Soapbox

Americans must rise to the challenge of the next four years

Elections have consequences, and they can break your heart. Such is the case for the majority of Americans who voted for someone other than Donald Trump. He does not represent who we are and disregards our deepest values.

Some advise a wait-and-see approach with Trump, but we know who he is and what he is likely to do. He’s building a cult of personality, where you must follow blindly or face the consequences. There is no middle ground. He seeks to divide and conquer, courting the support of white supremacists on the campaign trail, threatening to make Muslims register, and appointing several men with histories of racism to help run his government.

He’s also going after the crucial protections that provide clean air and safe water. His choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency has sued the EPA to block limits on pollution and, as attorney general of Oklahoma, sent the EPA a pro-oil letter in his name that was written by oil company lobbyists. After Russia meddled in our elections, Trump chose as Secretary of State an oil executive with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s politics of division are abnormal and alarming. Many are asking what can be done to protect their communities. The answers will be varied but with one constant: We must work together.

Before us is the hard but joyous work of engaging millions of Americans who feel left out, left behind and disrespected. As the American majority, we must expand our citizens’ movements to defend the American way of life against Trump’s attacks.

Democracy does not begin and end on Election Day. It begins and ends with the will of the people. We should rejoice that young people, whose futures are threatened by Trump’s election, came together across the country to make their voices heard in the days that followed. That’s American democracy. So is taking to the streets to voice your concerns, calling your elected officials and forming coalitions to defend our shared values.

In the days around the inauguration I will proudly participate in some of the marches and rallies taking place across the country. I have no illusion that we can stop all the suffering likely to be caused by the Trump presidency, but by fighting it on all fronts and putting forth a positive vision, we can limit the harm and create a platform for progress. This week proved that we can win these fights, as public outrage forced Republicans to abandon their efforts to gut a congressional ethics watchdog.

In many places, our local and state institutions are the first line of defense. In California and other states, local governments are declaring their independence from Trump’s un-American agenda.

While I am best known for my work to address climate change, it is time to create the broadest coalition possible, one that embraces our shared values and delivers on the promise of a better future for all Americans.

We need to recognize what we are willing to fight for. We want an America where all people feel safe because their rights and freedoms are respected. An America where rules of the economy work for all rather than for a few. An America where we embrace diversity as strength, take care of each other, and work together to solve big problems.

I commit to playing my part in this effort, because the next four years will determine the future of our children – and their children. We have encountered dark times before, but Americans have always demonstrated that we rise to the challenge – in the worst of times, we are at our best. We must prove it again. Let’s get to work.

Tom Steyer is founder of NextGen Climate. He can be reached at info@nextgenclimate.org.

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