November 20, 2016

GROSKAUFMANIS | Finding a Voice in Other Places

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If you’re here for an in-depth thinkpiece on what happened two weeks ago, you’re in the wrong place. I don’t want to give you my hot take on how Hillary missed the rust belt Forgotten Man, or talk about Trump supporters who are boycotting Hamilton and writing “Trump” on their Starbucks cups. By this point we’ve seen all of this time and time and time again on our Facebook newsfeeds. Instead, I’m going to talk about the less sexy side of politics. More specifically, the side that requires people like you and me to step off our Cornell campus and out from behind the comfort of a column, and into the world that we think and learn and write about everyday here. There are millions of options —here in Ithaca, and around the country — that enable citizens to impact our communities in ways that no vote could begin to do. It’s time for disappointed Democrats and excited Republicans to reconnect with those resources.

Thursday after the election, at 8:40 in the morning, my American political campaigns class was particularly packed. One slide in lecture read, “There’s tons of research on voting and election day, but very little research on political engagement that does or does not happen the other 364 days of the year.” I’m not sure if it was even meant to make a point, but it did, because we now find ourselves moving into that sweet spot that doesn’t directly bookend the presidential election. It’s more important now than ever that we don’t tune out. We don’t need to wait four more years for another presidential election, or even two more years for the midterm, to have agency in our communities again.

Whether you want to invest money or time in movements you care about, you have options. Pick the thing that worries you — or excites you — most about a Trump presidency. For each issue, there are hundreds of organizations and non-profits or local government departments, that are one phone call (or a few blocks) away. Don’t ignore those or excuse yourself from engaging in them just because you’re upset about the outcome of election.

Are you worried about whether our constitution will be upheld objectively? Donate to something like the American Civil Liberties Union. Is it important to you that the United States be a hospitable place for refugees? Start here in Ithaca, and reach out to the organizations that are preparing for the arrival of 50 refugees in the coming months. Concerned about reproductive rights for women? Donate to Planned Parenthood, or follow the lead of many Ithacans and reach out to the Ithaca center directly. Think Trump’s Twitter crusade on the New York Times foreshadows how he’ll treat journalists during his administration? Buy some local and national news subscriptions as holiday presents for your family. Is climate change a major issue for you? Write a letter (or call)  your representatives urging them not to appoint a climate change contrarian to head the EPA. The list could go on, but the point stands: even if you’re doing something small in response to Trump, it’s better than nothing. He is our president-elect and he will affect the national agenda in ways we can’t control, but don’t underestimate the impact you can have on your locality.

Whether you’re in the “let’s try to work with Trump and see what happens” boat, the “I’m moving to Canada” boat or the “I voted for Trump and my candidate won” boat, having a collection of movements to get behind is just as important to the meaning of citizenry as turning up to vote on election day. We need to care a little more about politics during the other 364 days of the year, especially if we weren’t feeling too hot on the morning of November 9. Yes, liberals need to figure out the rest of America. The rest of America, in turn, needs to figure out liberals too. The United States has a lot of healing to do. Let’s start that healing by looking at some non-partisan starting places.

So find your issue, and find out how you can try to make whatever community you live in look a little more like an America that you’re proud of. Or don’t do any of these things, but at least don’t forget that you can. The electoral college decided that Trump is president, but it didn’t bar you from participating in the America he’ll be running for the next four years. Will small actions like these solve all issues that a Trump presidency presents to a progressive agenda? Of course not, not even in mass accumulation. But if enough people are proactive, it will certainly provide a counter-current to backwards movement. There’s strength in that.

I didn’t intend to write a prescription for how people should act or feel in response to this, and if you had asked me two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have predicted an outcome in which I have to. But I feel like the alternatives here are being naively optimistic, which would be a disservice to many people, or fatalistic, which would be a disservice to all of us. For the next four years, complaining (or writing a column in The Sun) is not going to be enough for any of us; Republicans or Democrats.

Jacqueline Groskaufmanis is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at jgroskaufmanis@cornellsun.com. The Dissent appears alternate Mondays this semester.

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