Local Politics in the Age of Trump

March 8, 2017, 6:11 p.m.

by Sabrina Williams

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All politics is local

Since Donald Trump’s election to the highest political job in the country last November, Americans have awakened to a new brand of activism. From the historic Women’s March scheduled the day after Trump’s meager Inauguration turnout to huge protests at major airports around the country protesting Trump’s executive order that banned travelers from five majority Muslim countries, it’s clear that regular Americans are willing to spend their time, money and effort fighting the Trump Administration every chance they can get.

The American people seem to have wholeheartedly embraced the philosophy that “all politics is local” as evidenced by the increasing amount of organizing at the community level and the uptick in participation in local political actions and demonstrations.  Local activists, whether newbies or veterans of political action, have become even more strategic by urging large groups of frustrated constituents to hold state and local politicians accountable for not standing up to Trump.

Over the past month, as congressman and women returned to their home states to hold town hall meetings, constituents went on the offensive by organizing large groups of constituents disgruntled with their elected officials’ work in Washington. As word of these hostile town hall meetings circulated through the newswire of conservative representatives, many decided to cancel events or conveniently announce scheduling conflicts.  Undeterred voters often decided to hold their own town halls with our without their elected representatives.

Why local politics is important

Why is local politics so important? For one, local politics is national politics. The vast majority of issues that are decided at the federal level impact Americans in their communities and issues that may seem definitively local in nature may have far-reaching implications for other communities that are grappling with the same problem.

For example, if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, millions of currently insured Americans will lose their insurance. This may increase the burden on community hospitals and state Medicare budgets to care for newly uninsured people. Laura Bassett at Huffington Posts shows how a “defunding” of Planned Parenthood would ultimately impact huge numbers of people in communities around the country. She says:

The government does not cut a blank check to Planned Parenthood. The family planning provider is listed nowhere in the federal budget, and a law already prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortions. Planned Parenthood is only reimbursed for the non-abortion health care services it provides to low-income women, including birth control, Pap smears, breast exams and STI tests, through Medicaid and the Title X family planning program….

What the GOP’s plan would do is prevent Medicaid from working with Planned Parenthood. This would effectively block patients who rely on federally subsidized health care ― about 60 percent of Planned Parenthood’s 2.5 million patients ― from choosing Planned Parenthood for their health care. And by rendering the family planning provider unable to serve more than half its patients, the bill would likely force some of its clinics to shut down.

Any rolling back of environmental policies under Scott Pruitt, Trump’s EPA Chair is bound to impact water, air and soil health around the country. Budget cuts for public education in favor of private charter schools under Betsy DeVos, Trump’s recently confirmed nominee to head the U.S. Department of Education, could be catastrophic for teacher’s pay, teacher’s unions and per pupil funding in every school district in this country. A weakening of safety regulations at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could endanger the health of the nation’s food and drug supply, and that potentially impacts every citizen regardless of which state or county you reside in.

How to get involved and lobby your local politicians

As regular Americans become increasing frustrated by Trump’s hateful rhetoric, divisive agenda, and inexperienced or unsuitable agency nominees, many are overwhelmed by where to start their activism. Several months ago, former congressional staffers put together the “Indivisible Guide” to help grassroots organizers construct an effective resistance to the Trump Administration. Here’s a clip of Rachel Maddow explaining the purpose of the guide:

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The guide is a 25-page organizing guide that mimics many of the successful tactics used by The Tea Party’s curing their rise in 2009. The guide provides practical tips on meeting with and lobbying members of congress and, more generally, how regular people can organize locally, become forces of power that elected officials can’t ignore, and, best yet, how to resist Trump.

My experience at the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club Lobby Night

I recently had the honor of attending the Maryland Chapter of The Sierra Club’s Annual Lobby Night. Lobby Night was held in Annapolis, MD and on February 20th, there was a record turnout of about 300+ individuals from all over the state showing up in the Maryland Senate Building to lobby their elected state senators and representatives.

The first hour consisted of a well-organized training provided by Sierra Club on how to talk to representatives and which topics were the absolute most important to discuss at these meetings. After our training, we met with state reps about the importance of a permanent ban on fracking in Maryland (currently, we only have a moratorium that expires in 2 years) and several other high priority environmental issues coming up for vote.

Participating in such a large community event was extremely satisfying. It's extremely satisfying to know that regular people in the community can speak directly to elected officials and educate them about the community's needs, Hopefully, we were able to persuade them to take legislation action on our behalf.

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I urge everyone to seek out local organizations that are working on progressive issues in your own community. Demystifying the process of speaking to local officials is something Americans will need to quickly overcome in the age of Trumpism if our democracy is to survive.