The election is over, and those who vehemently opposed Donald Trump are being asked to give him a chance.
Wednesday was a day of moving forward. Politicians from President Barack Obama to Mayor Bill de Blasio to Hillary Clinton herself made nice noises about how they had hope for the president-elect.
That’s important to ensure an orderly peaceful transition of power, which the left can be proud to have participated in: a far cry from the dark rumblings of the alt-right when their candidate was down.
But a smooth transition doesn't paper over the deeply concerning flaws of a President Trump. And there are less alarming ways to oppose him.
Take, for example, an issue he’s discussed on the campaign trail that is largely under his purview: American progress against climate change.
Just what could President Trump do?
Trump has tweeted that global warming is a Chinese hoax. He is in favor of more fracking and drilling. He says he would “cancel” the landmark Paris agreement, which is the most far-reaching attempt yet to keep global warming at manageable levels.
His Republican colleagues in Congress tend to agree. That meant Obama had to resort to executive branch strategies for action on climate change.
That included executive orders directing federal agencies to be more environmentally friendly, and actions taken through the Environmental Protection Agency to limit vehicle and power plant emissions in various ways.
Altogether, those initiatives gave Obama the ability to impact carbon production necessary to enter the Paris agreement. He found a way to get around congressional ratification by framing it as an extension of an earlier treaty.
Climate experts worry that Trump would use executive power to do exactly the opposite on all these fronts. (A Republican-controlled Congress along with a friendly president could also pass legislation dismantling or stripping away powers from the EPA.)
It wouldn’t necessarily be easy. Trump's climate change positions include few concrete details, though the general thrust is "decidedly anti-environmental,” says David Goldston, director of governmental affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group, “but there are many tools available to thwart those efforts.”
Organizations like the NRDC could challenge a revocation of EPA rules in court, for example.
It would also be a bit of work to withdraw from the Paris agreement — it would take about four years to be legally out, and during that period there is little enforcement. That’s not a snap of Trump’s fingers but doing it would be catastrophic, given the likelihood that the agreement to keep our future above water could collapse or fail without American support.
Moving backward isn’t easy, but neither is moving forward
One could hope that Trump doesn’t really mean what he says — he has also contradictorily stated that he’s for energy independence via alternative sources.
There is precedent for hope, says Goldston. Republicans from President Ronald Reagan to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to President George W. Bush “came in thinking they could reverse environmental protections.” They didn't fully succeed.
Gingrich, for example, tried to “block a whole series of clean-air and clean-water advances and was not able to.” The political capital became too expensive.
Those outside of government will have to use the few pinch points available to them to make it similarly expensive for Trump.
But the underlying problem is that the nation is so deeply divided on issues like climate change that only unilateral actions in one direction or another are on the table. This means limited progress paired with maximal obstruction. Yet we went through a campaign focused on candidate personalities, rather than hashing out potential middle grounds on central issues like this. Obstruction may be the only option.
Some advocacy groups panicked by Trump will need to insert themselves electorally to combat him. Craig Altemose, executive director for the Better Future Project, a climate advocacy group, says the organization took its first step into the process this cycle, pushing and publicizing a pledge for candidates in Massachusetts to refuse money from fossil fuel industries. They did not endorse on the national level.
Due to the off-year math, midterm elections in 2018 will only be harder, he says. So they’ll have to do more, as will we all.
Correction: An earlier version of this article gave the wrong last name for Craig Altemose; the post has been updated to reflect the correct name.