Telling someone they’re scum for supporting a cause or a candidate causes most people to stubbornly redouble their position. In contrast, persuasive scholarship shows that even short conversations with voters can change their minds about even the most polarizing issues if the persuader engages respectfully, listens attentively to their conversation partner’s viewpoint, and forges a human connection while explaining why they came to different conclusions based on their experiences. This technique has proved effective in a rigorous scientific study where actual canvassers spoke with actual voters prior to an actual election. It is effectively explained in greater detail in a This American Life episode. If you want to hear what it sounds like for a pro-choice canvasser to persuade a staunchly pro-life voter to change her mind very quickly, listen here. If you can’t bring yourself to treat someone as you’d want to be treated even in service of stopping a dangerous leader you lack the standing to stigmatize hate.
At anti-Trump protests, eschew violence and any other behavior that helps his cause.
The activist left is very antagonistic to “respectability politics,” which Wikipedia defines as “attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as compatible with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for its failure to accept difference.” Since nonviolence is a value held dear by large majorities on the activist left, not a mainstream value it rejects, efforts to keep anti-Trump protests as peaceful as possible are not at all inconsistent with rejecting respectability politics. They’re a no-brainer. Results-oriented activists should go a step farther. If organizers at anti-Trump rallies did their utmost to keep Mexican flags out of the hands of activists and to have as many American flags waving as possible that may or may not constitute respectability politics. Labels aside, that tactic would significantly increase the chance that a given rally will help the anti-Trump cause and significantly decrease the chance that a given rally will harm the anti-Trump cause. All who regard preventing the empowerment of a demagogue who pits his supporters against Mexicans and Muslims as a hugely important goal should prioritize its achievement over dramatically less urgent and important matters.
Give time or money to the process—it’s much more effective than snarking on social media.
Almost any American can meaningfully contribute to a given candidate’s defeat. By investing their own time, a citizen can canvass for or against a candidate, help to register new voters, or help to ensure that registered voters of a given persuasion actually get out and vote on election day. With even a modest amount of money, a citizen can join with other donors of modest means to great effect, as Bernie Sanders has proven this election cycle, funding a national political operation with small contributions. A group of three or four friends who walk around anti-Trump protests registering voters could easily do more good than the protest itself. There are structural factors in American politics that make some changes all but unachievable, even by energized citizens, but defeating a candidate isn’t one of them, so neither helplessness nor cynicism nor defeatism is a defensible posture.