David Leonhardt NOV. 1, 2016
One day, Americans who were too young to have followed the 2016 campaign will look back and try to make sense of it. They will want to know how such a dangerous person could have gotten so close to the presidency — a man who spoke of abandoning our allies, admiring foreign despots, weakening constitutional rights, and serially molesting women.
Those future adults may also pose a more personal question to their elders:
Mommy and Daddy, what did you do in response to Donald Trump?
It will be a fair question. The reality is, Trump could still win. It is unlikely, yes, but the gift he received from a surprisingly bumbling F.B.I. shows that campaigns aren’t over until they’re over.
With seven days left, it is not too late for anyone alarmed by Trump to get involved. As it happens, Trump himself has pointed toward the best way to do so. Again and again, he has attempted to undermine democratic legitimacy, be it inviting foreign interference or flirting with voter intimidation.
The right response to anti-democracy is more democracy. It’s also the way to defeat Trump. His paths to the presidency depend on large third-party vote shares and low turnout.
Fortunately, we know a lot more about how to encourage democratic participation than even a decade ago, thanks to a flowering of research in psychology and political science. Here, then, is a how-to guide for fighting Trumpism:
First, obviously, you should vote. You knew that, but many people who intend to vote become waylaid — by a traffic jam, a sick kid or a work meeting. Make a detailed plan now, about when and where you will vote.
Second, tell other people about your plan, and ask about theirs. The power of peer pressure increases voter turnout. One aggressive experiment mailed people a sheet of paper with their own turnout history and their neighbors’. A more gentle experiment presented Facebook users with head shots of their friends who had posted an update about having voted. Both increased turnout, as have many other experiments.
You don’t need an intricate effort to influence people, though. Post your own voting plan to Facebook, and ask your friends to reply with theirs. Text or call relatives in swing states and ask about their voting plans. Do the same when you see friends.
And when people tell you their plan, don’t just nod and smile. Say that you expect to hear from them after they’ve executed their plan. “Social pressure is mighty persuasive,” says Carolyn DeWitt, president of Rock the Vote.
Third, with the people you feel most comfortable, consider taking the risk of talking politics. I’m well aware of how awkward the subject can be. I come from a close and politically diverse family, and we avoid politics at most gatherings.
It’s worth reminding undecided voters in your life about who he is: what he has said about prisoners of war and the disabled, how he has humiliated women, how he has promoted online racism and anti-Semitism. Almost everybody loves somebody who is part of a group that Donald Trump has demeaned.
If you do talk politics, you’ll have a lot of company. In each of the last three presidential campaigns, at least 40 percent of adults tried to influence someone else’s vote, according to the American National Election Studies.
You can also sign up with a nonpartisan group to help protect voting rights. That work is vital, given the efforts to restrict rights. (In Texas, for example, some poll workers last week falsely told voters that they needed photo identification.) The Election Protection Coalition, a large, well-regarded group, is seeking both laypeople and lawyers to work at phone banks or polling sites.
One week from Tuesday night, the often-depressing campaign of 2016 will be over. Before it is, take a moment to imagine how it would feel to live in a country that had voted for and was run by Donald Trump.
Then go out and do your part to keep America great.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on November 1, 2016, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: What Did You Do in 2016?.