What You Can Do: How to Have Power in a World of Political Pain

By Eleonora di Liscia


Hearing the results of the 2016 Presidential election was like discovering the person you married is a serial killer.  You wake up wondering, “Who have I been sleeping with?  Who are these people in my country?”

The election gave me new insight as to why author Virginia Woolf committed suicide rather than face World War II.  I felt despondent and paralyzed. Then I realized what I could do to make me feel better:  I could tell you what you can do to make the world feel better.

Right now, the Democratic Party has frighteningly little political power, and it’s pretty clear that the Trump Administration doesn’t care what you or I have to say.  Inside the political system, our best bet is persuading voters in Republican districts to pressure their legislators, who may have to care about their constituents if they want to keep their jobs.

And of course, the protests and women’s marches are all really nifty.

But beyond that, it’s time to think outside the political box.  Here’s how:

Vote with Your Dollar: Consumer boycotts.   Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump’s jewelry line.  According to NBC, Nordstrom denies the move was political but rather due to “performance of the brand over the last year.”  OK, whatever.  They were either afraid of the controversy, or you weren’t buying, so they stopped carrying.  Either way, it works for us.

After more than 200,000 customers deleted their Uber accounts, CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from Trump’s economic advisory council.

The #GrabYourWallet movement started when a grandmother and a brand strategist decided they could no longer shop at retailers who support Trump.  You can find their list of companies and products to boycott at:   https://grabyourwallet.org/.  The group also maintains a list of companies that have reformed.

Due to #GrabYourWallet pressure, Kawasaki USA dropped its sponsorship of The New Celebrity Apprentice as long as Trump retained involvement in the show.  Although come to think of it, maybe we should now watch the show.  If Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings skyrocket, it might turn Trump from regular Cheez Doodle to spicy red hot.

The website also contains a recommended actions list (https://grabyourwallet.org/Your%20Recommended%20Actions.html) which includes emailing, calling, and using social media to pressure companies about your concerns.

Which brings us to:

Start a Grassroots Movement:  If two ladies who never met can start #GrabYourWallet and shake up Kawasaki, so can you.  The website Votility contains a Civic Engagement and Advocacy Blog that posts advice on starting a grassroots movement:  http://www.votility.com/blog/topic/grassroots-advocacy.  There are also sites that make it easy to start your own petition drive:  https://www.change.org/start-a-petition and https://www.ipetitions.com/.

Of course, there already is one, highly effective grassroots movement right here at home:

Join Tenth Dems:  In 2012, Tenth Dems turned the 10th Congressional District from red to blue when Brad Schneider became the first Democratic Congressman in parts of the 10th.  We couldn’t have done it without an army of dedicated volunteers.  And it will take an army of dedicated volunteers to insure the 10th District stays blue.  Consider investing your time or dollars in Tenth Dems.

Tenth Dems works because it is a grassroots organization that “believes politics is about more than just elections.”  This type of activism was detailed in the book Herding Donkeys by Ari Berman about Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy.  Democrats competed everywhere, even in places where they thought no other Democrats existed. And they did it, in part, by maintaining a community presence with activities such as car washes.

Tenth Dems keeps the community engaged (again thanks to that dedicated army) through its Let’s Talk Politics series and Tenth Dems University (TDU) seminars.  Let’s Talk Politics is a series of moderated discussions that allows Democrats, liberals, and progressives in and around the 10th District the opportunity to discuss important issues of the day. These events may include guests such as elected officials, candidates, political analysts, and authors.  TDU hosts free educational seminars on hot topics like women in politics and gun safety.

And here’s the cherry on top: Tenth Dems sponsors the Annual Community Connection Poetry and Prose Contest in which Zion, Waukegan, and North Chicago high school students submit original, unpublished work.  Doesn’t that give you a warm, fuzzy feeling?

Do you know why McDonalds has indoor play places?  Is it because they care about the lack of physical fitness opportunities for urban youth?  Of course not, silly!  Those play places are designed to give you warm, fuzzy memories which McDonalds hopes will translate into a lifetime of buying Big Macs.

So think how much better the world would be if we could:

Export Tenth Dems.  Now imagine if your friends who live in Kenosha, Wisconsin, or Holland, Michigan, or Erie, Pennsylvania, put on their own Democratic-Party-sponsored warm and fuzzy memory-inspiring events?  Maybe we wouldn’t have woken up on November 9th married to a serial killer.

The Antidote for Alternative Facts is Real Facts:  Think Snopes, Politifact, or Media Matters, only more focused.  Maybe it’s corruption in the Trump administration, hate crimes, or healthcare. Take any issue you really care about, research it, put up your own blog or website, and keep it up to date.   For example, the website http://ohhshoot.blogspot.com/ compiles posts on unintentional gun shootings.    You can help debunk the lies by spreading the truth.

Crowdfunding for Your Heart:  After reading an article about how Trump’s travel ban kept Esmat Fahti, an Iranian Alzheimer’s disease researcher, from boarding a plane to work in the U.S., one individual set up a GoFundMe page to encourage Fahti to try again while the ban was temporarily halted. https://www.gofundme.com/an-alzheimers-researchers-dream

Read about something dear to your heart?  Help fund it.

Support the Lawsuits:  Thank Alexander Hamilton for judicial review! The American Civil Liberties Union, among other groups, filed suit to block Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries.

Trump’s executive order eliminating two regulations for every one added could devastate the environment as well as public health and safety.  In response, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, and the Communications Workers of America have gone to court.

President Obama faced an avalanche of legal challenges to his executive orders.  It’s time to return the favor.  Consider donating to the groups that fight in this arena.

Vote with Your Dollar:  Impact Investing.   The good news is the stock market only cares about profits, not who’s President, says Neil Gardner, an Edward Jones Financial Advisor in Skokie.  And that brings us to impact investing: putting your money in something you feel strongly about or not putting it in something against your values.

First, you need to decide what you want to accomplish, Gardner advises.  Maybe you are concerned about gun manufacturers or companies with poor labor relations.  You can find information on a company’s values through its marketing literature or prospectus.   Another source of investment information is www.morningstar.com.

Once you know which companies you don’t want to support, you can work with your financial advisor to insure you don’t hold their shares, even indirectly through mutual funds.   If a company is in your portfolio, unload it.  Then, Gardner says, let the world know why you did.  This strategy can be particularly effective with mutual funds.  A mutual fund holds millions of shares in a company, so how that fund exercises its proxy can have a huge impact on a company’s actions.

The flip side of divesting what you don’t want is investing in what you do. Support companies that promote your values.  For example, in a New York Times article, former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson discussed “green finance,” an international financial system to support green projects as a means of catalyzing environmental change. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/20/opinion/how-to-raise-trillions-for-green-investments.html?_r=1  Examples are green bonds in China to promote energy efficient building, private financing of wind parks in India and Mexico, and a multinational trust fund supporting solar power.

As a shareholder, another avenue for change is to speak up.  According to Gardner, all companies have an investor relations department.  “If you are a shareholder, you have every right to tell them what you think,” he said.  For example, you could tell the company why you sold your shares.  Or, you could file a shareholder proposal.  Gardner cites Abbot Laboratories, which in response to shareholder pressure has minimized use of animals in research.

So you see, out of the darkness, there is still a little candle of hope.  And that candle is you, and all that you can do. And there are millions of other candles just like you.  Together, we can beat back our despair and light up the night sky.

Join us! Help elect Democrats in our area:

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