Quora Question: How to Mobilize the Opposition After the Women's March

Demonstrators participate in the New York City Women’s March to protest against President Donald Trump in his hometown on January 21. Families, couples, friends, mothers and children marched together to protest the president’s inauguration. Stephanie Keith/Reuters

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Answer from Ben Waggoner:

As awesome as it is to see those pictures of the crowds on the National Mall and around the world, as a commentator whose work I respect said recently: Protesting without plans for action is just another form of aerobic exercise.

There's an old saying about the four boxes of liberty, but I've taken it upon myself to add one more box, because I can. Everyone who marched (including my wife, of whom I am very proud), and everyone who supports them (including me), needs to start using three of the five boxes, and be prepared to keep on using them for as long as it takes.

The post office box. Find out, if you don't already know, how to contact your senators and representative by phone, e-mail and postal mail. Then do it! In the most calm, rational and respectful way, start flooding their inboxes and mailboxes and voice mails with your opinions on what they're doing. If your congressfolk support bills and initiatives that you can't stand, they need to know about it, unmistakeably, loud and clear. Make them aware that there will be consequences in the polls if they do not represent your views and concerns.

Public pushback (with, be it said, a little help from Donald Trump) already got Congress to drop its plans for gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics. We need to keep that up, and to encourage each other to keep it up, and keep informed about bills under consideration and other issues, as they arise. As much as they might like to, Congresspeople can't afford to ignore their constituents back home.

Find your representative here: Find Your Representative

Find your senators here: Senators of the 115th Congress

And be advised that it can take up to three weeks for a paper letter to reach them, owing to security screenings. My wife, who's got some experience with this sort of thing, says the best way to contact your congresspersons is with a phone call—they can't set it to/dev/null and pretend they're not listening. But every little bit helps.

The soapbox. When the Affordable Care Act was being formulated and debated, quite a lot of congresspeople were surprised to come to "town hall" meetings and find themselves facing hundreds of angry voters who spoke out against the ACA. We need to do the same thing, except without resorting to outright lies like the ones about "death panels," and without the apocalyptic weeping and wailing about the impending Death Of All We Hold Dear, but with cold, hard facts and implacable determination. Congresspeople who want to gut the ACA without putting anything in its place, or who want to cut the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women, or who want to roll back legal protections for LGBT folks, need to be put on notice, before key votes. The same goes for your state's governor and legislature, of course.

Another form of soapbox, of course, is the discussion of issues and reasoned argument for your positions in letters to the editor (yes, there are still people who read papers), and discussion on blogs and social media.

The ballot box. We've got a bit less than two years until the midterm elections. If you don't like what Congress is doing, then get people you like elected—with your vote, with contributions (I know, yuck, but it's how the game is played), with volunteering.

And this applies to more local government, as well. For years, the religious right has been able to get their people elected to local and state governments by mobilizing turnout in races that fly under most people's radar. Sure, you've got opinions, and maybe even some clever jokes, about that Nattering Nabob of Narcissism we just crowned, but do you know who's on your school board? Your city council? Don't let the national soap opera distract you from local politics that may, in the end, affect you more strongly.

I don't think we're at the point where we need to think about the fourth and fifth boxes. Start with these three. Stay focused. And keep up the pressure for at least the next two years.

Politicians often assume, and too often rightly, that they can wait until the opposition gets bored and stops paying attention, and then do what they were going to do anyway.

Don't let them.

Women's March on 1/21/2017 had a huge turnout globally. What should be done now to mobilize the support into real impact? originally appeared on Quora—the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions: