Donald Trump’s looming presidential inauguration will surely bring anxiety—and unprecedented change, both in the U.S. and abroad. But it doesn’t have to signal the end of a progressive, inclusive America. As Obama said in his final remarks in front of thousands in Chicago Tuesday night, it’s also time to “embrace the joyous task” of fighting for a better, more just country. “It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy,” he said. If you’re a young person, you’re in a prime position to do something. You and your peers make up one-third of the electorate—it’s time to flex that power, and we’re here to help guide you.
The first—and perhaps more important—thing you should do is contact your local representatives. Let them know which issues are most important to you, and what positions you’d like them to take. Do this personally, let them literally hear your voice (emails and tweeting are said to be much less effective). Do this often, and encourage your friends to do the same.
Next, know we’re not in the fight alone. There are hundreds of groups doing the important work of protecting the most vulnerable among us: people of color, the working class, women, LGBTQ citizens, children, and the homeless, to name just a few. We have organizations that will stand up for the environment even when big corporations refuse to. No matter the cause, there are already boots on the ground—and they’re eager to have you join them.
Over the next 10 days leading up to Trump’s inauguration, Fusion will be highlighting some of the issues most important to you. We’ll outline Trump’s stance on those issues and note the organizations and people who are battling him, and how you too can support the fight. Today, we’re starting with free speech, without which we would not have a free press—or protest.
What Trump has been up to:
Trump’s words and actions have proven that he either doesn’t understand or simply gives no damns about the First Amendment. Which is problematic because the First Amendment is the linchpin of our most fundamentally American principles: It protects our right to mobilize and protest; it prevents Congress from designating a national religion or persecuting specific religious groups; and, finally, it enshrines the role of the press to criticize the government and hold those in power accountable—think, President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation. What’s not to love, amirite?
But there’s a reason why Meryl Streep recently singled out the need to protect the press going forward. PEOTUS has a pattern of unleashing his “beautiful Twitter account” on his enemies—Megyn Kelly, union leaders, college girls, and Streep among them—when they express any criticism of him. This increased risk not only encourages self-censorship, but the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) research shows behavior like Trump’s “create a divisive environment ripe for attacks on press freedom.” He regularly calls out publications that have covered him unfavorably, and during his campaign even went so far to deny credentials to a number of outlets, including the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Politico, and Fusion. And while Trump has been chummy with the press off the record, his so-far irregular to non-existent press conferences isn’t just a break from tradition—it makes it next to impossible to ask the President-elect questions in a direct, free-flowing, and public forum.
Trump has even suggested that anyone caught burning a flag (a protected form of speech) should be punished by having their citizenship revoked—an ignorant, chilling, and unconstitutional proposal if there ever was one. And his comments about protesters—via his Twitter account and his campaign speeches—levy baseless and troubling claims against them: that they’re professional agitators, that they’re only provoked by the media, that they are, rather than practicing a fundamental right, being “very unfair.”
Who’s answering the call:
Reporters everywhere understand that they’re entering uncharted territory with President-elect Trump, and many news organizations have ramped up their coverage, refusing to mince words or cut Trump slack on his lies. Press advocacy groups have also been campaigning to urge Trump to provide much-needed access.
How you can help:
You can donate to organizations like PEN USA, which is committed to nurturing writers as well protecting freedom of expression here and abroad, and has been organizing campaigns and events to push back against Trump’s harmful rhetoric and behavior. You can also contribute to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has sworn to take Trump to court if he tries to make good on his campaign promises and infringe on the rights of the press (as well as immigrants and reproductive rights). You can also sign up for their ACLU Action mailing list. Or, you can also follow Streep’s example and donate to CPJ, the organization she shouted out during her recent Golden Globes remarks.
But one of the simplest, and most important, things you can do is to read, subscribe to, and share the kind of reporting you most admire. Support the organizations that are publishing the stories you care about, sign up for their newsletters, and maybe get a subscription for a friend too. The more people, and the more resources dedicated to, holding Trump—and frankly, all of our leaders—accountable, the better.
Reading list/resource links:
- The First Amendment Center
- The ACLU
- PEN America: The Freedom to Write
- Committee to Protect Journalists
- Trump: The First Amendment has “too much protection” for free speech (ThinkProgress)
- Donald Trump Has Brought The Fight For Press Freedom Home (Huffington Post)
- Trump vs The First Amendment (Washington Post)
- These lawyers say they’ll defend any of Trump’s accusers for free (Fusion)
- How Donald Trump’s fantasy First Amendment would get him in even more trouble (Fusion)
- Donald Trump’s twisted views of the First Amendment (Columbia Journalism Review)
Up next on How to Survive Trump's America: Come back tomorrow to find out how to protect immigrants’ rights under Trump’s presidency.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Watergate led to Nixon's impeachment. It has since been updated.