1) Mourn thorough, and mourn deep
Warning: Beware racing through this insufferable moment in history too quickly in an attempt to get it over with, or to try and forcibly transmute it into fiery activism or to “something positive” (impossible) without taking sufficient time to sit, really sit, in this pocket of slimy horror, lest its real, transformational energy fail to take useful root.
Dems are accused of many things, but one of the most common might be losing our fire too quickly after election victories (or losses), getting too comfortably ensconced in our bubbles of positive and not recognizing the racist, sexist wolf shamelessly humping the door.
A good way to avoid complacency – or its sour cousin, abject despondency – is to really allow this moment to soak to the marrow, take it in so deeply we come out the other side transformed not into the passive peacenik progressives we once were, but into an entirely new warrior class.
2) Support, and pay for, real journalism
Yes, I know: MSM is under critical duress right now; it’s an obvious and convenient scapegoat, easy to blame the media (especially cable TV news, yeesh) for warping and manipulating the election, given how many pollsters and prognosticators – including me, of course – completely misread the most impossible-to-read election in your lifetime.
I suggest otherwise. Aside from the baffling polling disasters, journalism did its job more than admirably well against truly bizarre and often nearly impossible economic and cultural trends, not to mention certain political campaigns that defied human dignity. Journalism is a flawed, messy and decidedly human art, after all. And it remains more essential than ever.
Me, I have paid annual subscriptions to NYT, LAT, the Guardian, WaPo, Atlantic, New Yorker, Slate, NatGeo and a few other print mags. I consider them vital public services, lifelines to intelligence and perspective. There is an exceptional pool of talent working in journalism today, and I guarantee you the best of them are, right this second, redoubling their efforts (and their newsrooms) to fight for clarity and human dignity for the next four years, against what is already a bleak tide of trashy, hate-filled propaganda blogs and rancid voices masquerading as real journalism.
And it’s a bargain: all told, all my subscriptions combined are still cheaper than a couple seasons of some mediocre show on Netflix. I mean, come on.
3) Move to a swing state.
I came across this advice somewhere recently, and, while at this particular moment I’m in a deep and grateful swoon for my beloved California and its legendarily progressive, open-minded and diverse agenda, and cannot imagine leaving – moving somewhere more politically lopsided and red has an unusual resonance, and power.
After all, changing the world only happens by becoming a potent beacon of that change, an intelligent, informed locus of kind-but-fierce energy around which the truth of our shared humanity can gather (see No. 4, below). North Carolina? Texas? Kentucky? Go forth, young radicals, feminists, activists and newly awakened Millennials, and multiply.
3) Advise and support the Democratic party
Rarely in modern history has the DNC establishment been so instantly shattered, so unexpectedly slammed backwards. So then: while the red tide of Trumpism wreaks unspeakable havoc in Washington and the world – and enjoys all the blame for what’s to come – the DNC gets a rare chance to rebuild itself anew, as it scans around (quickly, oh so quickly) for its next-gen heroes.
They need your help. Communicate with your elected reps, especially the new blood (godspeed, Kamala). Sign petitions, write letters, hold local meetings and rallies, join an activist group or ten (recommended: CTZNWELL), pay more attention to the various political maneuverings locally and in DC. Hell, run for local office yourself. Join the police commission. Attend local DCCC meetings. Get on a community board. We get few chances to remake a political party from the (destabilized) group up. Your involvement, at any level you like, could not be more needed.
4) Galvanize. Like a warrior
All done mourning? Terrific. Now, next: Allow yourself to be galvanized. Electrified. The energy of fear and dread, while depressing as hell, can also be a shockingly potent fuel.
I won’t call it a silver lining per se, because there is zero good about what’s coming. But I do recall when eight solid years of G.W. Bush so gutted our national dignity and poisoned our global identity, the energy for change became strong enough that it actually managed to slingshot us far in the opposite direction, straight to the then-radical, seemingly impossible idea of electing the country’s first black president – a man who, of course, turned out to be one of the finest, most respected and articulate leaders in our nation’s history. (Side note: Dear Obama – we are so very, so insanely, so heartbreakingly sorry).
Here’s my prediction: This time, it won’t take nearly that long. It’s a sure bet that Trump’s offenses will come so fast and so startling, his lecherous rape of the American experiment so complete, the energy available for backlash will become available far sooner (2018 mid-terms, to begin with).
We must be ready. This requires diligence and determination, but also not succumbing to fatalism, liberal infighting, shrugging pacifism. It requires not whining about how if only we had a viable third party, or if only Bernie had won, or Hillary had been a different person entirely, or blaming the MSM, or social media, or all the stupefied Millennials who didn’t show up to vote (far fewer in overall number than for Obama in 2012, for shame), because they thought it was a given that the world would always be their playpen. It requires notpicking up your toys and stomping away if your exact candidate, or ideology, or pet issues, are not perfectly addressed.
In sum: The energy for recoil and immediate change will come hard and furious this time. Watch for it. Gather it in. Share it with your tribe, your town, your lover, your representatives. Leverage it any chance you get in any way you can, from micro to macro. Do not hesitate, lest the trolls steal it and transmute it into further discord.
5) Reconnect with, and fully recharge, your immediate community
Obvious, but perhaps not obvious enough. In times of stunning hardship and grief, it’s tempting to panic, to feel suddenly very isolated and alone. It’s a terrifying disorder (not to mention a cruel illusion), and right now we’re seeing what happens when huge numbers of our fellow humans feel so intensely lost, so completely unseen, so disconnected from Source they actually turn violent and self-destructive, ultimately choosing to put their trust in a vile, abusive demagogue to command them what to think, feel, obey.
Your instincts are likely correct: Reach first for those closest and most connected to you, be they in your family, your tribe, your team, your apartment building, your neighborhood, your city or your club or (in my case) yoga kula, and circle the wagons. Talk openly. Listen deeply. Share your fears, your hopes, your heart and your strength. Hillary didn’t quite go far enough: We are not merely stronger together. We are transformative together. We are human together.
Caveat: This list is, obviously, largely non-specific, and does little to directly address the myriad moral and ideological terrors Trump is about to unleash on this country, from decimating the ACA, to unraveling every good Obama put in play, gutting women’s rights, calcifying the Supreme Court, reversing America’s clean energy policy, yanking the county out of NAFTA, harming immigrants and POC and the LGBT community, deriding human rights, and on and on. The list of his intentions is stunning in its inhumanity and brutality, and is easily one of the most demoralizing, heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen.
Full truth: I have little idea how to tackle those specific demons just yet, both because there are so many, and because exactly how he’s going to do it has yet to be seen. What I’ve got right now is humbly broadstroke: Gather our collective energy into a nuclear fireball of resistance, invoke the warrior goddess Kali with 1008 screams of No F—king Way, and gird ourselves for the most difficult, explosive, potentially transformative fights of our lives.
Suggestions appreciated. Outreaches of support and communal fire, always – and I do mean always – welcome.