My feed is full. My Facebook feed, that is. As is my inbox. Full of posts and messages from organizations that have cropped up since the election in November. They urge me to get involved on issues of healthcare, education, social policy, the environment, and human rights. They call upon me to make calls, write emails, attend meetings, and send postcards. Occasionally, some ask me for money, but that is never at the top of their list of actions. I do what I can. I wish I could do more, but I have committed to focusing on a few causes. It was the only way I could manage.
The groups bear inspiration-filled names brimming with hope and movement, like Action Utah, Utahns Acting for Change Together, Utah Women Unite, Action St. George, George Acts, MoveOn.org. Even the American Association of University Women is chiming in. The very creation of this list, however, makes me a little itchy. I’m afraid I have omitted a group whose name isn’t in my head at the moment.
Its emergence has heartened me but given me pause.
Why, I wondered. And why now?
There are the obvious reasons to point to, of course. The current president and his administration have fomented anxiety and fear among many who populate the organizations mentioned above. These are concerned citizens who see the rollout of dreaded actions promised during the campaign and seek means and methods to protect what they hold dear.
It bears deeper examination, however, if we are to learn about ourselves as people, as women, capable of being motivated.
Some would argue, and I would concur, that Pantsuit Nation was crucial to the birth of the plethora of groups we see today. The Nation, as members fondly refer to it, began as a place for members to share their enthusiasm around the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. Between the date of the final presidential debate — Oct. 19, 2016 — and the election on Nov. 8, this internet-based group grew to over 2.9 million members and donated over $170,000 dollars to Clinton’s campaign. Members posted messages of strength, courage, and empowerment. The page was also used as a forum for members of minority groups, mostly but not exclusively women, to report their stories of discrimination and disenfranchisement. Other members reacted with dismay and mostly justifiable outrage. On Election Day, there were hundreds of pictures of women and men sporting pantsuits as they went to their polling places.
Disappointment at the results of the election bled through the words in the posts subsequent to Nov. 8. People, again largely women, spoke of physical illness, unstoppable tears, and an overwhelming sense of loss. The five stages of grief identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross were each clearly and distinctively present. The mix shifted from denial through anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance as the days after the election unfolded. People grieved and searched for comfort online among like-minded souls. Many wrote that they felt isolated in their communities, at their jobs, or even among family members. They sought and found solace.
As acceptance sank in, however, people, mostly women but now somewhat less so, began to talk on social media about the compelling urge they were experiencing to do something.
The first “something” for so many was The Women’s March. Whether you marched here in St. George, traveled to Salt Lake City or Washington, or saw your friends marching (social media played a huge role here again), there could be no denying the power. The passion among the marchers was palpable. It was as though there was another New Force in town.
Enter groups seeking to perform the considerable task of coalescing that energy and forming coalitions of people who wanted to work together a common cause. There was no linear progression here. Groups burst forth organically, sometime within hours of one another. They were not attempting to compete. Rather, they were responding to the tsunami of interest, concern, and — yes — pissed-offness.
And now we have our inboxes full and our heads swimming. There are so many causes.
I recently talked with Miriah Sorenson Elliot, a local moderator of the Utahns Acting for Change Together Facebook page and Issue Captain for redistricting and voter rights on Action Utah. We talked about many issues, including the concern about sustainability of the efforts that have been seen to date, particularly with so many groups and more likely to come. She believes that as long as the current presidential administration continues to take positions against values people believe in with passion, the urge to act will live on. She also believes, though, that it is essential for people to find their niches in their groups. They need to find ways to act that are comfortable to them, whether it is writing a thank-you note to a legislator or angrily confronting a representative who doesn’t appear to listen. She sees people with whom she interacts seeking to become more knowledgeable about their concerns and more savvy about expressing those concerns. Miriah didn’t say this, but I will. It’s a huge tent. There’s room enough for all of us.
Post the Utah legislative session, Action Utah posted a cleverly titled analysis of the group’s initial efforts. In “A Good First Rodeo,” Andrea Himhoff, one of the group’s co-founders, delivered a succinct parsing of the group’s early efforts as well as a clear and concise guide of what members could do and expect to see in the upcoming months. It’s obvious that this group has no intentions of fading away.
Of note, it is true of most of the groups mentioned in this piece that they are distinctly nonpartisan. While they may have sprung from Pantsuit Nation, which was unabashedly pro-Clinton, the leaders of Action Utah, for instance, steer clear. They remain focused on issues and let their positions lead them to either side of the political aisles.
In recent days, another phenomenon has emerged that bears notice. Some national organizations have taken note of power and sway being exerted by local grassroots coalitions. Groups like the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Move On.org, and Obama For America are exploring ways to tap into local sources. It is an effort that bears watching, and so watching I will be.
In the near future, I plan to publish a glossary of sorts explaining in detail what each of these organizations is up to and stands for. We all need to learn more. Maybe I can help.