Carly Fiorina fell off a stage for nothing: Ted Cruz suspended his campaign last week. The next day John Kasich followed suit and ended his anemic, late-start run for the White House. Now 16 Republican candidates have given up the chase, leaving reality star and scamming real estate developer Donald Trump first in line to clinch his party’s nomination. Many political experts have reeled at the unlikeliness of Trump ascending to the presidency, especially considering registered Republicans are only 23 percent of the American electorate and Trump’s weak pull with people of color, women, immigrants, and anyone who earned a college diploma.
Perhaps Trump’s rise actually is about angry white men who have had a hard time in the job market in the wake of the 2008 economic crash. But if those are his core supporters, they will have a hard time carrying their nominee to victory in November. Even just based on the number of those guys versus the number of people expected to vote for the Democratic nominee in several of the country’s more diverse swing states—including Nevada, Florida, and Pennsylvania—Trump will be facing a steep uphill battle on Election Day.
Nothing is a sure bet, however, especially in this election cycle, which started out dismissive of Trump’s candidacy (and Bernie Sanders’s, too). Election watchers across the political spectrum banked on Trump’s early exit. Instead, at every expected exit, Trump has gained in strength, and his hateful rhetoric continues unabated.
Even if his chances of being elected are slim, just knowing that Trump’s toxic vitriol will keep spreading across national headlines for the next six months will make some of us want to tune out the race altogether. So here is a quick guide for those of us anxious to do something productive to shore up support for vulnerable people, including ourselves, as we are now facing several more months of invective and angry rhetoric.
A protest against Trump in NYC this winter. Photo by B.C. Lorio (Creative Commons)
Volunteer in your community—I know we are all busy. I’m scheduled from the time I wake up until after I’ve tucked my kids into bed, but volunteering is vital in a society in which we’ve moved much of our social service infrastructure to nonprofits, community based organizations, and charities. Individuals gave more than two-thirds of the $300 billion donated to philanthropic causes last year, and following up with your time or expertise is vital to putting those dollars to good use. Planned Parenthood, as we all know, is being attacked by terrorists and lawmakers alike and can use the help. Mentoring groups across the country are desperate for adults who can work with children after school, especially with students whose parents can’t afford expensive lessons or who don’t have the job flexibility to take their kids to extracurricular activities. Also, soup kitchens are great places to learn to cook and support people who are homeless, hungry, or food insecure. You can find a soup kitchen near you here.
Pay attention to down ticket elections—Some Senate races are getting media attention this year, but many House races, state legislature races, board of education races, and local political races never receive much air time. It’s also much harder to identify a candidate’s policy positions at the local level, so check with your county political party leaders, who likely have a schedule of appearances for candidates and town halls, position statements, and other information. Don’t get caught staring at your ballot unsure of which bubble to fill in—and remember that at the state and local levels, there are many more candidates who may be moderate within their parties or more responsive to constituent needs, so voting strictly along party lines may not support your priorities in a given area. Also, states are in charge of their own elections, even for federal candidates, so the rules around voting are different from state to state. You should know your state’s rules for registering, how primaries and general elections work, and how their rules can affect the ballots you see.
One example: Washington is a top-two primary state, meaning that the two candidates on a ballot for a given office may be from the same party. In my local, conservative area of Walla Walla, those two candidates are often both Republicans, so it is important to me to know where they stand on the issues. One candidate may be a pro-choice moderate and the other could be affiliated with the Tea Party. You can find your state’s voting rules at the National Association of Secretaries of State website.
Support immigrants’ rights—Immigration policy is front and center this election cycle; Trump labeled Mexicans as “rapists” and drug dealers in his candidacy announcement last June before piling on negative remarks about refugees and wishing for a mandate to refuse to admit any Muslims into the United States. Several groups have specific avenues for involvement, including the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, who also list border-focused groups, and other organizations like the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which does trainings and helps interns find positions.
Push back against the wave of anti-trans legislation—More than 100 bills across 20-plus states do everything from revoking anti-discrimination laws already on the books, to legalizing harassment against trans women in rest rooms, to jeopardizing gender nonconforming students’ safety by installing a kind of bounty for finding them in school bathrooms or locker rooms. The good news is that most Americans are against these so-called “bathroom bills,” but the bad news is that many state legislatures currently are controlled by the reactionary right. Also good news is that door-to-door canvassing to affirm the rights of transgender people softens people’s attitudes on the issue. You can get connected to campaigns against these hateful bills and initiatives here and here.
It can feel frustrating and frightening that anyone who has called for violence against an entire religious group and against immigrants, who has advocated for torturing and killing children as part of any foreign policy, who has mocked people with disabilities, and who has said horrible things about women and their bodies is about to receive the nomination from a major political party. The president, after all, governs all of us and represents the country—not just some of us. If we’re going to keep insisting on nation states as our global organizing philosophy for governance, then this is what we’ve got to work with. But beyond avoiding Trump’s hateful rhetoric, we can find productive ways to engage with each other at the community level, and I am betting that such positive engagement will defuse at least a little of his bombast. Because humans who feel cared for are much less interested in campaigns like the one he is crafting.
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