Red, White And Blue Coalition

01/27/2017 02:40 pm ET
The Washington Post via Getty Images

The women’s march/rallies this past weekend were truly inspirational, positive and unprecedented. Millions of Americans―women and men―representing racial, economic, age and geographic differences united to send a message to President Donald Trump demanding respect and equality.

In its aftermath, the overriding question that lingers is can this momentum continue?

In order to ensure that the march was not just a one day feel good event, we need to focus on priorities and then develop strategies and tactics to protect those priorities.

We need to not be afraid to say no―to object , to challenge, and if necessary and appropriate to resist. For example, if the Trump administration undoes Roe v. Wade by appointing one or two new Supreme Court judges who rejects its principles; begins to deport undocumented immigrants, especially the dreamers, those who were brought to America as children; continues to make it more difficult to vote―then we need to say no and object and if appropriate challenge these actions in the courts.

We also need to not be afraid to say yes to President Trump under appropriate circumstances. For example, if the president develops infrastructure projects similar to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1930 public work programs and produce needed jobs to Americans, we should not fear to say yes. If he keeps his promise not to cut Medicaid, Medicare and social security, we can say yes.

It is important―perhaps necessary―for groups to work collectively rather than focus on individual issues. We need to create an umbrella structure, perhaps a red, white and blue coalition in order to ensure basic rights are preserved. No longer can the left-handed green hair people refuse to work with the right-handed pink hair people. We do not have that luxury any longer. We need to come together, work together, learn from each other and support each other over the next four years in order to preserve that which we believe makes America sui generis when it comes to freedom, justice, equality and fairness for all, not just some of its people.

We should not allow anyone, including elected and appointed officials, to undo the provisions, principles and values of our constitution―i.e. free speech, free press, peacefully protest and redress of grievances, freedom of religion, probable cause, due process and equal protection under the law.

The election of President Trump and the appointments he has made for his cabinet have caused great alarm that our long journey for equal rights will be set back. Our country is a constitutional democracy based on federalism, that rests authority in the federal government, the Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and the presidency. Each branch of government has direct authority over federal rights. Our federal system also ensures that state legislatures, city councils, state courts, governors, mayors and county executives have authority over our state and local rights.

So what does this mean? It means a lot. It means that if federal rights are changed, minimized, denied, we are left to our states, cities and local jurisdictions to protect, provide, expand existing and if need be, new state municipal and local rights. These rights will not be uniformily endorsed by all fifty states, so we must be vigilant.

For example, in New York State the Court of Appeals has interpreted the state constitution’s free speech provision in a broader, greater protective manner than the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment. The New York State Court of Appeals is saying when it comes to free expression the federal constitution is the floor and the state constitution provides a ceiling. So, if somehow our federal free speech rights are eroded we still have our state rights and we can create through the state legislative or judicial process, greater free speech rights to protect us.

Each state in this country has that potential. And the potential can similarly expand beyond free speech rights to such other rights as freedom of choice.

History demonstrates that our country has made incremental progress towards achieving principles and values of inclusion, equality and opportunity for all. We face as a result of November 8, 2016 and subsequent pronouncements  substantial and significant challenges to what the majority of Americans believe and have come to expect America to be about. We cannot give up on that expectation, that dream. Let us not allow the outcome of November 8, to defer that dream or allow it to be turned into a nightmare. Together, we must figure out the ways to peacefully, nonviolentky, creatively and efectvely fight back.

*Mr. Siegel and Ms. Evans are attorneys at the New York City law firm of Siegel Teitelbaum and Evans, LLP.

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