Republicans spent the past eight years opposing President Obama, and now Democrats are calling for “resistance” against President Trump. But opposition alone isn’t enough to win converts to a cause or enact a political agenda, argues Eric Liu, the founder of the non-profit Citizen University and author of the new book You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen.
Instead, Liu, who served as an aide to President Bill Clinton and describes himself as progressive, argues that anyone looking to create enduring political movements must outline an alternative narrative of what life should look like, and work to sell people on that vision. His book draws lessons from case studies across the ideological spectrum, from fossil-fuel divestment to gun-rights activism, rooted in local and national action alike.
I recently spoke with Liu about his book and the state of civic engagement and political activism under the Trump administration. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Clare Foran: The premise of the book is that average citizens have more power than they realize to bring about political change. But you note that there are reasons to believe the system is rigged—arguing in the book that Congress is walled off from reform and that the demands of the rich typically win out in American politics—and you talk about a creeping public apathy. How can all these things be true at the same time?