Editor’s Note: Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) is a Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award winning actress and advocate for progressive causes. The views expressed in this commentary are solely the author’s. Follow CNN’s coverage of State of the Union at 9 p.m. EST on Tuesday.
When Donald Trump presents his State of the Union address this week, it will be because the Constitution requires the President to give recommendations on measures he deems “necessary.” Well, I propose a twist on that tradition: how about the people of this country give him their recommendations for what is necessary?
President Trump’s first year in office has been a dark year for many in America. For those of us who value equal rights for all, or economic and racial justice, or want to combat climate change, we’ve taken huge steps backwards. Families are being torn apart by newly malicious deportation policies and an ongoing mass incarceration crisis. A systematic effort to weaponize health care as a political tool has threatened to jeopardize the lives or wellbeing of millions. And our young people are at a disadvantage in the global economy, both because of the disinvestment in our public schools, which the Trump administration wants to make worse, and the crushing student loan debt so many carry when they enter the job market, which the Trump administration wants to make harder for students to repay if they’re looking to go into the public sector and nonprofit work.
I know that all sounds bleak – and I haven’t even touched on the moral and legal calamities, and embarrassments on the world stage that we’ve seen over the last year. But there’s also good news: America is still a democracy and the people can hold their leaders accountable.
That’s why it’s time to take our government back.
I don’t mean this as just some empty slogan. Taking our country back will require hard work. It means wresting our country’s political system back from the gigantic corporate interests and billionaire donors that hold it in a death grip. It means respecting and restoring the power of the millions of everyday Americans who have been marginalized. And it means fighting back against elected officials who abuse the public trust through dishonesty, personal enrichment and bullying.
So, how do we do this?
One way, of course, is via the ballot box. As important as the executive and judiciary are, the legislative branch is where so many of our priorities get determined, from spending decisions to laws protecting the social safety net. In 2018, with so many races fast approaching, it’s vital that we work to elect progressive, diverse candidates for Congress and state legislatures across the country.
But it’s not just about voting – not anymore.
Given the current state of the union, taking our country back is going to require all of us everyday people to step up and take action – whether by protesting anti-immigrant policies, organizing for women’s rights, refusing to give polluters our business, demonstrating against police violence, or even taking the leap to run for office ourselves. Everyday people running means more people of color, more women, more queer people, more first-generation Americans, more allies – more of the people whose voices have been missing for far too long. We may not have million dollar super PACs behind us, but we’ll have something more important – a shared mission uniting millions of people across this nation.
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If we’ve learned anything during this first year of the Trump presidency, it’s that the cavalry isn’t coming to save us. We ourselves are the cavalry. In 2018, each one of us has to do whatever we can to take the government back.
If we want change, we have to go out ourselves and seize it.