We can never accept this as normal or lose our sense of outrage. As Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) wrote, "cannot afford indifference." But we can't burn out or drive ourselves crazy either. None of us can do everything.
In the short-term, we have to let our members of Congress know how strongly we feel. In the long-term, we have to replace members of Congress who refuse to oppose President Donald Trump's agenda and keep friendly incumbents in office. So what can you do?
First, don't lose hope. This picture of Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell, Faith Yildirim, and their kids protesting Trump's executive order at O'Hare says more than any essay could.
Meet in person with your member of Congress. That's the most effective way to communicate. Go to town halls. Go to any event, regardless of subject, that your member hosts or attends. Call the member's office to find out where he or she will be. Then show up and bring your friends. Watch former Congressman Steve Israel's (D-NY) 90-second video to learn more.
Call your member of Congress. In-person meetings take time, but calling is easy. You're more likely to get through to a more senior staff member if you call the district office. Ask for the district director. Politely explain to whoever you speak with what your position is (no need to go into detail) and ask how your member will vote. If the staffer doesn't know, request that the staffer call you back when the member determines his position or when she votes. If the staffer doesn't call back, follow up, and if you are so inclined, request a meeting with the member and your friends.
How do you find out what to call about? The best single source of information is JAC, the Joint Action Committee. JAC is a national organization that advocates for Israel, reproductive choice, separation of religion and state, and gun control. JAC is now sending daily Action Alerts that focus on one issue each day. Sign up and take action on the issues that matter most to you.
Get involved with organizations that share your goals. Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, J Street, JAC -- there are plenty of great organizations that need your help.
Get involved in political campaigns. That's the only way to protect friendly incumbents and replace unfriendly incumbents with people who reflect our values.
The refusal of so many Republicans in Congress to stand up to Trump shows that more than ever that party affiliation matters. In fact, it is the single best predictor of how a member of Congress, even the most "independent," will vote. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but that's the way it is. Supporting Republican members of Congress, whether you intend it to be or not, is the same as supporting Trump. As long as Republicans control Congress, Congress will rarely stop Donald Trump--from doing anything.
Democrats are already on offense in key districts. The Democratic Party is the natural home for American Jews because while both parties are pro-Israel, only the Democratic Party shares our other values. Volunteer in any capacity for a campaign for Democratic organizations such as Tenth Dems and of course the National Jewish Democratic Council.
Trump warned Israel on settlements. The White House urged "all parties from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements." No matter how you interpret the official statement, there is no question that the statement evidences daylight between the U.S. and Israel and that the statement singles out Israel for criticism--- no mention of Palestinian intransigence, incitement, or terror. Statements like that were cause for hysteria from our Republican friends when someone else was president. Read Chemi Shalev and Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro for a better understanding what the statement might mean.
Trump is waffling on his promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Shapiro explains how it can be done, but Americans who advocate for moving the embassy to Jerusalem have to ask themselves what gives them the right to risk Israeli lives for symbolism. Gershom Gorenberg and Danny Seidemann live in Jerusalem. They don't want the embassy there.
Trump has neither apologized for nor corrected his failure to mention Jews in his Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. We learned Thursday that the White House blocked a State Department statement that explicitly mentioned Jewish victims.
Former Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ), one of Israel's best friends on either side of the aisle, writes that Trump's failure to mention Jews "demonstrates a profound lack of appreciation of history and, once again, the true meaning of words. The Nazi's genocide against the Jews was one of the most destructive, cruel, immoral and satanic episodes of evil in human history. It must never be allowed to happen again. We want our president to know that and to speak of it that way."
Deborah Lipstadt writes that Trump is engaging in "softcore Holocaust denial."
Matt Nosanchuk, who was White House liaison to the Jewish community under President Barack Obama, writes that Trump's refugee ban dishonors the memory of the Holocaust victims he failed to acknowledge. If it's not clear to you how wrong and evil Trump's actions were, you owe it to yourself to read Matt's piece.
Trump imposed sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile testing. Ron Kampeas explains that this is basically the Obama approach, at least so far (Ron also offers yet another take on Trump's settlements statement).
Democrats should filibuster Neil Gorsuch. The Democrats should filibuster and block Trump's Supreme Court nominee and all of his Supreme Court nominees after that whose name is not Merrick Garland. Yes, elections have consequences, but when you lose the popular vote by 3 million votes, when the Russians, the FBI and WikiLeaks interfere in the election, and when you are an uncouth, unqualified bigot, you don't have a mandate.
Elections do have consequences, and it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster. The American people didn't elect that many Republican senators. Anti-democratic, you say? Those are the rules, and we play by the rules, don't we? No less an authority than House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently said "the president has every right to make this nomination, and the Senate has every right not to confirm a nominee."
If you think that this strategy is unwise because Republicans might then abolish the filibuster, you owe it to yourself to read this from Frank Rich. And what about the argument that by losing the filibuster, we risk an even worse nominee later? Bill Scher writes that
Such logic collapses on itself. If the operating assumption is that waging a filibuster means losing the filibuster, then the filibuster is already lost. Just look at the way two scenarios will play out. One: Filibuster Gorsuch, lose the filibuster, Gorsuch is confirmed and the next nominee is confirmed. Two: Confirm Gorsuch, filibuster the next conservative nominee, lose the filibuster and the next nominee is confirmed. The events take place in a different order, but the results are the same.
But won't obstruction hurt the Democrats' chances in 2018? The Republicans did it for eight years and look where they are. Jason Sattler writes that "Republicans have spent decades weaponizing the Supreme Court as a political tool and are on the brink of a payoff that Trump's creditors never could have imagined. But they also did something dangerous: They proved there is no price for creative obstruction."
Pennsylvania State Rep. Daylin Leach suggests that Democrats "identify five well-respected, non-ideological Republican judges and offer to confirm whichever one President Trump picks." Maybe that's a reasonable compromise. But Neil Gorsuch? No way.