If you’re reading this, you’re probably beyond disappointed with the election results.
Maybe you cried on November 8, drinking so much booze you couldn’t tell by the end of the night why you were even crying in the first place. Maybe you chose to stay in bed all day on November 9, wishing you could just live there forever. Or maybe you sprang into action as soon as the results were out, calling your congress people, signing up to volunteer with local charities and letting the adrenaline of panic carry you through.
Either way, if you’re reading this, you probably also voted blue up and down the ballot, and now want to know what else you can do besides calling your senators every morning and curling up into a ball every night (okay, that last part is probably just me).
For those on a tight budget, here are 10 ways post-election to actually make America great(er)–because let’s face it, America was at its greatest right before November 8, 2016:
1. Lobby politicians
Calling your senator about pending legislation can be effective. But do you know what’s even more effective? Meeting them at work.
Pinpoint an issue you really care about, one that your local politician of choice can actually address. Then, schedule a time to talk. Successful lobbying means coming in with specific asks and tangible goals, as well as maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the public servant in question. Make it clear that you mean to stay in touch about the issue. Show up on lobby day with a group of like-minded voters (10-12 is a solid number, but you can bring more or less) and a packet enumerating your asks and any research or articles supporting them. Keep the packet to less than 40 pages, but preferably under 20. Include contact information, and reach back out regularly.
You may be strapped for cash, but there’s no reason you can’t put together a fundraiser. In Philadelphia, we raised thousands of dollars for Standing Rock through mostly grassroots efforts that consisted of dinners, house parties and well-publicized GoFundMe campaigns. A fundraiser–or food drive, or community forum–is a great way to make change.
Once again, you’ll need to assemble your crew and pick a cause. Then, work together with a local business or house of worship to pull something together. And don’t forget to publicize the event via social media, community calendars, and flyers.
3. Educate Yourself
There are a million books that will help you better prepare for the long road ahead. My favorite is Orwell’s 1984, one of nine titles Newsweek recommends everyone read post-election. I’d also add Klein’s This Changes Everything, which details how corporate greed and political inaction caused climate change and related injustices.
Bonus points: participate in a book swap and discussion group with community members. We’re all in this together, after all.
4. Read the news
Newspapers are funded in two ways: subscriptions, and advertisements. Prioritize reading online, and disabling any ad filters you might have. In some instances, the publications make more money when readers click the ads. So, grit your teeth and click.
5. …And make it, too
Don’t be afraid to submit op-eds, letters to the editor, and blog posts to your local news sources. If there’s an issue that hasn’t been covered, call the editor and explain what you want to see the newspaper tackle. When pitching, be specific and keep the publication’s audience in mind. And if you see an error in a story, tell the reporter. When the government stops listening, the press becomes our watchdog. Treat it kindly.
Many of you likely do this already. If not, I’m here to remind you that there are a million causes you can support, regardless of your time constraints and skill set. For my fellow environmentalists, 350.org and Sierra Club have chapters in most major cities and are a great way to plug into solving local problems. There’s also Planned Parenthood, which is in constant need of escorts for its clinics.
If you don’t see a local charity or political campaign you’d like to get involved with, you can always start your own grassroots group. To pull this off, go back to points #1 and #2.
7. Move your money
You might not be in a place to spend more, but you can spend better. Consider downloading apps like Buycott, which let you know which items in your shopping cart fund Monsanto, the Koch Brothers, and other negative companies. Also, if you haven’t done so already, switch your accounts from these seventeen banks to ones that didn’t fund DAPL, the recession, or unsavory politicians. 350 Philadelphia has a list of Philadelphia-based alternatives. If you’re in NYC, you can check out Amalgamated, the first major bank to divest from fossil fuels. Santander is a good (well, better) option for those who need a bank with branches in multiple cities.
8. Talk it out
If we’ve learned anything in the past few months, it’s that members of the two major political parties are divided: they tend to be in homogenous bubbles, reading very different news sources.
That’s why, if you’re ready, now would be a good time to reach out to Republican voters and talk, share life stories and try to find common ground. If you can, organize a forum where members of both parties can chat (and if you make progress, please publicize it and let me know in the comments!).
9. Help the Poor
In many cities and towns across America, resources like soup kitchens and homeless shelters are dispersed and poorly publicized to the populations who need them most. A few hours on Google will be enough for you to put together a list of resources for the poor that you can hand out or hang up in public places. But please, check with local shelters about how best to execute this project.
10. Build Community
This might very well be the most important point on this whole list, which is why I saved it for last. One thing we’re learning from the sanctuary city fight is that much of our positive change will come from cities, not the country as a whole. “Micro change” will be the name of the game. And in a time when we’re told to prioritize “self care” and see friends, family members and romantic partners as disposable, we need to fight hate with love. We CANNOT afford to classify every challenging relationship as toxic. That’s why we need to:
Talk about the deep stuff with the people we care about. Cry together. Laugh together. Be there to talk loved ones through rough patches, and not pass judgment on friends who encounter more hurdles in life than others. Have an “open door” policy when a friend or family member needs a place to sleep, a warm meal, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to spend the holidays with. And be ready to support them when they’re sick, by helping with chores, babysitting, driving them to doctors and, if necessary, organizing another fundraiser to help with medical bills.
And have an “open heart” policy, too: be open to befriending lots of people, from different backgrounds. Love trumps hate, and we have yet to reach our capacity to love more.