How To Start a Revolution

(or how to sustain the fight for democracy long after the demonic sweet potato leaves office)

6 mins read

Hello DemCast readers! My name is Lauren Duca, and you may know me from the hellsite Twitter dot com, where I have been breathlessly battling for democracy since the 2016 election. I was tapped out of civic participation before the demonic sweet potato was elected. I recently published a book called “How to Start a Revolution” about how everything is changing, and the ways that we can work to create a sustainable culture of constant resistance.

Right after the election, I was compelled to write about politics. Over the course of two days, I poured my heart into a book proposal, for which the sample essay was titled “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.” A few weeks later, I published the piece to Teen Vogue, and it went insanely viral. My life has never been the same.

It is still hard for me to explain how I saw the world before. Like so many Americans, I was horrified by Trump’s win. I woke up on November 9th, 2016 to a total shift in perspective. I thought cared about equality before, but I had been totally alienated from the concrete actions of civic participation. It occurred to me that I had been thinking of democracy as a historical achievement. It seemed to be a magical, self-cleaning litter box that would protect us from the horrors of fascism and cruelty to the marginalized. Except, government supposedly by and for the people requires our input. As I now regularly remind myself: democracy is not a thing we have, it is a thing we must DO, and often.

Political awakenings can happen at any time, but what is remarkable about Trump’s election is that it sparked millions of epiphanies all at once. A political awakening is a matter of agency. It is about deciding that you are qualified to take part in the political conversation, realizing that self-determination does not require permission. When I awoke to this urgency of action, I saw that there were many factors that had kept me from accessing my right to a voice, and thought that surely other young people must have had a similar experience. It turns out, that was an understatement.

Over the better part of the past three years, I have toured the country, talking to hundreds of young people who have undergone a shift from passively navigating our sorely broken status quo to actively seeking to change it. We are inhabiting self-determination, understanding that we must be the ones to save ourselves.

Now, the political awakening is available to all ages, but I zeroed in on empowering young people as the focus of my research and reporting. “How to Start a Revolution” tackles the myth of youth apathy, which is often stated as if it naturally flows from low voter turnout statistics. It’s true that we need to increase youth voter turnout, but the idea that we don’t care is total nonsense. The reality is that young people are denied a seat at the table, and then get mocked for not showing up. This book documents the ways we have been boxed out, captures what is changing, and ends with a call to action that I believe can empower millions of people to invest in the political process, well, forever.

In the end, the work of democracy cannot just be in reaction to this atrocity of an illegitimate presidency. Being a citizen must be a daily ritual, routinely upheld, not unlike brushing your teeth. Voting is essential, of course. Register. Vote. Make sure everyone you know is registered and voting. Rinse and repeat. However, our democratic participation must extend beyond that, with constant habits that resonate best with you on the issues you care about the most. Not everyone is going to run for office, and not everyone is going to march. But you have to do something. Maybe you start making recurring donations, regularly contacting elected officials, or attending protests and demonstrations. In short, the book ends with a call to action: You have to pick the regular democratic habits that work for you, but, for the love of GOD, pick something.

If this resonates with you, I hope you’ll pick up a copy, spread the word to friends and family, and be sure every young person in your life is armed with “How to Start a Revolution.”

Here’s the godforsaken Amazon link (unfortunate, but also necessary for reaching the masses), the IndieBound link (if you’d like to discover a lovely little mom-and-pop book shop along with your purchase), and the audiobook link, if you’d prefer to hangout with me in your headphones.

I am immensely proud of this book, and I remain, in spite of the ongoing dumpster fire, optimistic that we are now presented with the opportunity to build democracy for real. I hope you’ll join me.

Lauren Duca is an award-winning journalist best known for her massively viral piece “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America” in Teen Vogue and an interview with Tucker Carlson. Her writing can be found in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and New York magazine, as well as in her ongoing column for Teen Vogue: “Thigh-High Politics.” She graduated from Fordham University and holds a masters from New York University, where she is currently a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She’s mostly just trying to get you to follow her on Twitter: @LaurenDuca.

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