This interview is part of an ongoing series profiling young resisters taking actions in their communities and sharing their ideas for countering “protest fatigue” with sustainable ways to keep resisting the Trump agenda for the long-haul.
Carly Grimes is a 20-year-old junior at Pomona College double majoring in politics and cognitive science. She is involved in student government as an elected student representative on the Board of Trustees for the college. Additionally, she is a QuestBridge scholar and has held various leadership roles within Pomona’s QuestBridge chapter. In the past she has been part of the Pomona College Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault and was a curator of TEDxClaremontColleges, where she worked on increasing the diversity of speakers and financial accessibility of the event. Carly is interested in political framing and other ways that cognitive science research can help inform campaigns and political strategy. She spoke with us about ways to young people can integrate resistance into their daily lives and really make our progressive voices heard in this era of Trump.
Generation Progress: You have been interested in government and politically active long before the Trump era, and you even have aspirations to run for office in the future. What sparked your original interest in politics and activism? Have your political interests and aspirations shifted in this Trump era—especially when witnessing the decline of progressive political power?
Carly Grimes: My interest in politics originated at a young age when I began volunteering with the Wyland Foundation [a non-profit organization that combines art and environmentalism] in community education about environmental issues. Participating in beach cleanups and educational activities that demonstrated how kids can conserve energy in classrooms and at home was fun and taught me a lot about community engagement. However, I remember being most excited about a protest that my Mom and I attended against drilling for oil off the Gulf of Mexico where we live. This large protest caused me to realize that although individual awareness about and action on environmental issues is important, convincing the government to stop companies from immeasurably harming ecosystems is impactful on another level. After that protest, I started to think about social issues that I wanted to see solved in a more political context.
Since the beginning of the Trump era, I have already seen my political aspirations shifting. On election night and in the days immediately following, I felt so dejected by watching an extraordinarily qualified woman who I had invested time in campaigning for be defeated by the embodiment of bias and male privilege. My sadness quickly turned to anger and action as I realized that I can use my knowledge, energy, and certain privileges to advocate for my friends and community members who are targeted by this administration. I now plan to be the best advocate that I can each day and eventually hope to run for political office.
As a junior in college, your schedule is pretty full—you’re completing politics and cognitive science double major requirements, you’re a member of student government on Pomona College’s Board of Trustees, and you’re heavily involved in your campus’ QuestBridge chapter and mentoring program. How do you balance all that you do on campus while remaining actively engaged in the resistance movement?
Like many young activists, in the wake of the election I felt like I needed to dive into the resistance movement, committing large amounts of time and energy to organizations, protests, and strategizing. I quickly realized that taking on activism as a full-time job in addition to my demanding education, paying jobs, and extracurriculars was not a feasible option. After having conversations about this dilemma with a professor, I realized that continuing to succeed academically and supporting my communities through extracurricular activities is a form of resistance. Within my courses, I have begun to use paper writing as a form of resistance, morphing prompts even for cognitive science research into political questions so that research and writing time furthers my knowledge about political theory and current events. I have used my role in student government to mobilize with alumni around campus sexual assault and made it a priority after the election to meet with my college’s trustees. I make sure that they understand students’ emotions and needs and advocate for our college hiring lawyers to consult with undocumented students and students from countries affected by the travel ban to discuss summer employment options. I don’t always have time to organize calling campaigns targeting members of Congress, but I have put my representatives on speed dial and I frequently call their offices while walking to class to make my voice heard.
What are some tips you have for young people who may not have any political experience, or haven’t historically paid much attention to government, but want to start taking direct action against the Trump and conservative agendas?
I hope that young people are not intimidated by a “lack of political experience” and find ways to take action that they can feel proud of. Making phone calls to representatives is an excellent way to start because although the first call can be intimidating, you quickly realize that the people answering the phones are friendly and will not be asking you questions about the issue you are calling about. I also think it is important to realize that almost any skill you have from extracurriculars could be used to start taking direct action. If you like art or music, think about how you could create arts communicating political themes or organize a small fundraising concert for Planned Parenthood. Take whatever you are most comfortable and happy doing and see how politics can intersect with it. Also, feel proud of every political action you take, no matter how small it may seem in the moment! Not everyone can be a community leader or start their own organization but everyone can make a huge impact by registering friends to vote in midterm elections and pressuring their elected officials.
Activism and resistance come in many forms, and young people have cultivated creative and effective ways to resist inequality and today’s regressive federal government. What are different forms of activism you have participated in and have seen in your local community?
I recently attended a town hall for my Congressman, Vern Buchanan (FL-16), while I was home for Spring Break in Florida. I was so impressed to see thousands of people from my community present and found this event to be really energizing because it made very visible how large the progressive community I am a part of is, even in a conservative area of Florida.
I know you have an interest in law, and with Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch currently going through confirmation hearings, what are your thoughts on the nominee knowing that he is a right wing extremist that would endanger the already vulnerable rights of marginalized communities? Can you speak to why members of the Millennial generation cannot afford an extremist nominee and the importance of a balanced Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court is an incredibly powerful institution where membership change happens very rarely. Because justices remain on the bench for so long, my generation should be especially concerned about the impact that Neil Gorsuch would have. If Gorsuch is confirmed, he will likely still be making decisions 30 years from now. When I envision the types of decisions I want the Supreme Court to be making after I am over 50 years old, they certainly do not involve rolling back rights of the LGBTQ community and allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception to employees through health care. An originalist like Gorsuch would not have evolving views, so I see his prior constitutional interpretations as warnings to his resistance to equality and social progress. Because of the importance of Supreme Court nominees, I think that it is crucial for the investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia to fully conclude before a nominee is confirmed. Until it is more clear that Trump is a legitimate president and that the Russians did not significantly impact the election results, I do not believe that a new Supreme Court justice should be confirmed.