weeks since the projectâ€™s launch, theyâ€™ve signed up almost 3,000 young candidates to run for local office. She says that the group didnâ€™t expect the response theyâ€™ve gotten, and are now building out infrastructure to handle the demand.
Freedom of Information Act guru Ryan Shapiro, who has been a thorn in the side of both the Bush and Obama administrations, calls FOIA a â€œradical experiment in transparency,â€ at least in theory. In practice, government agencies have become adept at deflecting or deferring FOIA requests, and it takes a special skill set to navigate these bureaucracies.
Shapiro and attorney Jeffrey Light, a specialist in FOIA litigation, had been doing their work part-time, but, in the wake of Donald Trumpâ€™s election, the duo decided that they needed to redouble their efforts. â€œJeffrey and I have been doing this work for years,â€ says Shapiro. â€œWe have thousands of FOIA requests in motion with various federal agencies. We currently have 15 active FOIA lawsuits against the FBI, CIA, DIA, NSA, and other agencies, as well as numerous additional lawsuits in the pipeline.â€
Shapiro says that he and Light had â€œexpected to continue fighting government secrecy under Hillary Clinton. But on November 9, faced with Donald Trumpâ€™s overt contempt for transparency, freedom of the press, and the Constitution itself, we realized we now needed to significantly expand our efforts. We founded Operation 45 so we can focus on this work full-time, as well as bring on other people to assist as we scale up to take on the Trump administration. We have the expertise and the vision, now itâ€™s just a question of resources.â€ You can get more information at the link above, or chip in a few bucks toward their efforts at this Gofundme page.
Technically, weâ€™re cheating here: There was a #Movement2016 website, but it was sort of a work-in-progress. After the election, organizers revamped the project and relaunched it as #Movement2017, and itâ€™s a useful tool for those who want to offer financial support to lesser-known organizations in their communities.
Veteran organizer Billy Wimsatt, who launched the effort, says that while the big progressive advocacy organizations will play an important role in the resistance, the idea behind Movement 2017 is that small-dollar donations to local grassroots groups can often make the difference between their succeeding and fizzling out.
But how can one know that one of these groups is using its resources wisely and doing valuable work? Movement 2017, says Wimsatt, is â€œa platform to donate to the resistance in a vetted way. We feature 200 of the best, local progressive vote groups in key 2018 states, along with selected national groups. There are a zillion donate lists floating around, but most arenâ€™t vetted and they tend to focus on large brand names. We focus on scrappy groups that offer the biggest bang for the buck.â€
Who would have thought of knitting as a vehicle for defending womenâ€™s rights? Two erstwhile non-activists from Los Angelesâ€”architect Jayna Zweiman and screenwriter Krista Suh. And they appear to have hit on something, given how rapidly the Pussy Hat Project has taken off.
The idea was to bring people together in knitting circles, where they would produce handmade pussy hats for participants in the womenâ€™s marches, as well as family and friends, and while theyâ€™re at it, plot the resistance.
â€œThe traditional knitting circle is a fantastic opportunity to have discussions,â€ says Zweiman. â€œPeople are coming together to create something, but theyâ€™re also there with a group of like-minded people, often for several hours, and itâ€™s a great opportunity to talk about womenâ€™s rights and come up with ideas about what we can be doingâ€”for creating a community around activism.â€
The other goal was to give people who, for whatever reason, canâ€™t get to a protest an opportunity to participate in the movement. Zweiman was recovering from a concussion during the Womenâ€™s March, and couldnâ€™t deal with large crowds. She says that, â€œwhen you see that sea of pink hats, you understand that itâ€™s not just about the people out in the street marching, but also those supporting the marchers.â€
In November, a group of friendsâ€“most of them longtime activistsâ€“got together to console one another in aftermath of the election. â€œWe started talking about what keeps us going in the face of hard realities. We realized that what gives us hope and energy to keep going with our work is the fact that we are members of activist groups,â€ says Talia Cooper, who co-founded the project with Pippi Kessler, Sonia Alexander, and David Mahfouda. â€œWe realized that a lot of people got activated since the election, and some of them say that theyâ€™re not sure what to do. So weâ€™re working to direct people who are new to the movement to organizations led by experienced activists and seasoned organizers.â€
They developed a quiz to help match newly hatched activists with the right organization, and what began as a six-week project has now expanded into something more, with 70 volunteers working on one aspect of the campaign or another. Cooper says that over 10,000 people have taken the quiz so far. At this point, theyâ€™ve focused primarily on groups working in the New Yorkâ€“Philadelphia region and the Bay Area, but the group plans on taking their database nationwide.
Itâ€™s been an all-volunteer effort so far, but Cooper says, â€œweâ€™re realizing that this might start to cost us some money. If people want to support us in that they can donate here.â€ You can also suggest worthy groups to include in the campaign here.
Some other noteworthy groups and campaignsâ€¦
Brought to you by the scrappy organizers behind whatâ€™s been described as the largest march in US history, the Womenâ€™s March 10/100 Campaign is trying to keep the momentum going. Sign up and commit to participating in ten concrete actions during the first 100 days of the Trump regime.
The Town Hall Project is an unfunded, crowdsourced, Facebook-based project that researches â€œevery district and state for public events with Members of Congress,â€ and makes the info available via a Google spreadsheet in the hope that people will engage their representatives face to face. They also â€œhave a team of organizers that works with local groups on the ground to coordinate efforts and encourage citizens to amplify their voices,â€ according to their â€œaboutâ€ page.
#ResistTrumpTuesdays is a joint project of The Working Families Party, MoveOn, and Peopleâ€™s Action. Its goal is to turn large numbers of activists out every Tuesday to fight back against a different element of Trumpâ€™s agenda. You can follow the action by clicking on the Twitter hashtag above, or go here to find a local action near you here.
Co-founded by The Young Turksâ€™ Cenk Uygur and Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk, Justice Democrats is recruiting progressive candidates to challenge â€œcorporate-backed Democratsâ€ in primaries and â€œrebuild the party from scratch.â€
Millennials for Revolution, a group of former People for Bernie organizers, wanted to â€œtake the opposition to DC,â€ but realized that activists, especially younger ones, need a base of operations in the belly of the beastâ€”a place to strategize and if necessary stay for a few nights. Theyâ€™ve neared their goal of raising $50,000 to cover rent on a space near the Capitol for a yearâ€”90 percent of their donations turned out to be $27â€”and signed a lease on a property this week. For more info, or if you want to support their effort, check out District 13 House.
You can sign up for a weekly â€œact of resistance,â€ and pledge to follow through, at wall-of-us, another new effort to capitalize on the energy of the Womenâ€™s March.
Organizers are planning a Scientistsâ€™ March on Washington, DC, on April 22. More info can be found here.
The ACLU reportedly raised $24 million during the weekend following the announcement of Trumpâ€™s â€œMuslim Ban,â€ but there are dozens of local legal aid groups that will also need support as the resistance spreads. Rewire compiled a list of 24 of these smaller legal-aid organizations, with brief descriptions of each. Check it out here.
Concerned about the spread of fake news? Itâ€™s a difficult problem to tackle, but Eli Pariser, co-founder of Upworthy and author of The Filter Bubble, launched a humble spreadsheet to crowdsource ideas, and it has since â€œbecome a hive of collaborative activity, with hundreds of journalists and other contributors brainstorming strategies for pushing back against publishers that peddle falsehoods,â€ according to Fortune. The spreadsheet, titled â€œDesign Solutions for Fake News,â€ is here.
You can also hit Breitbart News and other sites that peddle in bigotry and white nationalism in their pocketbooks by getting involved with a Twitter group called Sleeping Giants. Their strategy is simple: Make sure that corporations are aware of the kind of content that appears alongside their ads. This New York Times story offers more detail about the campaign.
Feeling overwhelmed by the rush of real news about the Trump regime? Matt Kiser, a tech writer by day, launched a side project chronicling â€œthe daily shock and awe in Trumpâ€™s America.â€ The goal of whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com, according to the siteâ€™s â€œaboutâ€ page, â€œis to capture the most important news in a digestible form.â€
It may be a Hail Mary pass, but the organizers behind ImpeachTrumpNow, John Bonifaz, and Norman Solomon, are veteran progressive activists who lay out a compelling case at the link above.
Buycott Trump is trying to get people to vote with their dollars. Organizers have launched a new campaign on top of an existing app that allows you to scan barcodes and QVCs, and offers you information about the politics of the companies who make the products you see on store shelves. You can find links to download the app at the link above.
You can also enter your phone number at White House, Inc. or DialItUpNow.com, and be randomly connected to a Trump property somewhere in the world, where you can politely discuss the issues that matter to youâ€”and in the process keep their lines tied up.
With Trump in the White House, and Republicans controlling all three branches of government, popular resistance has never been more important. Itâ€™s too soon to tell which of these groups will take off and succeed, but itâ€™s not too early to throw yourself into one of these worthy efforts. And if weâ€™ve overlooked a new effort that you think is important, let other readers know about it in the comments.Î¦