Jan. 21 was a powerful day for women. By most estimates, the Women’s March was the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history. The impact wasn’t limited to the United States, either. Women all over the globe took to the streets to protest the incoming presidential administration.
Many are wondering what comes next. How can we build on the marches to turn this movement into a movement? The answer is simple: if Donald Trump continues to behave as he has over the past 18 months, people will organize and protest.
Professional organizers spent two months planning the Jan. 21 marches. But when President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly MORE introduced his Muslim ban on a whim and caused global travel chaos, massive protests erupted at airports within hours. Within a day, lawyers had self-organized into a highly effective counterbalance, adding legal force to righteous outrage.
It’s been just more than a week, and we’re already seeing the beginnings of a constitutional crisis. The lawyers’ protest was echoed by the judicial branch, federal judges overrode Trump’s ban, and our president is at war with an entire branch of government. Effective protest can take months of planning, or come together in hours, and both should give us hope. When we organize, we have impact.
I have faith the country will continue to come together in these moments of crisis to stand up for American values. Moreover, there are small things you can incorporate into your daily life to make sure you’re having impact.
Make voting a habit, not a hobby
Commit to voting in every election, whether it’s for our president or your mayor and city councils. Trump was elected by barely 25 percent of the population this past November. A full 50 percent of the country didn’t vote. The number of non-voters skyrockets in midterm elections and reaches preposterous proportions in local elections. This is unacceptable, but easy to fix.
You can check your registration status, register to vote, order an absentee ballot, and even sign up for email and text election reminders. Take three minutes and commit to making this a lifelong habit.
Communicate with elected officials
If you’re like me, you’ve signed dozens of online petitions over the year. They have value as organizing tools for those smart enough to use them, but they’re worthless for communicating your views to your elected officials.
Instead, find your representative and give him or her a call. Make this part of your daily routine. Do you have a commute to the office in your car? Do you prepare food at home for dinner? Great, take five minutes every day to call each of these numbers, speak with the staff, and leave a message on your issues of concern.
Do this every day until you make it a habit. Do it even if your elected representatives agree with you, let them know you support them. If you’re not sure what to say, just read the news. I’m confident you’ll find something you’ll want to speak up about.
Donate to causes you believe in
Chances are there are a number of organizations working at the national and regional level on issues close to your heart. Maybe you’ve donated in the past, or maybe donating money for political causes is new to you.
Having people commit to a monthly recurring donation can be a big deal for an organization. It’s money they can begin to count on to fund their operations and do the important work you care about. Even if the amount feels small, it adds up when lots of people do it.
So think about what money you’d have if you gave up a fancy cup of coffee every week, or packed your lunch once a week instead of eating out. Got that number in mind? Now go to your favorite organization’s website and make that a monthly recurring donation.
Show up consistently
President Reagan said, “Because we're a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours. And something else we learned: once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end.”
You’ll be presented with plenty of opportunities in the coming years to fight for what you believe in. Sometimes they’ll be pushed out by professional organizers, like with the Women’s March. Other times they’ll be spontaneous moments like we’ve seen at airports recently.
The key is to show up not only for things you care about, but to support others in similar struggles. So skip that happy hour, take a sick day at work, and be ready to do what’s asked of you. You won’t ever regret fighting for the principles that make our country great.
Debra Cleaver is founder and chief executive officer of Vote.org. She has more than a decade of experience working to increase voter engagement.
The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.