The Silver Lining to Trump’s Presidency
Many consider the Donald Trump presidency a detriment to the values of human rights and the international order. But there is a silver lining: Civil society engagement and interest in politics has increased exponentially.
According to a study by the School of Public Affairs at American University, people were three to four times more likely to engage politically, including discussing politics, signing petitions, attending rallies, donating to a political cause, or joining a political interest group after Trump's election. Repealing Obamacare, defunding Planned Parenthood, or cutting environmental regulations has spurred political actions by men and women alike. The American Civil Liberties Union saw a new level of support — from financial donations to new Facebook and email newsletter subscriptions. Media subscriptions for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and others more than doubled among young people in their 20s and early 30s according to Politico.
Emily’s List, the largest organization devoted to getting Democratic women to run for office reported that more than 30,000 women signed up in 2017. Many women were clearly upset by Trump’s election and energized by rallies like the Women’s March in Washington the day after his inauguration. And the flood of sexual harassment allegations against men continues to keep the activism up.
Democratic participation in Europe has been in good shape overall in recent years according to the Global State of Democracy index that International IDEA published in November 2017. While there are regional differences, active electoral and civil society participation is happening through social media debates and protest marches.
The value people give to democracy is strengthened when democratic backsliding occurs. With the mid-term elections coming at the end of 2018, Americans have a chance to change the political landscape. The key is to keep up the momentum of activism and work toward inclusive politics by enabling new, diverse people to enter into decision- making positions at the local, state, and federal level. There are elections coming up in Europe as well — national ones this year, and one for the European Parliament in 2019. Europeans can learn from the American experiences — not the least that in every crisis lies an opportunity.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.