Note that the following question was answered in greater detail on the embedded podcast episode above. For more in-depth discussions to questions like the below and more on the topics of relationships, sexuality, roommates, workplace, health, culture, politics, and everything in between, subscribe to Hannah and Matt Know It All on iTunes.
Listener Andre Asked:
What's the best way for leftists to harness the current wave of anti-conservative fervor sweeping liberals and centrists, and not let it peter out into individualist wheel-spinning like what happened after the '08 election?
The Know It Alls Answered:
We love this question, because in terms of things we’re qualified to speak to, at least 90% of our respective Facebook feeds are very politically charged or activism-related, so we obviously have some really strong feelings on these topics.
That said, we’re NOT qualified to answer this; we don’t know how to keep a movement going on our own and have obviously never been in a position to have to do that!
However, we tried to answer this to the best of our abilities.
If You Are Worried, You’re Not Alone
Our gut reaction is that the most important thing to focus on in this moment is intersectionality. We need everyone to continue to show up for one another’s causes, and not just the ones that affect them directly—what we need is A MOVEMENT, not a bunch of small movements that occasionally overlap. In order to drive any kind of systemic change, we all need to care about the things that are wrong in our country, regardless of whether they affect our lives personally.
It’s also important to remember that activism is nothing new. There has always been activism. There have been groups fighting on all sorts of issues for as long as there have been humans who have been treated unfairly (so, always). It’s important at this juncture not to try to reinvent the wheel, but to find out who is already doing the work and support them.
Additionally, it is important to remember that advocacy shouldn't only happen in response to crises; we, as residents of a democratic nation, are obligated to participate in our government if we are to expect it to work for us. One resource we’d like to point out is the Indivisible Guide which is a newish resource released in the aftermath of the Trump election that uses Tea Party tactics to help people actively advocate to their members of Congress on the things they care about. There’s a lot of concern about what people are doing or can be doing now that might ACTUALLY WORK, and connecting to existing movements and your elected representatives are the simplest, most effective ways to drive change.
A Better Tomorrow Is Not All or Nothing
One point we really want to drive home is the need for us all to be willing to compromise and work with people who share a common enemy, if not identical goals. Remember that our government is supposed to represent the needs of ALL of its people, so you may not get exactly what you want, but that doesn't mean that you can or should take yourself out of the game.
During this election cycle, a lot of people who weren't wild about Hillary Clinton as a candidate chose to “take their ball and go home” rather than choose what they considered to be the lesser of two evils—which was partially responsible for us ending up with just straight up evil running our country.
In continued activism at this point in time, we have to remember that a win is moving things back in a direction where people are safe and not having their rights stripped away, not necessarily putting a super liberal, uncompromising candidate into office. The reality is that very few people are 100% represented by the platform of any one political party or candidate, but the system that governs us requires that we come together to elect a group of people to lead us, and if everyone who is not 100% represented chooses not to participate, we’re leaving it to a very small group of people to make our choices for us.
Use Your Voice—And Your Vote
We have to hold the people in power accountable—it’s not about party, it’s about policy, and we need to support candidates and groups that will move forward policies that we believe are safe and fair and correct regardless of who put their name on them.
Part of the reason we’re in such trouble right now is because things have become so divided along party lines that representatives refuse to support measures headed by someone on their opposing party even if they agree with the policy itself, just so that they can say that they haven’t compromised. That’s a really dangerous, black and white way of looking at things, and it’s not how our government was designed to work.
Your representatives work for you, regardless of their party affiliation: demand and attend town halls, make phone calls and visits, write emails and letters—insist on being heard on what you, as their constituent, care about.
TL;DR: to harness the political energy that is happening right now,
Get involved in local and state politics as well as national/remember that president isn’t the only elected office that matters;
Work intersectionally and continue to be active on issues that don’t affect you directly, because they are affecting people who are on your side, and
Don’t think that the only way to win is to get 100% of what you want.
There is no victory in the battle of good versus evil; evil will always be there. All that we can do is continuously push it back, look out for each other, and continue to fight for the common good. This thought brought to you by watching too much Angel, but for real though, there will always be another battle to fight, so pace yourself and commit to being in it for the long haul.