My political awakening, like so many other Americans, came in the fall of 2016
Having grown up around politics in the suburbs of Washington D.C., I’d always been the “lil liberal” of my Southern family. As a writer, I realized early on that there was power in my pen and at this keyboard.
But it wasn’t until my early 30s with the election of #45 that I truly realized the power I (like you, dear reader) had to be part of the political process.
And over the last few years, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery to better understand a) how did we get here as a society; and b) what can I actually do about it.
One of the writers who helped me on this adventure is Lauren Duca. Her article in Teen Vogue Donald Trump Is Gas Lighting America was published the month following the election. She was invited on Fox News afterwards where Tucker Carlson told her to “stick to writing about thigh-high boots.”
Duca’s book How to Start A Revolution: Young People and the Future of American Politics was published in 2019 and has served as almost a reference manual for this work we’re attempting to do to change the political industrial complex.
So I present to y’all my favorite excerpts, passages, and quotes from “How to Start a Revolution”
On November 19, 2016, across the country American citizens, and especially young people, woke up to the true nature of the world we’re living in—and we had no choice but to do something about it. Trump’s election made the country spark like an aurora borealis of lightbulb moments. Political awakenings involve a series of intellectual and emotional realizations that render inaction impossible… but rarely does such a huge portion of the population challenge the status quo.
These sorts of epiphanies can spring from all sorts of inciting incidents. But the day after Trump won the election marked what may well be the most widespread series of political awakenings in recent American history.
It forced us to ask who is in charge. Because if Donald Trump can become president, you really have to wonder, who the hell makes the rules
What follows is a diagnosis of how we got here and a prognosis for moving forward. In the aftermath of this widespread political awakening, young people hold the power to change everything for good.
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must… undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” — Thomas Paine
The idea that we maintain our rights without upholding our responsibility is completely fucked.
As it stands, the United States is effectively an oligarchy: a small number of people control the levers of power that dictate the laws, norms, and values that govern American life. In order to overthrow that unjust hierarchy, we need to build individual action into collective power with the goal of regaining a voice for the American public as a collective. A huge part of the problem is that most of us don’t feel like it’s worth it to even bother.
There’s a sense of inefficacy, and then there’s a scope of oppression that ranges from a lack of constituent outreach to outright voter suppression. The fact is that many of our elected officials are not making it easy on purpose.
At the most basic level, it is a reality that a lot of Americans aren’t voting because they don’t know how (or when, or where, or for whom)… The fact is that people in power have deliberately made it difficult to participate in democracy even at the most basic level of voting.
The path to a truer, more equitable democracy doesn’t come with shortcuts. It will be laborious and mind-numbingly incremental. It will require overhauling fiscal policy and reformatting the voting process in a way that emphasizes electorate building… Along the way, our voices will still have “near-zero” influence on their own, but collective power requires all of us to work together, and goddamn, we at least have to try.
The revolution will require us to show up—to vote, and to practice a daily habit of democracy. The political-industrial complex depends upon our disenfranchisement. It is in each of us doing our part that we make change possible.
It is through statistically non-significant individual action that we build to the collective power required to overthrow the political-industrial complex. This is the part where we decide to save ourselves.
An awakening is only fully realized when it becomes impossible for things to go back to the way they were.
Being “woke” is about processing atrocities through the system that allows them to routinely occur. The questioning and movement responsible for it ignited many political awakenings long before #45 announced his campaign.
Strong political opinions become a social necessity. And when you are compelled to form a strong political opinion, political action tends to follow.
The process by which we form political beliefs is called political socialization. It is a dynamic process, although much of our ideology tends to be set in youth, between the ages of 14 and 24. Usually, beliefs formed during this period are shaped by major events on the national stage while we’re growing up.
We are coming of age in a definitive political movement, one that could forever re-democratize America. Now we just have to do the damn thing.
“Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government, because our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy.” — David Hogg.
On a broad national scale, we are finally questioning authority.
We’re not entitled, we’re workaholics in pursuit of constant self-betterment that often leads to burnout. We’re sure as hell not apathetic. Actually, we care so much it hurts sometimes. The difference now is that we have finally connected that passion to a sense of political agency.
Gone are the days of waiting our turn. We’ve been wildly underestimated, but we’re just now getting started.
The role of the journalist is to empower the public with the information required to participate as citizens. Part of that work involves making politics accessible and even entertaining. It is our job to make the significant interesting.
As the youngest generations rewrite the political order, it is crucial to use the things that bring us joy to bring us power.
The rules that govern our political conversation will be upheld until we call them out for what they are, which is to say total bullshit… the only requirement for acting on your political opinions is that you be informed.
It turns out we’ve been the heroes of this story all along.
Talking about politics invigorates the health of democracy
People get so swept up in what they think they’re supposed to think and feel that they operate from a place of fear rather than fact.
Political conversation requires a shared foundation of fact. That’s why Trump’s gaslighting is so dangerous. His campaign around disinformation erodes that shared reality that is required as the starting point of debate. But we have the power to restore it.
As we break the bizarre secret rules that codify the status quo, it is clear that you have to know your shit. The only thing that ought to be required for expressing a political opinion is that you be informed.
Establishing a foundation of fact will give you the confidence you need to enter the political conversation in spite of the obstacles of the white supremacist patriarchy.
We’re not always going to agree with everyone, nor are we supposed to… Productive conflict is the enterprise of democracy; the foundational activity of practical citizenship is building consensus through debate. That happens at the national scale around our most divisive issues, and it must begin at a granular level with the people we love the most. We can’t do any of that without a shared foundation of fact.
The purpose of journalism is to empower people with information. That is always my goal. I share my political opinion in my work, but I always make it clear whether what I am writing is analysis or a matter of fact verified through objective methods. I am always working to be as transparent as possible, to make sure readers have everything they need to think for themselves. I’m not cherry-picking information to convince you to support my argument. I am representing the world and then writing analysis by making logical, ethical arguments grounded in fact. It is never my goal to manipulate, and when you say ‘liberal bias’ that’s what that means. I’m always doing my best to tell you the truth, both as a journalist and as your daughter. I hope you know that.
The best we can do is learn.
How do you start a revolution? Person by person, step by step. The paradigm shift begins in our communities… A revolution is the overthrow of the established hierarchy, and isn’t that exactly what’s already happening?
We are all part of ‘the way things are’ and we all must contribute to the process of transformation.
After an awakening, it’s plain that we all must be part of the change we wish to see. The political industrial complex will flourish and prosper until we come together to call bullshit.
I don’t want to get into what a raging dumpster fire this country is at the moment, because I’d rather focus on rising out of the ashes like a goddamn phoenix.
The tribalism of partisanship increasingly divides us. We are languishing in the bubbles of our echo chambers, online and off. Trapped by fractured political conversation, we cling to validation in the things we think we know for sure. Accepting the lazy comfort of confirmation bias, we fall further into the tyranny of in-group / out-group dynamics, resolving to block those who disagree, as if they may as well not even exist.
We will find freedom and happiness when we strive for unity. We have to choose to participate in democracy out of duty to the collective. Truly, that’s all there is.
Journalism is a tool, a human invention building consensus around fact. Human beings have struggled with the concept of truth since we first messed around with free time…
“Truth is the beginning of every good to the gods, and of every good to man.” — Plato
In keeping with his gaslighting, Trump has framed the press as “the enemy of the people,” when the reality is that the fourth estate exists, first and foremost, to serve the public by providing the foundation of information required for the practice of citizenship. The post-truth state enabled by the scourge of fake news and constant disinformation disseminated makes us doubt what’s true and isn’t true. The goal is to make us question our own sanity by looking at all the conflicting narratives and give up entirely. Journalism uses objectivity of method to verify information so that we can discuss how we ought to live together from a place of truth.
The ways we perceive the world are different. The best we can do is develop the objectivity of methods to verify information and use it to communicate with one another with respect for the highest possible standard of truth.
The only way to achieve democracy is through policies of equity that build true equality. We will most certainly have disagreements regarding the best path to that goal, but it ought to be our North Star.
How can you turn the fight into a truer, more equitable democracy into part of your routine? We all need to develop our own acts of practical citizenship… we must commit to the habit of democracy.
I saw, with fresh eyes, how aggressively young people are dismissed, and how that is compounded by sexism for young women, and racism for people of color.
Revolution is a matter of regular people deciding that things can be different. Rallying for hope and change can seem like a lot of clapping for Tinker Bell, but it really is a matter of believing.
There is real magic in collective faith. It is in choosing to believe that we can finally come together to build the equitable society that we deserve. It is incumbent on each and every one of us to believe that we can and insist that we must.
If you commit to empowering yourself with information, forming a political opinion from that foundation of fact, and then routinely translating your passion into action, we can build a government truly by the people and for the people.
That may seem idealisting, but so did lots of things once upon a time.
There is every reason to trust that the political-industrial complex will be dismantled as we come together to insist on a voice in a country striving to build democracy for real. I mean, if Donald Trump can be president, why the hell not?
Thank you to Lauren Duca for your courage and inspiration. Now let’s get on with our revolution.