First, we must fight the psychological pressure to rationalize and defend everything Trump does. Many of my friends and colleagues voted for Trump with eyes wide open, acknowledging him as a menace — but now twist themselves into partisan pretzels explaining away each fresh outrage. Moral, thoughtful, humane people I love and admire now look me in the eye and straight-facedly justify mocking a disabled reporter or grabbing a stranger’s vulva. Put simply, Donald Trump leads good people to support bad things. If you voted for him, you now have a strong incentive to stick with him rather than confront his odiousness. Recognize the power of this ethical undertow and swim against it.
In practical terms, this means frequently reminding yourself of the warning signs you recognized mere months ago. When Trump does something indefensible, ask yourself whether you would have explained it away had Barack Obama done the same. Avoid the online echo chambers that exist to reassure you about your choice. Force yourself to read honest critical reportage from outlets such as the The Economist and the Financial Times. When speaking with fellow conservatives, be vocal about what alarms you. Do not silently allow them to slip into easy and automatic support for this man.
If you can resist the pressure to rationalize Trump to yourself, the second step is to speak up. Signal to the president loudly and insistently that you will not give him a long leash. Make clear that you will not tolerate authoritarianism or the unconstitutional abuse of civil liberties, even if they’re used to advance policies you favor or punish your political opponents. The true measure of your respect for the Constitution is how often you acknowledge it forbids something you support, not how often you argue it forbids something you oppose.
Even if Trump proves unresponsive to pushback from conservatives, sending such signals forcefully will serve a second purpose. Many of your neighbors and fellow citizens did not support Trump, and are presently afraid — not just because of his own wickedness, but because they believe that millions of his voters have given him carte blanche to indulge his authoritarian impulses. If you don’t think the latter perception is fair, you have a responsibility to reassure anti-Trump Americans of your commitment to constitutional government.