10 simple questions with thoughtful answers

Version 1.4, 12/19/2016 [first posted 12/1/16], By Scott Berkun (@berkun)

This answers common questions about the election, what happened, what it means for liberal democracy, concepts you need to know and what to do right now. It’s concise. Entire books will be written about the election and this isn’t one of them.

I voted for Clinton, but anyone concerned about a Trump presidency will find this valuable. This is a living document: I will update with improved links and references as I learn about them. The ambition is to keep it short: an absurd goal for sure but we are in an absurd world, so why not?

  1. What just happened?
  2. Can you say something that makes me feel better?
  3. What are the key factors in what happened?
  4. What can I do to fix it?
  5. What actions can I take now?
  6. Which people and policies are most vulnerable?
  7. How can we observe Trump with our eyes open?
  8. Has this happened before?
  9. Are the comparisons to Nazi German appropriate?
  10. How bad can this really get?
  11. Summary for action + List of other similiar guides

1. What just happened?

One of the strangest presidential races in U.S. History. Trump won the electoral college 306 to 232, but Clinton won the popular vote 48.2% to 46.3%. This was a close election as they often are in the U.S. But this is only the 4th (or 5th) time in history a candidate won the popular vote but lost (which has debatable significance). 

History books will likely describe it this way: two polarizing candidates (and one historically unpopular one) campaigned in one of the meanest and most surprising races in American history, involving class divisions, urban vs. rural tensions and the unintended consequences of new media. President-elect Trump was one of the most inexperienced victors in American presidential history.

2. Can you say something that makes me feel better?

If you voted for Clinton, nearly 64 million people agreed with you. This is a good thing. I’ll take a divided country over one that has completely abandoned its ideals. I don’t know if I’d have had the motivation to write this document if 90% of my fellow citizens voted against my sensibilities for what is best for our country given the choices we had.

We are living in historic times. Isn’t history fun? Did you know in 1900 the average life expectancy was just 30 years? Or that unemployment in the U.S. was 25% in 1933? Would you rather be alive then? We’ve come a long way and it’s useful to keep that in mind. The best way to feel better is to get some perspective (more on this in section 7), but not too much. There is much to be upset about too. But it’s not the end of the world, not yet anyway.

Put simply, this is our generation’s turn to live through a challenging era of the American story. I’ve never been asked to fight in a war or make large sacrifices for future generations, but I know I’ve benefited greatly from those that came before me. We will all be tested now, from citizens on all sides to those who represent us at every level. Where do we stand? What do we care about? And what are we willing to do about it?

3. What were the main factors in what happened?

[If you want to take action NOW, skip ahead. But at least skim this topic as it helps explain which actions matter]

An election is best understood as a trailing indicator, which means it reflects the population’s feelings about the last few years, not just these last months. There were at least 12 forces important to understand. NOTE: these forces are not necessarily logical or based in fact, just as humans who vote aren’t necessarily logical and don’t always base their decisions on facts.  

    1. U.S. Economic divide 1990-2016: Many of the major economic gains of the last three decades went to an unprecedentedly small part of the U.S. population (See: America is the richest, and most unequal, country). Corporations gained more power and rights. The shift of the U.S. economy, in policy and action, was at least perceived as not benefitting many (working class) Americans. Complaints about “the system being rigged” or “feeling left behind” are fueled by this sense of a divide. One theory, of many, is that voters believed “all other things are equal, Trump has a better chance of changing things for me and Clinton offered none” Author Thomas Frank explains this argument well, in particular how decades ago the Democratic party left middle america and the working class behind, focusing on professionals and elites – this election may be the consequence.
    2. Rural vs. Urban – The U.S. has always had a strong political divide between urban areas and rural ones but as the size of cities have grown the tension has increased. Rural economies and communities are struggling in a way most cities are not. The red state vs. blue state divide is less useful for understanding what is happening than an urban/rural one.  
    3. Decentralized and weak media – The rise of the internet over the last 20 years decimated the news industry in every way. Even without the rising problems of fake news (a profitable kind of spam) the web’s disruption of major media had the unintended consequence of increasing the effort an average citizen needed to invest to understand what was going on, much less how to interpret meaning (media often tries to stay objective, as Kevin Cheng said, “…normalizing and equalizing things that are neither normal nor equal”). The media is often called the fourth estate, having the unique power to overlook the others, but if it is weak much is in jeopardy.  
    4. Racism – Trump used xenophobia, race and misogyny in his public comments to a degree never seen before in the modern era (See: dog whistling). While this divided the voting population it wasn’t a sufficient barrier for many self proclaimed “non-racists” not to vote for him. Their belief (was likely) that he was the best chance for change they felt they needed. Additionally, Trump appealed to those who felt left behind and blamed various problems on “THE OTHER”, even in a nation founded on immigration. Trump masterfully used this to his advantage, as well as the divisions and in-fighting it created.  It was a surprise to the nation, both to his supporters and detractors, that he could say what he said and win.
    5. Backlash behavior – The swings of liberalism/conservatism in America over the last 100 years are well documented. Most elections are referendums on the previous term, and we collectively shift back and forth over the course of decades to define what the nation is or is not (See: the shifting prohibition of alcohol, voting rights or civil liberties). One 2016 theory is that 8 years with a socially liberal black president, where gay marriage and state recreational marijuana became legal, and the possibility of the first woman president, provoked a backlash from many towards a more moderate and conservative America.
    6. ISIS / Fear of Terrorism – For 15 years the U.S. has been involved in a “war on terror” where fear of terrorism is far out of scale from the actuality of it on U.S. soil. Living in a state of promoted fear reinforces distrust and validates wasted expenditures like the TSA. American confidence of its place in the world with a series of failed, and endless wars, has been rocky for some time.
    7. Obamacare Premium hikes – elections are sensitive to recent news and the months leading up to the election included several announcements of cost increases and declining insurance participation in Obama’s signature legislation.
    8. FBI Director Comey’s late investigation announcement – The director of the FBI saying anything this close to an election is highly unusual, regardless of the cause. Clinton believes this was critical to her loss, but it is hard to know how much it would have mattered without the other factors.
    9. Russian espionage – WikiLeaks release of internal Clinton staff emails were most likely provided by the Russian government (FBI and CIA agree). A likely unprecedented foreign violation of a U.S. election (although the U.S. and many nations have tried to influence the elections of other nations in the past). But the impact it had on the outcome is hard to measure. A bi-partisan group, and Obama, have asked for this to be investigated. 
    10. Third party protest votes – American elections are often decided by narrow margins, and the existence of two third party candidates likely contributed. There is no way to know for certain if the lack of a third candidate would have changed the outcome or simply resulted in more people not voting at all.
    11. Polling “failures” – both candidates were surprised by the outcome, a reflection not only of overconfidence in polling, and the filter bubble effects of social media, but a gap between perception of America and the reality (at least by journalists). Additionally there is ignorance about probability itself. Probability models can’t tell you much about any one outcome: an 80% chance of victory is strong, but by definition it means that 2 times out of 10 the candidate will lose. Most people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, the speculative nature of all predictions (as evidenced by the popularity of lotteries). Some claim that had Clinton known it was a closer race she would have campaigned differently, but this is a level of speculation I don’t care to entertain here.
    12. Voter turnout – About 55% of voting age Americans voted in 2016. America has a disappointing 100 year history of mediocre voter turnout, so 2016 is not special in this regard, but the fundamental question of why so few Americans participate is troubling. In the 3 states that allow voting by mail, turnout was higher, raising the philosophical question of how easy it should be to vote.
    13. Liberal democracy itself may be struggling – Brexit and events in other countries may suggest there is a wider global trend towards more autocratic systems of government, or more nationalistic views among large groups of democratic nations.

In summary, this is an astonishingly long list. Any one theory trying to explain what happened will be incomplete. And in the short and mid term the reasons why this happened don’t change what our options for action are. The best single essay I’ve seen explaining what happened in the election is this one (which walks through many of the common liberal analysis points), with this counterpoint from Republican pollsters and Trump campaign advisors.

4.What can I do NOW to fix it?

The best place to start is to frame the problem in a useful way. Which THING do you want to protect? What freedom or policy do you feel is most important? As best we can tell, the election was fair and Trump won. To dismantle/undo/reject the outcome requires grounds more potent than the fact that half the electorate didn’t vote for him. 

The election itself is over. While it’s true that the electoral college was designed in part to provide a failsafe and there is some bipartisan support to act against Trump,   and several “Hamilton Electors” have pledged not to vote for Trumpit has rarely been used in this way and it’s not well designed for this purpose (for example, individual state laws are different, and often the electors are designated by political parties making them unlikely to rebel especially if their candidate won. Moreso, the number of people who need participate to be effective in changing the outcome is large). I have mixed feelings about the system but changing it will take a long time and be hard to do.

Meanwhile there are ABSOLUTELY things to be done to protect what is important, but they have less to do with the outcome of the election and more to do with using the system, as designed, to our advantage.

The U.S. government, and the election process, is a massively large and heavy wheel that moves slowly, by design, turning once every few years. The absolutely annoying but frustratingly true lesson is we need to be involved in our own democracy on a regular basis, rather than presuming we can wait every 1460 days and just fill out a two page multiple choice form. I take this to heart personally and painfully. There was much I took for granted.

5. What action can I take NOW?

There are many things we can do. The best high level advice is to think about leveraged action. Instead of making a single phone call, organize with your friends and family and work together. Use money or volunteer your time to enable people and organizations that are already skilled and experienced with the tasks at hand. They can do far more good with their time towards some of these efforts than you can.

    1. Support the Free Press. Jefferson himself believed it was the freedom of the press that had the greatest power to keep a government in check and a population informed. Subscribe or give money to the strongest investigative journalism organizations we have. I’d recommend:
      1. The NY Times – they set the tone for many other news organizations, and despite valid criticisms about their coverage during the campaign, they remain a powerful source of influence for all American media.
      2. Washington Post – The undoing of Nixon’s criminal presidency, the Watergate scandal, was made public because of two reporters for the WA Post. 
      3. ProPublica – An independent organization focused on journalistic standards and investigative reporting.
      4. Poynter Institute – A nonprofit school of journalism that funds projects like Pulitzer prize winning fact checker Politifact.
      5. The Atlantic – A high quality magazine that does investigative reporting.
      6. Mother Jones – Less well known and younger, but they have been the first to break stories on campaign finance, Mitt Romney’s 47% private speech, and other news resulting from committed investigative journalism.
      7. Slate – Among other reporting efforts, they ran (and still run) the Trumpcast podcast throughout the campaign, scrutinizing his candidacy and rise to power.
      8. The Economist and the Wall Street Journal – the list above is heavily weighted towards liberal views and filter bubbles are part of the problem. The WSJ and The Economist have a more centrist/conservative posture, but also do excellent investigative work.  
      9. A comprehensive list on how to support trustworthy journalism
    2. Protect the Constitution and our rights. One of the greatest threats of a Trump presidency is the decay or destruction of the fundamental protections provided to citizens by our most important document. I’d recommend:
      1. ACLU. Founded in 1920 to protect our Constitutional Freedoms, they are the most experienced organization we have for bringing crimes and violations against the Constitution to the courts. They will be a primary source of appeal to the Judicial branch to reign in presidential abuses of power.
      2. SPLC. The Southern Poverty Law Center has been for decades a leading source of protecting civil rights for all americans and using the legal system to fight for what is best in the public interest of a diverse America.
      3. EFF. The electronic frontier foundation. The battleground over citizen’s rights are often fought now through technology. The threats of surveillance and infringements on privacy by own our government are real and this is one organization working to protect us.
    3. Engage with your representatives. You do have a representative who is your delegate to Congress. Do you know their name? How to contact them? It’s time to make sure they know how you feel about what’s going on.
      1. This spreadsheet will help you identify who to call and what to say
      2. How to get your representatives to listen to you
    4. Activate sleepers: Nearly 42% of eligible Americans didn’t vote. Of those that voted, many were under informed. To initiate change we need as many (sensible) people to participate and take action. Who do you know that fits into these categories? Reach out, perhaps with a link to this page (for how to talk with friends who voted for Trump, this is a good start). 
      1. The scared: those too afraid to speak up, or who don’t know anyone who shares their opinions.
      2. The quiet: some people have strong positions but don’t see the value in sharing or acting on them. 
      3. The overwhelmed: there is so much conflicting information it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and that you can’t follow it all.
      4. The ignorant: many people simply do not follow politics or read headline news, and might be impacted by what’s happening but don’t even know it.
      5. The indifferent: many people do not understand what is at stake or couldn’t see why their choice mattered.
    5. Understand the other point of view. There are real problems in America and while I doubt Trump will solve them, some of those who voted for him have grounds for dissent. I’d recommend reading Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank (interview) and Hillbilly Elegy (interview).
    6. 2018 Midterm elections. We will get to decide the balance of Congress in just two years, and Congress has great powers to keep the executive branch in check. Senators will start their election campaigns many months before that: This is just 12-14 months away. There is hope here although the landscape isn’t great, but depending on what happens more opportunities may arise. Many states have governor elections in 2018 and that may be the best opportunity for the Democratic party.
      1. See Indivisible: A Practical Guide, from former Congressional staffers
    7. Support efforts to reduce fake news. It’s hard to know how much this mattered, but it certainly contributed to the weakened power and reputation the U.S. Media has. We need research into finding ways to both identify, reduce and make illegal (or punishable) the deliberate creation and propagation of false stories. (Need links to specific groups to support or fund).
      1. Advice from NPR on spotting fake news
      2. Toolkit for helping teach media literacy
      3.  (If you know of other references or groups working on this problem, please leave a comment)
    8. Support the Arts. In times of unrest and confusion it’s often stories, in movies, paintings and music that have the greatest ability to break through the noise and help someone rethink their assumptions, on all sides. We need to support writers, musicians, poets and filmmakers who have timely stories to tell as they can get people to listen in ways logical arguments cannot.
      1. (Need link for how to find art projects or art groups to fund – suggestions? Leave a comment please)
    9. Take care of yourself and loved ones. This is going to be more of a marathon than a sprint. Pace yourself. Don’t obsess. Be active but patient. Find people to partner with on the actions you want to take.  

6. Which people and policies are most vulnerable?

We know from the rise in hate crimes since the election that Trump’s racism and xenophobia was noticed and people with those beliefs are emboldened. This will continue. He has rarely spoken out against it, despite the many trivial things he complains about on Twitter.

Groups who are more likely to be targeted include:

  • Immigrants, Muslims, Minorities, Women, Jews, People living near or at the poverty line, LGBTQ folks, journalists who challenge those in power, and anyone who is easily perceived as being “the other”

If things get worse in 2017 for America, these groups will increasingly become the target of blame and will need the most protection. The SPLC is an excellent organization with a long history of both preventing, and prosecuting, hate crimes and protecting all of our citizens.

Important policies most under threat:

7. How to observe Trump with our eyes open?

We really don’t know what to expect, as he has taken multiple positions on many major issues. His cabinet appointments will say more about his true intentions. Even for a qualified candidate, it takes months or longer for an administration to find their footing, learn how to work together, and how to partner with the other branches of government. During the campaign he offered this list for his first 100 days, but he has conflicting opinions on so many things it’s hard to know where he truly stands and we have to prepare for the worst. 

We do know that he craves attention and power, two dangerous personality traits that if unchecked can have profound effects. Narcissists have an endless obsession with attention: they can never get enough. This is a personality disorder (NPD) that includes the skill of providing false signals of normality, and telling people what they want to hear, but underneath it all there is something very dysfunctional at work in their psychology.

From Masha Gessen’s terrifying essay Autocracy – Rules for Survival:

  • Believe the Autocrat. He means what he says… in the 1930s the NYTimes assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-semitism was all posture.” In the case of Trump who uses disinformation, we have to take him seriously but not always literally. Often he uses Twitter purely for attention or to distract us away from something else. The media is finally figuring out how to report on him.
  • Do not be taken by small signs of normality. Confronted with political volatility, the markets become suckers for calming rhetoric from authority figures” (also read this excellent essay: This Is Not Normal)
  • Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster, by a man once celebrated as the democrat to lead Turkey into the EU”. American Democratic institutions are stronger than many other nations, but if attacked from inside it’s hard to know how long they will protect us, or themselves.
  • Be Outraged. “in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting.” But be smart about expressing that outrage. Use the energy productively if you can and separate venting from work on the cause. It’s hard to change anyone’s mind if you start by calling them a racist, stupid or anti-american (see changing hearts and minds).
  • Remember the Future. “Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election”

Some experts on the decline of democracies and the rise of authoritarian regimes see the worst ahead. We’ve simply never had as unstable and inexperienced a person as Trump in the White House before. The burden of keeping him in check falls heavily to Congress and the courts. Congress is dominated by Republicans and this is an opportunity for power they’ve been waiting for much of their careers so they may not be as much help as we’d hope. The Judicial system is where many of our hopes likely rest.

In broad strokes here are behaviors and choices to watch: 

  • Hostile relationship with free press / 1st amendment –  Trump continually challenges the press, using Twitter to issue his own commentary directly to citizens. Other presidents have of course tried to issue their own views directly to citizens, but none to the lvel of inflammatory, trolling, and baiting that he has. The less the public looks to the press to understand what is happening, the more power the president has. In particular it is dangerous for any leader to use conspiracy theories and falsehoods to dismiss news they don’t like.
  • Cabinet appointments – these are the people who have the power to enact policies in major departments of government and to represent the president to the nation and the world. Congress has the power to approve/reject many of them, and will be an early test of how Congress will work with Trump, and how effective his cabinet is at working together. Trump’s 12 cabinet nominees are likely the wealthiest group in U.S. history, which doesn’t bode well for their ability to represent the working class.
  • Conflict of Interest – We’ve never had a president before with such wide ranging international business relationships and such little interest in resolving these conflicts (see Kleptocracy below and crony capitalism). This belated summary of those interests from the NYTimes is staggering (and these flowcharts help clarify the problem), but with this list the free press can further scrutinize and make visible Trump’s conflicts of interest. (US Office of Government Ethics exists but it’s not clear how much investigative power they have and the emoluments clause isn’t well exercised – most candidates in history willingly avoided conflicts, releasing tax returns is part of this tradition, but thus far Trump has done almost nothing to resolve these problems)
  • Kleptocracy – a classic move among soon to be dictators is to use their powers to steal as much wealth from the existing government as possible, and to hide it (through disinformation) as they do it. This includes directing government contracts towards existing businesses, asking for favors from local and foreign officials in return for preferential treatment, and on it goes. Unchecked, the entire government can be decimated from inside.
  • Campaign Promises – This list of all 76 campaign promises helps frame what his proclaimed intentions are. No president achieves all of their promises but they do define the landscape and provide another tool for the press, and citizens, to hold him accountable to his own words (hardest and easiest promises for him to keep).
  • Trade and Foreign Policy – This might be the scariest domain of all, as the American economy is deeply intertwined with the economies of other nations. From China, to the Middle East, to our NATO relationships, there are too many question marks to even guess what will happen and how things will go.

8. Has this happened before?

America has had some very difficult years, including some that were true existential crises. It’s healthy to recall those events to put what is happening now in relief and to find examples and tactics that have been useful in tough times in the past. (For a full historic inoculation that will deflate romance about past eras of civilization and make you happy to be alive now and in this country, try The Great Big Book of Horrible Things).

  • USA – darkest times:
    • 1778 – Two years into the American revolutionary war nothing was stable. Half the country didn’t even want the war. There was no Constitution at all.
    • 1862 – One year in the Civil War the nation was literally divided, with two armies literally trying to kill each other. The fate of the nation has arguably never been in greater peril.
    • 1933 – The peak of the Great Depression saw unemployment rates in the U.S. rise to 23%, highest in the nation’s history.  The Dust bowl storms (1934-1940) forced millions of americans to abandon their property to seek food and work.
    • 1941 – The bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the United States into WWII and changed US foreign policy forever.
    • 1948McCarthyism & blacklists, where the U.S. Senate put Americans on trial, in witch-hunt fashion, for their beliefs.
  • At least four presidents had major scandals during their presidencies
  • Four presidents were assassinated:
    • Abraham Lincoln, 1865
    • James Garfield, 1881
    • William McKinley, 1901
    • JFK, 1963 (and RFK, as a candidate, in ’68)
  • During times of crisis we have had authoritarian presidents – their reasons and qualifications may have been different, but we have had power centric presidents before.
    • FDR (great Depression, WWII)
    • Lincoln (Civil War)
    • Washington (Revolutionary War)
  • Case studies to consider: Modern Hungary,  Nazi Germany / Italy 1929-1945, Modern Russia / Turkey (shift from democracy to authoritarianism)

9. Are the comparisons to Nazi Germany appropriate?

Godwin’s Law states that you lose any argument by comparing anything or anyone to the Nazis. What is happening in America has enough parallels to history and given Trump’s endorsement of people affiliated with neo-nazi groups, merits suspending the restriction. There are useful parallels to understand. 

Here is the short summary every American should know:

  1. In the 1920s, Germany had a vibrant free press and film industry. 
  2. The Great Depression (1929) divided the country and citizens wanted a simple answer.
  3. Hitler used propaganda to simultaneously promise renewed prosperity and blame outsiders for the cause of the problems.
  4. When the parliament building (Reichstag) was set on fire in an act of arson, Hitler, and others, called it a terrorist act by the Communist party. The government agreed to grant the president wartime powers (using Article 48), suspending most civil liberties and protections for citizens.
  5. When Hitler was elected the next year he used those powers to eliminate other parties, arrest their members and intimidate various factions.
  6. Within 6 months the entire democracy was demolished. Free Press was illegal. Political parties were illegal. A person’s race was used to decide who could own newspapers or property, or work, or live.

Major contrasts to U.S. in 2016 are:

  1. We have no single equivalent to Article 48
  2. Germany was in the midst of the Great Depression. The U.S. economy is currently in far better shape.
  3. Our democratic institutions are 200+ years old and in theory stronger and better protected when compared to the 12 year old democracy Germany had at the time.

The key takeaway: if a leader has the desire to consolidate their power, one classic tactic from history is to use an external threat (e.g. terrorism) to justify it, and once unilateral power is obtained, never let it go. The worse the populace believes things are, the easier it is to blame minorities (even if leaders are responsible), and continue the justification for power. Therefore a leader seeking to gain more power through corrupting a system wants things to get worse, not better.

10. How bad can this really get?

It’s hard to predict. There are many variables at work and it will take time to see how they are sorted out. Will Trump’s cabinet be approved? Will they be effective in their goals? Will their goals change? Where and how will Congress partner with, or resist, Trump’s desires? How will he respond to world or local events? What leaders in Congress and in our nation will step up and inspire us? There are always unintended consequences to choices powerful people make, and some may surprise us in good ways.

Here are some things to consider.

    • We know very little of what Trump’s ideology is. Or if he has one at all beyond benefitting himself. His cabinet appointments do have clearer ideologies (and in some cases troubling histories) and a major question is how much they will influence him. He has a short fuse, obsesses about petty issues and most of all is a narcissist with a compulsive desire to “win” and be popular. His personality may be more dangerous than his beliefs or ideas.
    • Trade wars, as well as real ones, can have major economic consequences. And as unemployment rises, already high tensions between groups will escalate, especially if that was the goal all along. Hard to know how his campaign rhetoric will translate into foreign relations, or just about anything.  
    • Trump and his inner circle are master manipulators of media, especially using confusion and distraction tactics. The goal of confusing the media is well explained here in terrifying terms: in uncertainty those with the most power are the only ones who know what is truly going on. Trump’s masterful use of TV and Twitter have already established his power to minimize the potency of reality, which hinders checks against his power.
    • His party, until his victory, largely disliked him. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and many other prominent Republicans were outspoken critics of his candidacy. As we’ve seen since his victory, politicians are professional masters at spin and changing direction to go with the prevailing winds. At the moment it’s hard to predict how the Republican Congress will work with, or against, Trump. A simple heuristic might be that where Paul Ryan and Trump’s policies overlap, there will be change. Elsewhere, there will be little. It is possible the administration is ineffective in many ways rendering their agendas irrelevant. 

11. What To Do Now

Thanks for reading this far: it was not a fun read, I know. Try to convert your fear, sadness or anger into useful action. Here is a simple list summarizing what you can do:

  1. Act on supporting the free press and organizations that defend the Constitution and protect civil rights (see full list of actions above). They are experts, they are at the front lines every day and need our support and recognition when they do good work. Get behind them.
  2. If you found this document insightful, share it with friends and start a conversation. Invite them to coffee or beers to discuss and make commitments to action together. There is much to digest – don’t try to do it alone. Let me know what you come up with from these discussions. 
  3. Join the re:act newsletter for weekly updates on actions you can take. This new newsletter is aimed at keeping us connected and informed. We are just getting started and have to keep paying attention and staying involved. 
  4. Can I improve this guide? Do you have a better link or reference for something I mentioned? Another guide out there that compliments this one well? Did I get a fact wrong and you can teach me? Let me know. I’m @berkun on Twitter. Thanks for reading.

List of other related Guides 


  • Thanks to Bryan Zug, Chad McDaniel, Phillip Hunter, Jill Stutzman, Steve Portigal, Sam Greenfield, Heather Bussing, Ramez Naam, Kevin Cheng, Justin Martinstein, Tony Stubblebine, Will Little,Tim Cigelske, Elisabeth Robson, Andrew Maier and many others for feedback and suggestions


  • v 1.1 – removed reference to electoral college being about urban vs. rural in section 3. One intention was to help protect small states, but I conflated this with the urban vs rural divide.


54 Responses to “2016 POST-ELECTION SANITY GUIDE”

  1. Eric Schurman

    Scott – I’d also recommend support for the Union of Concerned Scientists. They provide systemic non-partisan support for science advice in the house, senate, and to the president. They were a major factor in reducing nuclear proliferation (unfortunately important again under Trump) and are also now working on science around climate in the government. They’ve been fighting against the suppression of science in governmental institutions by Republicans for a while now. I think they’ll be important in these next years.

    I’d also recommend including links to some major environmental groups. For the Northwest, the Sightline Institute is a great data and policy oriented organization. Nationally, the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Resources Defense Counsel do some great data and policy oriented work.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Thanks Eric. For something like this it’s tricky for me to decide what local things to reference. The themes are national, but of course we al have more influence in what happens locally and that’s a more consistent way to stay involved and have leverage.

      1. Eric Schurman

        Yeah – I agree that local stuff probably doesn’t belong here.

        Union of Concerned Scientists is definitely national and seems to fit into the systemic support of national institutions in reality-science based ways.

        It would be nice if the environment moved from the “Who is the most vulnerable” section to the “What can I do NOW to fix it?” section since that’s where you have a lot of direct links to organizations to support. The environmental stuff is getting quite scary and we seem to be flirting with really serious tipping points. EDF is actually really impressive for long term actions. They were a key player in getting China to adopt a cap and trade program – started working in China all the way back in 1991. https://www.edf.org/blog/2015/09/25/china-carbon-market-game-changer-years-making

        In any case, thanks for your work!

  2. Jonah

    Thanks for a great article, Scott. Just wanted to alert you to two typos:

    – “An elections is best understood as a trailing indicator …”
    – “Liberal democracy itself is may be struggling”

      1. Eric

        Another typo: “with with”

  3. Elizabeth

    For 5.8 (support the arts), I suggest We Need Diverse Books (weneeddiversebooks.org), which provides grants and mentorship programs to help promote and cultivate diversity in publishing (and is largely focused on children’s books). Their aim is to help give voice to those who are most marginalized right now.

    Thanks for this post.

  4. E Healy

    Hi Scott,

    Immensely useful ‘guide’. Thank you. So great to see all of the positive, creative responses to our present situation.

    Some additional resources you might consider adding:
    In the ‘Support the free press’ section:
    Democracynow.org – provides diverse and legitimate perspectives that you generally will not hear from mainstream press. The first news outlet to cover DT’s business conflicts of interest — September 2016. Their work covering the ND Access Pipeline at the early stages brought national and international attention to this struggle.

    Also, see their recent story: Lawrence Lessig: The Electoral College Is Constitutionally Allowed to Choose Clinton over Trump

    Protect the Constitution and Our Rights section:
    Center for Constitutional Rights (CRR)

    In the area of Environmental work / Energy policy
    The Rocky Mountain Institute – non-partisan, non-profit institute with a mission to demonstrate ways to a sustainable energy future through intelligent engineering and conservation practices. They seem to focus on making energetic progress in the good rather than lobbying or getting involved in political battles (my words, not theirs).

    Wishing you well,

  5. Richard Lennox

    Media Matters for America is a solid investigator of media & have a great analysis of how Fox- and hate AM have worked for 20 years to develop false news and largely influenced the election.


  6. Dale Hotaling

    JFK was killed in 1963 (article says ’61). Good rundown of how to cope with this very upsetting situation.

  7. John Armitage

    I will spread this in a non-partisan way to my networks. Spot on Scott.

    I had mentioned before how the Nazis (and FDR) used radio, a relatively new and little-understood medium then, to their advantage. While Obama used social media to some effect in his campaigns, Trump and his followers completely bypassed any form of truth gatekeeper.

    I’m reading David Friedman’s new book “Thank You for Being Late”, where he details the effects of smartphones and social media as a news source. VERY interesting take as part of this primer on how fast the world is changing and how to react.


  8. M C

    Under “5. What action can I take NOW?” item “7. Support efforts to reduce fake news” is a direct contradiction to items 1, 2, & 8.
    You cannot in any way make it illegal or punishable to publish “insert almost anything here” without reducing both our constitutional rights to free speech and also the freedom of the press. If you did, you would have to get rid of satire, which has been ruled as included in the free speech protection by the supreme court.
    The only viable legal option in the USA to combat fake news is educating people not to click on click-bait headlines, which is unfortunately probably a losing battle.

    1. Scott Berkun

      I see your point but I don’t think it’s a *complete* contradiction. There may be voluntary things that media outlets, social media tools and web browsers are willing to do that don’t violate the First Amendment.

      To your point, I don’t think it’s an entirely resolvable problem, but anything that diminishes the worst cases (e.g. people who want real news being fooled into thinking a lie is true) would be a benefit to us all.

      1. M C

        I agree that it’s probably in their best interest for Facebook, Twitter, etc. to do their best to filter known fake news click-bait articles from their feeds, but that is a long way away from making it illegal or punishable to publish fake news. It is also complicated by the fact that legitimate satire sites like the onion have very similar headlines to the intentional fake news headlines that are just click-bait. Many people enjoy reading the satire sites, but I’m not sure how you can separate the two in practice.

        1. Scott Berkun

          > I’m not sure how you can separate the two in practice.

          Agreed. Honestly the extent of my point is only that effort to explore ways to reduce the negative effects are worthy investments.

  9. Ron

    The author should be ashamed of himself. No BS articles written when that coward win in 2008 & 2012 and tried to turn this country into a 3rd world cesspool. Just the fact that the author states he voted for Clinton show the brash elitist bias of this article . I guess he had no problem with this woman’s hypocrisy, corruption and lies for the last 25 years. Sigh

    1. Scott Berkun

      Hi Ron. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If you have an actual question I’d be glad to answer.

      I’m not ashamed to express my opinion and I don’t think I should be. Clearly lots of Americans disagree with each other. It shouldn’t be a surprise to discover an article you disagree with. The question is what to do we do with people we disagree with but also need to live with? Calling me names doesn’t seem to serve either of our interests, even if my beliefs are misguided.

  10. Sean Crawford

    My guess is that just as, in a town or community people look to see who the “judgment I trust” leaders are, so will society come to see which “journals” have trusted journalistic ethics. (Needless to say, these journals could have an Internet presence) And then look to those.

    As you know, newspapers do not need fact checkers. A reporter is always on Scout’s honour to be truthful, and attribute everything rather than guess. Gossip morphs, journalism doesn’t. No matter how juicy a fact is, if you can’t attribute it, then you have to let it go. (a million tons a day come through, according to port official John Doe)

    The willingness of citizens for taking responsibility for their news is not a new concern. The fellows who wrote the best seller The Ugly American (which put that noun into the language) also wrote (it could have been just one of the two) A Nation of Sheep about that very responsibility. Like Berkun’s blog post, the book had a list of the best newspapers, ones that were willing to hold back a while to make sure, rather than panic and rush an error into print.

  11. Sean Crawford

    Drat: I meant to put a comma after community, in my opening line.

    And notice I did not just guess as to how many people wrote the second book.

  12. Ian Chamberlain

    The discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral college vote has some specific explanations.
    1. The popular vote is irrelevant to the election result.
    2. To win the presidency the Trump campaign identified the swing states that needed to be won to secure enough electoral college votes.
    3. The Trump campaign focussed on winning the electoral college vote not the popular vote and so focussed campaigning in the identified swing states.
    4. If the popular vote was relevant the Trump campaign would have been different.
    5. Voters who know they live in a state which the other party is going to win often don’t bother to vote.
    6. If the popular vote was relevant voting patterns would be different due to 4 & 5 above.
    7. The result of the popular vote is meaningless in an election decided by an electoral college.

    1. Scott Berkun

      I’m aware of the mechanics. I don’t claim a specific opinion on how much the popular vote matters or not. It has only happened 4 times in history that the winner won the electoral votes but lost the popular vote. What does it mean? It’s a level of speculation beyond the scope of an article like this. It wasn’t easy to keep this to about ~5500 words :)

      > 4. If the popular vote was relevant the Trump campaign would have been different.

      Definitely true. But we do not know what the outcome would have been, claims aside.

      1. Ian Chamberlain

        Absolutely agree on your last point, which is why I think it dangerous to make an issue of the popular vote.

        Having lived in several countries with first past the post electoral systems it is normal to gain a majority on 40% or less of the popular vote, so the popular vote is usually ignored.

  13. Ian Chamberlain

    Regarding the press and media.

    Part of this election was holding the press and media to account for their obvious and sometimes extreme bias. CNN was nicknamed Clinton News Network for a reason.

    Once upon a time the media was supposed to report facts. Now they hanker after headlines in order to generate eyeballs and therefore income. Objectivity and rationality are not part of the equation. In addition many commenters are clearly liberal progressives and often from privileged backgrounds. This led to a constant stream of out of context soundbites, accusations and spin, mostly designed to support Clinton or denigrate Trump.

    By becoming a participant in the election the mass media lost any remaining credibility amongst large numbers of voters. Following the result they have shown no understanding of their faults and fail to accept any accountability for their behavior. It is no wonder that Trump mocks them.

    1. Scott Berkun

      > Once upon a time the media was supposed to report facts

      There is a long history of polarized newspapers in elections, going back to 1796-1804 (Jefferson/Adams. The degrees of bias and deliberate influence vary from year to year, but there’s a good case that fundamentally we saw an old problem that became worse this election.

      > Now they hanker after headlines in order to generate eyeballs and therefore income.

      I’d make a similiar claim: newspapers have always sought profits or at least subscribers. To what degree and by stepping on what principles is another question. As I wrote in the article, the journalism business has been in decline for 15 years, mostly because of the Internet. No surprise they, as businesses, have changed.

      CNN, Fox, Huffington Post, Breitbart and on it goes – they all reflect a set of biases and depending on your views you find ones more or less biased, or do a better job providing “real news”. (I’m not saying the biases or quality of journalism in each are equal – that’s a different and much harder conversation). More to my point, your comments about CNN mirror comments a Clinton voter could make about Fox. Although this year was so strange, and the candidates so problematic, that their relationships with media were unusual in some ways.

      In the end it seems part of the burden we have is to seek multiple sources. It’s the only way to compare and contrast the biases and get a clearer sense of what the truth is and how we feel about it. Perhaps we’ve always had this, but now the dangers of not honoring it are worse than ever.

      1. Ian Chamberlain

        Thank you for engaging.

        When there were just a few major TV channels News was almost a loss leader and great pride was taken in reporting facts objectively. With the advent of cable and pay TV and the proliferation of news channels that ethos has gone out of the window in the search for profits. Fox can be considered to be one extreme and CNN the other, but generally the media attracts liberal minded people and the balance is definitely tilted that way in the mainstream.

        The case with print media is somewhat different as there has been a tendency for candidate endorsement, but there used to be a differentiation between opinion, editorial and fact reporting that no longer seems to exist.

        The advent of the internet has thoroughly muddied the waters. Anyone can say anything and they often do. Unfortunately modern social media algorithms have created echo chambers where people don’t get to see or hear views that make them uncomfortable. That is problematic.

        I am not actually American, just an interested observer who lives in Canada. We get affected by what the US does without having any say in the matter. There is an old saying here, when the US sneezes, Canada catches a cold, so it behoves us to pay attention.

  14. Ian Chamberlain

    Regarding minority groups.

    For some time various leftist, progressive, liberal racial and social groups have denigrated other groups. All whites are racists, Christians are bigots, and so on, simply because they are holding true to their way of life and beliefs.

    The majority of Americans are still white and nominally Christian. The vast majority of them are perfectly ordinary, reasonable people who just want to live a quiet life. If you attack them long enough and hard enough they will react. Trump provided policies that appeal to the fears of millions of white middle class Americans, where Clinton represented just more attacks from minority groups whilst threatening their jobs and income.

    It is no wonder that so many managed to ignore the obvious faults in Trump and vote for him based on policy.

  15. Ian Chamberlain

    Comparisons with Nazi Germany.

    Are stupid.

    The situations are totally different. Germany had been defeated in a major war, its manpower decimated, it economy stifled by war reparations, with extremists of all types, including Bolsheviks as well as Fascists.

    Trump has not endorsed neo-Nazi groups. Some of those extreme alt.right groups have endorsed Trump, in just the same way as extreme leftist groups endorse Democrat candidates.

    This is disingenuous and an example of the hypocrisy that offends moderate conservatives.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Using history to understand the present is based on comparisons. We are in an unusual situation in the history of our democracy: which comparisons to past democracies in unusually difficult situations would you prefer to examine? I’m curious and willing to learn.

      At minimum sorting through the threads of history that match current times to the struggles of Greek democracy, or German, or (insert better example here) is a useful exercise, even if the end result is mostly discordance. To call it stupid without going through the exercise is at best premature. If you’ve gone through the exercise, or have a thoughtful link to share, I’d welcome it.

      Ideally I’d love to find a book about the patterns for how democracies, and (more accurately) republics, decline and end. I haven’t found one yet. Have you? (Ideally such a book would include countermeasures :)

      > This is disingenuous

      I don’t see how. It’s one well known example of how a democracy was corrupted from inside into something terrible (can we agree it became something terrible?). I’m happy to explore other examples. It happens it’s one one of the best studied in the western world. Tell me others. I’ll gladly study them.

      I love the United States. I want it, and it’s constitution, to last for as long as it serves its citizens. My interest in study is genuine.

      1. Ian Chamberlain

        The US is a mature democracy that has undergone transitions from liberal to conservative before and will do so again in the future. dictatorship, suspension of due process or military control. English speaking democracies based on property rights and the rule of law When these transitions happen the losing side can get quite shrill in its lamentations.

        Historically the US is based on the superiority of the law, which, somewhat surprisingly, is not the case in most countries, even major Western democracies, and is a legacy from the longest lasting democracy of them all, Great Britain. Countries using this model have proven to be extremely stable with continuing peaceful changeover of power following free and fair, highly monitored elections. Germany, by contrast, was a new, very weak, democracy, consisting of states that had been ruled autocratically until very recently. Ancient Greece wasn’t a democracy. Rather it was a collection of monarchies and despots with one exception. For a brief time Athens was ruled by an oligarchy consisting of property owning men who voted on motions. This is what today we see as the birth of democracy, but it was in fact severely limited. It is only democratic from its own perspective when contrasted with other forms of government prevalent at the time.

        The current situation has more in common with when Reagan was elected than anything else. Even though he had been Governor of California similar noises about incapability and lack of experience were made.

        The other contributing factor is the change in culture with respect to tone on both sides. Over the last 40 years or so the tone of political argument has become more calamitous and strident. In actual fact that is not the case. Trump makes lots of popular noises, but the reality of most policies espoused is actually quite moderate from a historical perspective.

        1. Ian Chamberlain

          The comment above needs editing, but I cannot find a means to do so. Here is how the first paragraph should read:

          The US is a mature democracy that has undergone transitions from liberal to conservative before and will do so again in the future. When these transitions happen the losing side can get quite shrill in its lamentations.

  16. Ian Chamberlain

    How to deal with this.

    Change from liberal to conservative and vice versa is the sign of a healthy democracy. There have been eight years of extreme liberalism. Now the pendulum swings back the other way. This is normal.

    The policies espoused by Trump should be read and listened to carefully. Ignore the media interpretation. Read them for yourselves and then decide how extreme or not they are. You may be surprized.

    He has consistently stated that legal minorities will be protected. Sometimes the language used upsets some of those groups because they utilize victimhood as an article of faith and having the excuse taken away will render the activists irrelevant.

    Many countries are considering immigration policies in the wake of on-going terrorist attacks. Without proper vetting there are significant risks as can be seen from recent attacks in the USA.

    The USA has millions of illegal immigrants. The Obama administration deported over 3m. Why is it a problem to deport the rest? They are in the US ILLEGALLY.

    Lowering taxes to stimulate the economy is pure Reaganomics. The USA has the third highest tax rates amongst developed countries. That is a significant contributor to the loss of American jobs.

    Rewriting the tax code. The US tax code is out of step with the rest of the world and this penalizes US businesses. Switching to a VAT to harmonize with the rest of the world should be an immediate first step.

    Free trade is only good if it occurs on a level playing field. Other countries such as China (exchange rate manipulation) and Ireland (discount tax rates) amongst others take advantage to develop their own economies. Free trade benefits elites more than workers. Sometimes where there is an imbalance of trade other factors need to be taken into consideration.

    Doing something about health care is just necessary because what the US is just not working very well, as can be seen from recent spike in insurance costs.

    1. Scott Berkun

      > Change from liberal to conservative and vice versa is the sign of a healthy democracy.

      I agree with this, and mentioned it in section #3.5. We agree on something. Yay!

      In the article I wrote I said little about policy other than protecting rights. I won’t argue with you about specific policies here. That wasn’t the motivation for writing the article. If I wanted to debate policies of the nature you mention I would have written about them :) There are plenty of places to have those debates.

      The rights I DID write about are mostly (but not exclusively) first amendment rights. Do you agree with protecting the first amendment? Do you agree that a free and independent press is important to protecting the central covenant of the U.S. Constitution? Do you agree that the first amendment states “there should no prohibition on the free exercise of religion”?

      I’d much rather start from some shared point of agreement. It’s much easier to mutually learn and listen if there is at least some basic element of mutual agreement, however small. If we can’t agree on something simple, like one amendment of 27, I don’t see much point in debating the nuances of tax codes, free trade and health care, which are far more complex and, to be honest, beyond my own expertise (despite my passionate opinions on them! :)

      1. Ian Chamberlain

        I believe absolutely in freedom of speech. I see the current vogue for Political Correctness as being against that.

        I may dislike what you say, even find it abhorrent, but I will defend your right to say it, believe it and even act on it, as long as it does no overt harm to others. Overt harm does not include hurt feelings.

        I also believe absolutely in the freedom of the press. I see the consolidation of much of the mass media into the ownership of a few groups as being a huge risk to that, although it is somewhat tempered by the emergence of the internet.

        The internet itself provides a great example of freedom of speech even though it can often get abusive. Sometimes I feel people get far too sensitive about spoken words and far too willing to censor what they listen to. Living in an echo chamber is a bad thing for democracy in my opinion. I would rather hear the hate speech and try to engage and expose it for what it is than ban it and force it underground. It is much more important, in my opinion, to observe actions, than place reliance on utterances.

        North Americans in general pay far too little attention to the viewpoints of other cultures. This can lead to the belief that some ideas are mainstream when in actual fact, from a global perspective, they are extreme. This does not mean those viewpoints are necessary bad, just that globally they have little support. Being so unaware of cultural differences and biases is often seen as arrogance and a lack of respect by other cultures.

        Amendment 27 is OK as far as it goes. Personally I don’t believe elected officials have any business whatsoever deciding on their own compensation. Too much temptation. Personally I would use a formula that is based on equivalency with some other group of workers that could be evaluated independently and would be representative of the state of the economy.

  17. Sean Crawford

    As regards point 3.2, the urban rural divide, there is no link. Perhaps I can provide one. An editor, David Wong, of Mad magazine’s rival, Cracked, (Which of course is produced in a city) was raised in a rural area, and he wrote an editorial explaining such voting patterns (with a surprising-to-me map) and his kin folk, saying how they wanted to throw a brick through the elite’s window. Here is the link:


    1. Ian Chamberlain

      This article is really worth the read. This is not just a US phenomenon. Look at the breakdown of the vote in England for Brexit or a UK election and you will see the same thing.

      Urbanization allows for more extreme and niche behavior and viewpoints as there is the population density to find people of a like mind to form a group for almost any idea.

  18. Sean Crawford

    Speaking of democracies declining into rule by one or a few, a number of comments ago you asked for any examples. The classic one, to me, is Rome going from a first world republic to a third world, complete with Caesar, expanding empire.

    Years ago I read a book that you may want to read some day when you have time.

    As you know, The Prince by Nicoli Machiavelli (I don’t know how you spell his name) was a thin book for how dictators could hang on to their power. What you most likely don’t know is the book was merely a preci of parts of a lengthy book called The Discourses. In this labor of love by old Nic he charts how the Romans kept coming close to declining into a dictatorship, but kept managing to pull back from the brink for an amazing number of generations.

    The big fall into empire, when it finally happened, took only one (or two at most) generations. It was horrifyingly quick.

    As for the most famous Greek republic, Edith Hamilton has a well known quote, something like “When the freedom the young men of Athens wanted most was freedom from responsibility…”

  19. Vince Weaver

    Scott, did you write a blog in 2008 on how to deal with when Obama won, knowing that he would try to transform this country in the name of social justice , continue to spy on his own constituents ( NSA, Patriot Act), cause racial strife not scene since the 1960s, and basically lie to the American people ( Benghazi video, health care). Scott as a male I believe to be around 40 years old, you come off as a real weak individual. Sad that a grown man can’t handle the results of a presidential election and this is your “outlet” to deal with it. Sheesh

    1. Scott Berkun

      Hi Vince. Thanks for your comment.

      I’m sure you can find thousands of articles critizing Obama’s presidency – I don’t know why you would need me to write one. But if you asked me to, I probably would have – but no one asked! If you’re disappointed my views don’t match yours because you know we agree on so many other things, I can understand that. But I don’t know you or what you know about me, other than you left this comment.

      Regarding what I did write: did you read it? It’s not very long. The core advice I had for readers was about protecting people’s rights, particularly the First Amendment. Do you agree the Bill of Rights is important? Would you like to see fewer hate crimes in America? Would you like the American republic to be healthy and last for a long time? Independent of who is president I’d hope we could agree on at least a few of those things. I’m more worried about those things than ever, which is I why I wrote it.

      I completely understand if your political views are different from mine. But I don’t think it’s weak at all for to me to write about them in the way that I did here.

      1. Vince Weaver

        Of course we all want a unified nation. But there are too many people with a chip on their shoulder who shouldn’t have one. Regardless, you come off very elitist in this blog

        1. Scott Berkun

          Thanks Vince. I’ll think about how to write less elitist essays in the future.

  20. Arleen Huffman

    Thanks so much for writing this. I learned a lot and got my mind more organized and moving away from utter depression and anxiety..(.LOL) toward something that will use my energy better. Bless you!

  21. Susan Mings

    Thanks for a good read Scott, and yes, not a fun one. Took me more than 10 minutes, but was worth it. Lots to think about … specifically where best to direct my energies, when any return. Thanks for citing Godwin’s law, which I have been paraphrasing to make the same point (yes ABSOLUTELY appropriate comparison now; all the rules and laws have changed, including Godwin’s), because I can never remember specifics, so now I have the reference, very helpful. And finally you can update Hillary’s popular vote margin as you have time. I think now it’s up to 2.7 million.

    And one thing for sure I’ll do is share the link to this post. I’ll start there. :)

  22. Erin McNeill

    Thanks for mentioning media literacy. I’m the founder of Media Literacy Now.

    Media Literacy Now is an education policy initiative to ensure all schools are teaching a comprehensive set of media literacy skills. We do that by working for legislative change state by state to raise media literacy as a priority among policymakers. We’ve had big success on a shoestring budget – getting a law passed in Washington state that is now a national model.

    We need funding, and we need people to advocate for the bill, – to be involved in the democratic process, as you stated so well, above.
    “The absolutely annoying but frustratingly true lesson is we need to be involved in our own democracy on a regular basis, rather than presuming we can wait every 1460 days and just fill out a two page multiple choice form.”

    Right now we are working to get the model bill introduced in states across the country.

    Here’s our current fundraising campaign:

    Here’s the story:

  23. Christine Johnson-Duell

    I am a practicing artist and I work for an arts organization. I heartily support your suggestion to support the arts—thank you for including it.
    You asked for suggestions: On the national level, it’s important to maintain or increase NEA spending. Contacting one’s representatives in Congress to support NEA funding is vitally important. Nationally, Americans for the Arts (http://www.americansforthearts.org/) and Fractured Atlas (https://www.fracturedatlas.org/) support arts and artists, but supporting the arts effectively is truly best done on a local level. Go to a museum or attend a performance. Better: become a member or buy a subscription. Give to the area of arts and culture that moves you most. I guarantee that across the US there are dance troupes, theatres, symphonies, opera companies, museums, and more that will be overjoyed to welcome new patrons. The need for funds in social services, education, and the environment just became exponentially more pressing—and the arts tend to be overlooked in such a situation.

  24. Nancy M Ruff

    Thanks so much for this, Scott. I have found that taking even small actions – like call a representative – help keep me focused and determined.

  25. Greg Skyles

    This is an excellent summary/list/read; thanks for posting it!

    One comment on section 9; you say “The U.S. economy is currently in far better shape” than post-WWI Germany, and at the macro level, I agree. But in light of your points in 3.1 (inequity of wealth distribution) and 3.2 (rural/urban divide), it’s not hard to imagine that the economy is in awful shape for all practical purposes for a majority of people. So I wonder, in terms of allowing someone like Hitler to rise to power, if the appearance of the state of the economy is more important than what the actual macro-aggregated statistics show.

    I have a list of annoyingly picky typos/grammaros which I can send you if you would like them, but I won’t clutter up the comments here. I’ll mention one of them, because I wasn’t sure what you were trying to say. In section 3.5, you have “… we collectively average out of the course of decades …” Did you mean “… we collectively average out [over] the course of decades …”? Or did you mean something else?


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