Evanston resident leads local chapter to oppose Trump through political action, education


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

A sign at the Women’s March on Chicago last month reads “Stronger Together.” Members of the Evanston chapter of Action for a Better Tomorrow attended the event.

David Fishman, Assistant City Editor

Evanston resident Alisa Kaplan said she woke up a “zombie” after last year’s presidential election. Disillusioned by a campaign filled with hateful rhetoric and “overt misogyny,” she said she lay around moping for days.

Then — after going through a personal “grieving process” — Kaplan said she got out of bed and got to work.

“There was a really strong desire to get involved and fight,” she said. “People were really angry, and they wanted to do something; they didn’t just want to sit around.”

So days after the unexpected election of President Donald Trump, Kaplan harnessed that energy into creating an Evanston chapter of Pantsuit Nation, a secret Facebook page founded to support Hillary Clinton. Since then, the chapter’s page has morphed into a new group and picked up more than 1,200 members who organize rallies, debate politics and keep each other politically informed.

“This was just completely organic,” Kaplan said. “This all happened very quickly.”

In the weeks following Trump’s victory, Pantsuit Nation became a space to air grievances following the election. In December, the group transformed after its founder trademarked the name and signed a book deal, angering many of its members who split off to create new groups.

“They had a huge opportunity to channel people’s empowerment into action,” Kaplan said. “When Pantsuit decided not to use that … a lot of people felt like the rug had been pulled out from under them.”

One of those people was Georgia Logothetis, a Chicago activist who picked up the baton and founded Action for a Better Tomorrow — an Illinois-based advocacy group that emerged from Clinton’s historic campaign.

“There was so much energy and enthusiasm,” she said. “(But) whenever you have people who are new to the process they need leadership and they need structure, otherwise … they will get burned out.”

In December, Kaplan decided to team up with Logothetis and affiliate her former Pantsuit Nation chapter with ABT.

The group’s purpose is multi-faceted. On one day, members may make calls to oppose an anti-choice bill or organize a phone bank to “save the Affordable Care Act.” On another day, the focus might be local — rallying members to attend a Human Services Committee meeting on policing procedures or advocating for local refugees.

“We’re engaging people to act using all of this new political energy and channeling it into productive … action at all levels of government,” Kaplan said. “The front lines of resistance have really become the local and state level.”

Daina Jauntirans, an Evanston resident who is part of ABT, said she felt empowered by the ability to take collective action. After the election, Jauntirans said there is an “urgent need” to preserve eight years of progress and policy as well as stem changes made by the new administration.

“There’s a feeling of togetherness and also a fountain of knowledge that you can tap into,” she said. “It’s nice to have that core group that you’re involved with to exchange ideas.”

Across the state, nearly 35,000 people have joined ABT, employing grassroots tactics to oppose the new administration. Logothetis said thousands of “well-intentioned” citizens were looking for avenues for action, but many relied on outdated information and armchair activism.

At ABT, she said, members research the biggest pressure points in state and national politics to most effectively enact change.

Beyond advocacy, the group also emphasizes education. For example, one workshop — “Policy in 60 Minutes” — aims to distill complex legislative issues into hour-long lessons given by an expert.

On March 4, state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) will give the first of these workshops on the Illinois budget crisis.

“We really understand that change happens and bubbles up from the local level,” Logothetis said. “One of failures of the Democratic Party over the last several years has been the lack of focus on local, state (and) municipal races. … That’s really where we want to step forward.”

Nevertheless, Logothetis said she hopes to eventually expand ABT out of state and create a political action committee to endorse candidates. But for now the group is “absolutely” focused on Illinois and maintaining its initial surge of energy.

“It’s very hard to sustain a movement long term,” Logothetis said. “The real test for our movement is going to come a year and a half from now when we’re going to see a lot more setbacks.”

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Twitter: @davidpkfishman