As soon as it became obvious on Election Night that Donald Trump would become the next president of the United States, millions of us reacted in ways similar to how Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross describes the series of emotions we feel when a loved one dies: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. We probably should add outright fear to that list.
We have all lived through elections that keenly disappointed and no doubt angered us. But ultimately, most of us accepted the wrong-headed policies of a Nixon, Reagan or Bush, and went on with our lives — lives that hardly changed because of who the president was. But while no one knows exactly what a devious, and dare I say it, duplicitous individual like Trump will actually do, his cabinet appointments certainly would indicate that he meant much of what he said during the campaign. He fully intends to radically change much of the role of government in providing a decent education, a clean environment, occupational safeguards, and a secure safety net for the elderly, poor or infirm.
For Jews, we should bear in mind that all of these roles are aspects of what the Talmud, as well as later rabbinic thought, teaches us about a just society. It is ironic, and maybe even a bit astonishing, however, that many people who are very much dependent on government to provide for these needs voted against their basic interests. And, it is likely that “we ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Obviously, it is incumbent upon all of us who believe in a compassionate, just society and government to do more than be angry or depressed, and certainly not to simply accept what is happening and become resigned. Before being executed by a repressive right-wing government in Utah, radical labor organizer Joe Hill wrote, “Don’t waste time mourning, organize!” Organizing can take the form of demonstrating as in the case of the rallies to save health care, as well as the women’s marches in Washington, in Philadelphia and in many other cities.
But organizing doesn’t just mean demonstrating, or simply writing letters to the editor excoriating the Trump administration (how scary those words sound). It means the nitty gritty, as we used to say, of organizing. As the right wing of the Republican Party learned long ago, building a solid political infrastructure is essential.Tip O’Neill used to remind us that “all politics is local.” While it may not be as exciting as a presidential race, volunteer for your Democratic candidates for state and local contests. If there is an opening for Democratic committee person in your division, run for that. If you haven’t contributed to a progressive political organization, then do so now. (Democratic Jewish Outreach PA is a good place to start!)
If you look at the total votes in the last election, it is obvious there are millions more of us than them. My New Year’s resolution is to do all that I can to return decency and social justice to our body politic. For the sake of our children and our children’s children, please make this your resolution as well.
Burt Siegel is a founding member of Democratic Jewish Outreach PA (DJOP). DJOP’s mission is to support the Democratic candidates running in Pennsylvania for local, state and national office who best reflect Jewish values. Among the core causes supported by this organization are women’s reproductive freedom, equal opportunity for all, an end to gun violence, a clean environment, quality public education and support for Israel. Please visit the DJOP Facebook page for updated postings and information.