Join in — and don’t for­get the Ever­clear

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - DANA MIL­BANK Twit­ter: @Mil­bank

I’ve heard it scores of times from Amer­i­cans fright­ened, an­gry or de­pressed about Pres­i­dent Trump: “What can I do?” I rec­om­mend to each of them the same reg­i­men I fol­low my­self: Ex­er­cise reg­u­larly, spend time with fam­ily and drink a quart of Ever­clear ev­ery night.

But such self-care, as the men­tal-health prac­ti­tion­ers call it, only goes so far. For much of Amer­ica — the ma­jor­ity of the coun­try that did not vote for Don­ald Trump — the elec­tion has brought about what’s known as a “col­lec­tive trauma,” not un­like the 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

Then, we stock­piled duct tape, packed go bags and hatched fam­ily es­cape plans — giv­ing us an il­lu­sory sense of con­trol over the unimag­in­able (and, in ret­ro­spect, overblown) threats of chem­i­cal, bi­o­log­i­cal and ra­dioac­tive at­tacks. Now a ma­jor­ity of those on the left, as well as many mod­er­ates and con­ser­va­tives, fear not some un­known ter­ror­ist cell but our own pres­i­dent, wary of the calamity he could un­leash with his reck­less­ness. One mo­ment he’s at­tack­ing the fed­eral ju­di­ciary; the next mo­ment he’s as­sault­ing Aus­tralia — or Nord­strom.

The er­ratic be­hav­ior makes mil­lions of peo­ple feel pow­er­less and out of con­trol, which leads to anx­i­ety, anger and de­spair. Any­body know of a 12-step pro­gram for my fi­ancee, who ob­ses­sively reloads her Twit­ter feed as Trump un­leashes all man­ner of may­hem?

But there is a bet­ter way. I con­sulted with lead­ing fig­ures in mo­bi­liza­tion — peo­ple such as Mar­shall Ganz, of Ce­sar Chavez fame, and Har­vard University’s Theda Skocpol — and asked them to pro­pose ac­tions an or­di­nary cit­i­zen might take.

Un­til now, the re­sponse to Trump has been ad hoc: demon­stra­tions ar­ranged on so­cial me­dia or flood­ing the Capi­tol switch­board. That does some good, and the ral­lies are a balm for peo­ple feel­ing iso­lated. But the ac­tiv­i­ties are wasted if those in­volved don’t join a larger move­ment.

“We need to shift from a re­ac­tive to a strate­gic re­sponse,” Ganz says. His so­lu­tion: Join some­thing. “To the ex­tent it brings you into a re­la­tion­ship with oth­ers, it’s worth do­ing. Un­less it has that fur­ther div­i­dend, it gets old.”

So what to join? My friend Eric Liu, au­thor of the forth­com­ing book “You’re More Pow­er­ful Than You Think,” says even a book club will do. That’s true, in the long run: The idea is to re­build struc­tures of civil so­ci­ety, the break­down of which al­lowed the dem­a­gogic Trump to take root.

But some or­ga­ni­za­tions do more than oth­ers to com­bat Trump. Here, then, are a few il­lus­tra­tive ex­am­ples — though their in­clu­sion is not an en­dorse­ment, nor should an omis­sion be seen as a de­merit. Or­ga­niz­ing. The anti-Trump move­ment won’t be a left-wing tea party. Ob­jec­tions to Trump tran­scend ide­o­log­i­cal lines, the left is frac­tured by iden­tity pol­i­tics and there aren’t many lib­eral donors who will bankroll re­sis­tance the way the Koch broth­ers funded the tea party. But there are groups that at­tempt to mo­bi­lize: In­di­vis­i­ble. MoveOn. Peo­ple’s Ac­tion. Cen­ter for Com­mu­nity Change. PICO. Cen­ter for Pop­u­lar Democ­racy. Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party. Le­gal. Trump has al­ready tried to stretch his pow­ers be­yond the usual lim­its. The Bren­nan Cen­ter, the ACLU and the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter counter him. Me­dia. To com­bat Trump’s al­ter­na­tive facts, sub­scribe to your lo­cal news­pa­per. Con­trib­ute to NPR. Even buy the fail­ing New York Times if you must. (Al­ter­na­tively, you can send your checks to the Dana Mil­bank Ever­clear Fund, c/o The Wash­ing­ton Post.) La­bor. Many of the build­ing-trades unions are fool­ishly hop­ing Trump will be their friend. But their ser­vice and pub­lic-sec­tor brethren — the SEIU, AFSCME, the teach­ers’ unions — are bul­warks against him. In­tel­lec­tual. Demos, the Roo­sevelt In­sti­tute, the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, the Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties, the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion, the Eco­nomic Pol­icy In­sti­tute and Skocpol’s Schol­ars Strat­egy Network all of­fer brain­power to counter Trump. Party. The Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee lead­er­ship is so weak that it may not be worth your time. But state and county party com­mit­tees could use help. Skocpol rec­om­mends that if you live in a “blue” state, get your lo­cal com­mit­tee to form a part­ner­ship with a party com­mit­tee in a swing or red state. Pol­i­tics. If you’d like to run for of­fice, con­sult your party or Emily’s List (if you’re a woman) and train with Well­stone Ac­tion. For ev­ery­body else, find out where your labors are needed. There are gu­ber­na­to­rial races this year in New Jersey and Vir­ginia. Flip­pable.org will lead you to im­por­tant state races. Swingleft.org finds you the near­est con­gres­sional swing dis­trict in 2018. Or, if you are a Repub­li­can, get in­volved in pri­maries to help the likes of Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) stand up to Trump. Co­or­di­na­tion. The left is des­per­ately in need of peo­ple to align its iden­tity-pol­i­tics fac­tions. Amer­ica Votes and State Voices are at­tempt­ing, against long odds, to do that. Join. A church or sy­n­a­gogue or mosque, a union, your lo­cal Planned Par­ent­hood chap­ter, the Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Sierra Club, Elks Lodge, Veter­ans of For­eign Wars or Amer­i­can Le­gion post: The is­sue and the ide­ol­ogy don’t much mat­ter; what mat­ters is con­nec­tion.

It is our best hope. That, and a tum­bler of Ever­clear.

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