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Mashable: Trump’s America will also be a new golden age of activism

November 16, 2016

Mashable: Trump’s America will also be a new golden age of activism

By Rebecca Ruiz

Barely a week has passed since the election of Donald J. Trump — and liberals are preparing for the fight of their lives. 

To defeat what they consider a radical presidential agenda without parallel in modern American history, they've already begun donating to favorite causes, coordinating protests and volunteering at an unprecedented level. Nonprofits and advocacy organizations, including the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League and Planned Parenthood, have reported a remarkable surge in financial contributions. 

However bleak the prospect, taking on a radical Trump presidency could galvanize a new generation of grassroots activists whose influence would be felt for decades. If organizers succeed, it could herald a golden age of civic involvement on the left unlike anything since the 1960s, when people took to the streets en masse in support of civil rights and in protest of the Vietnam War. 

Only time will render a verdict, but the initial signs are promising. In five days, the nonpartisan ACLU received a record 120,000 donations worth $7.2 million to fund their work protecting civil liberties. Trump's election, said a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, led to the biggest spike in donations in the past year. Meanwhile the nonprofit health provider's headquarters and affiliates were flooded with volunteer inquiries. Two hundred people reached out to one clinic in Philadelphia that normally gets a two dozen such requests in a week. The ADL, which fights anti-Semitism and bigotry, is seeing a similar effect, with calls to their regional offices coming in at much higher rates than usual. 

"I think people feel many things are under threat and that’s why they’ve rallied," Karin Johanson, national political director of the ACLU, told Mashable

While the left traditionally mobilizes against conservative presidents on certain issues, Trump is not a standard-issue Republican with a classic agenda of cutting taxes and regulation while enshrining religious values in policy.

There is justified fear that Trump's administration will attack federal protections and legislation sacred to nearly every group comprising the liberal coalition, including women, people of color, LGBTQ people, environmentalists and immigrants. 

Since the election, the president-elect has already discussed deporting as many as three million undocumented immigrants who he says have been convicted of crimes, though research suggests his estimation is high. If Trump delivers on his promise to conduct mass deportations, advocates worry his efforts will violate civil liberties and lead to racial profiling and illegal detentions. 

But perhaps the most alarming development is the KKK's endorsement and embrace of Trump as well as his appointment of Stephen Bannon to a senior White House role. (Bannon is the chairman of Breitbart News Network, which has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate-watch group, as a "white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.") 

Calls to give Trump a chance and a clean slate have been met with the mantra that his rhetoric and his proposed agenda are "not normal." For those who oppose Trump, this is not just the next chapter in another partisan political war, but a grave threat to American democracy. So they are organizing to ensure he's unable to follow through on his promises.

Marcy Stech, vice president of communications for EMILY's List, a Democratic political action committee that works to put women in elected office, said the organization has been inundated with donations and interest in running for office. 

"Women across the country who have been motivated by this election are finding themselves in a position where they realize now is the time to step up," said Stech. 

Last week, 100 women leaders of color already at the forefront of local and nationwide movements published an open letter pledging "unity and determination" in pursuit of "liberty and justice for all." In a joint statement, California legislators also vowed to fight the most radical elements of Trumpism. "While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values ..." it read. "We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution." 

Such sweeping declarations have been paired with practical calls to action, including lobbying elected officials to denounce Bannon's appointment. A tweetstorm about how to contact one's representatives went viral over the weekend, and lists of companies that supported Trump have been circulated for those interested in boycotting businesses whose leaders appear to support his agenda. 

Johanson said those interested in resisting any part of Trump's agenda could focus their energy on holding lawmakers accountable and working to tell the stories of people affected by his administration's policies and practices. That, she said, can "change the fabric of what people believe" by swaying public opinion on important, complicated political issues. 

Jamie Henn, cofounder of 350.org, a grassroots movement to protect the earth's climate, said that activists expect to face of an administration that is hostile to curbing the country's carbon emissions. They plan to fight any efforts on behalf of the Trump administration to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. The recent appointment of Myron Ebell, a climate-change denier, to Trump's transition team overseeing the EPA, is a sign of battles to come.  

Ebell has called the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan illegal. The plan, which limits carbon emissions from coal power plants nationwide, is the centerpiece of Obama's climate agenda. Ebell has long received funding from the fossil fuel industry for his work to cast doubt on climate science.

"People, including ourselves, were shocked by the outcome of the election and are fired up about protecting the progress we’ve made and pushing back on Trump’s radical anti-environment policies," Henn said. 

Liberal activists realize there may be opportunities for bipartisanship, and are willing to consider forging a path forward under the right circumstances. Henn, for example, cited the potential of addressing voters' economic woes with federal investments in renewable energy as a way of creating jobs across the country. 

Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families, said the passage of minimum wage and paid leave laws in a handful of states last Tuesday could provide a new opportunity for local, state and federal representatives to replicate those successes. Even Trump's paid parental leave plan, which Shabo considers highly flawed, could provide a starting point to secure comprehensive paid leave for parents at the federal level. 

Yet, Shabo said, many advocates fear stalled progress and lost gains and are poised to mobilize people who have never been involved in the political process. 

"I think we can’t be silent," said Shabo. "These issues are too important and the stakes are too high to be quiet about what’s right."