If the 2024 presidential election were held today, Donald J. Trump would win it. He would not have to sic his followers on Congress again, nor would he need to rely on his followers in Congress to approve false electors, or tamper in any way with the certification of the vote. He would win outright. 

That’s the conclusion of virtually every poll at the moment. Though President Biden was leading Trump by nearly 10 points in the polls at this point in the 2020 matchup, he is currently lagging behind the former President by about 3 points, according to the FiveThirtyEight national average. In swing states, he’s down by even more. And that’s not a fluke or a single biased poll: Joe Biden is genuinely losing the Presidential race as of this moment.

Of course, there is time between now and November for things to change, for the electoral outlook to improve, and for the worst to be averted (this time). Those efforts matter: A second Trump term would be a disaster for millions of Americans. No mere replay of his first four years in office, Trump’s next four years in office promise to be significantly more aggressive, backed by a plan to hit the ground running with all of the groundwork laid in advance by the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025. It is incumbent on us to do everything we can to change the situation between now and November in order to ensure that Donald Trump does not return to the White House. 

But what if things don’t improve between now and November? With so much focus rightfully placed on the election, there has been a striking absence of discussion around what to do if the worst happens; what to do if Trump is reelected to the Presidency, Project 2025 is implemented, and the Christian nationalist reshaping of American civic life begins in earnest.

By nature of worst-case scenarios, there will not be many great options – at least not within the previously established systems which Trump, the GOP, and Project 2025 intend to target and dismantle. That’s the point, to reduce and remove the avenues by which ordinary citizens can influence and change the direction of the government. The goal of the Christian nationalist takeover of the United States is total transformation: a “second American revolution,” as the head of the Heritage Foundation put it last week. If they succeed, many of the options we currently have for the redress of public grievances will slowly dissipate: many local government bodies will be disempowered, blatant political organizing could become risky, and protest may be criminalized. Good options will be in short supply.

But that does not mean that there are no options. As we strive to stop the worst from happening, we should also prepare for what to do if it does, to build capacity and resilience in our local networks. Here’s how to start.

The first and most important step in building resilience for the worst case scenario is building community. Given that I’m not one for platitudes or overly simplistic advice, trust me when I say I know how it sounds: platitudinous and oversimplified. But, while the idea of “building community” may sound too vague and too simple, pulling it off is complex, and the results it delivers are concrete.

Through no real fault of anybody’s own, community has become hard to come by. Shared spaces have rapidly evaporated over the past three decades, e-commerce is able to provide most of a family’s basic necessities without requiring them to bump into anybody at the local super market, and random pedestrian encounters are all but curtailed by the fact that we live in one of the least ambulatory nations on earth. There is something of a silver lining in that cloud, though: the absence of robust de facto community – the people you at one point inevitably bumped into at the supermarket, or on the street, or in shared spaces – creates an opening for the kind of intentional community-building we need. 

That’s the first step in the first step: be intentional. You have friends, but do your friends share your values? Do you know where they will stand if and when a bad situation arises? Those are the ones to build an intentional community with. Babysit each others’ kids, cook meals for each other when illness strikes, talk about what you love and what you want to preserve. And don’t stay at the surface level: get into the nitty-gritty on it. Everyone will say they value things like “freedom,” but do they mean the freedom to check out books of their choosing at the local library, or the freedom to force everyone to believe and worship as they do? The difference is important. 

It sounds simple – but it would not be as rare as it is if it were as simple as it sounds. And it sounds easy, but I promise you that it will be at least a little bit uncomfortable from time to time. It’s difficult to appreciate the extent to which discussion of values has fallen out of vogue in modern society (outside of politispeak) until you attempt to bring it up out of the blue one day. But I also promise you that it’s worth it, that it creates meaningful and resilient bonds, built not solely on overlapping carpool schedules but on the overlapping hopes and dreams of separate souls. 

Once you start building community intentionally, its benefits are not hard to see. Sure, there are the benefits of babysitting and meal delivery and carpools as needed, but those things are just training exercises, practice runs at being there for one another. It’s more than that: community gives you the ability to fight what Saul Alinsky called “a war against poverty, misery, delinquency, disease, injustice, hopelessness, despair, and unhappiness.” 

If you’re feeling high-falutin’, you can call it mutual aid. Otherwise, you can just call it community.

But the real benefit of building an intentional community reveals itself when your community puts its mind to something, pursues a shared goal, and you realize that all of that practice has built some muscle on your community’s bones: you realize that you’re significantly more capable together than you were alone. 

Congratulations, you’ve built a community. Now what? In the possible future scenario we are imagining – one in which Donald Trump has reassumed the Presidency and Project 2025 has fundamentally reshaped the federal government in ways which are palpable at the local level, such as the elimination of federal school funding and standards – many of the options which are currently available to us will be curtailed. If the attempts to ban books from school libraries are no longer driven by local activists but by the federal government, for instance, what impact will showing up to school board meetings have? Probably very little, unfortunately. 

Unlike a school board, though, an organized community is able to pursue goals and achieve impacts outside of preexisting systems. A community held together by a shared vision for the local area can pursue that vision without much concern for the federal government. If the dire scenario comes to pass, your community will have an opportunity to mimic or rebuild those pre existing systems in a way better suited to your community’s shared vision. Here’s what I mean:

Take book-banning as an example. Project 2025’s advocates have not been shy about their intention to use the plan not only to completely gut the Department of Education, but to enshrine “parents’ rights” measures – the euphemism used on the right for book-banning and bullying queer kids – at the federal level, stripping local school boards of authority in the ongoing debates around which books should and should not be available to students. We have seen these efforts proliferate in local school districts across the nation in recent years, driven by groups like Moms for Liberty (ironically, a very good example of community building and organizing, even though they have organized for all the wrong reasons). Under the current system where these decisions are made by local governing bodies like school boards, it’s important to counter-organize against these groups in that arena. If these decisions are suddenly made at the federal level, though, organizing to pressure your local school board will be pointless: it will be out of their hands.

If your community values free access to information, and believes that young minds need to encounter difficult material in order to stretch and grow – if that is one of your shared values – you will not be helpless to resist book bans. Why? Because they can remove books from the libraries, but they cannot remove them from the stores (at least, not as easily, and not via the Department of Education). Buy them, distribute them to any student who has been denied access to them by the school. Build one of those “free neighborhood library” stands in your front yard. Do not consent to only letting your children read what an authoritarian government determines they can read. 

It’s a simple example, but an important one: it shows how easy working outside of, or around, the preexisting system can be. 

Your community is capable of more than circumventing book bans, though; it can save lives, it can preserve livelihoods. Part of Trump’s plan for his would-be second term is to dramatically enhance immigration enforcement – not just at the border, but in the interior – with a massive, door-knocking deportation force. To folks living in lily-white communities, this might sound just fine. To those of us who live in more diverse communities, though, we understand that it would shatter families, disrupt local economies, and reap no shortage of genuine human suffering. What can your community do about it?

Conspire. Break the law. Do it carefully, but do it intentionally. Is someone in your community at risk of deportation? Hide them. Has someone in your community been deported? Take care of their family. Risk yourself for them on the blind faith that they will do the same for you. Learn the lesson that abortion providers in Texas have learned, or the lesson which Otto Frank learned some 80 years ago before he built a false-fronted bookcase hiding the entrance to his Amsterdam home’s rear annex: there is no moral authority which can compel your adherence to an unjust law. 

But there is a problem with “break glass in case of emergency” plans: emergencies can be hard to identify in real time, often building slowly but inexorably. If Trump’s deportation force starts knocking down doors in your neighborhood, you will probably recognize it as an emergency. But what if they don’t? What if the onslaught is slower and less dramatic? What should your community do then?

Get engaged and stay engaged. Attend those local school board meetings until they don’t matter anymore. Protest the local library board until they, too, are defanged. Organize bake sales or mutual aid drives. Flex the muscles of your community to build the capacity that you will need before you need it. Your community is only as effective as what it can get its act together to accomplish. The sooner your community attempts to accomplish something – whether a bake sale or a recall petition – the sooner you will be able to assess its capacity, its strengths and weaknesses, and work to fill those gaps. You will be stronger for it.

Resistance to authoritarianism can take many shapes, modulated to each local community, its needs, and its abilities. The steps I have listed above are the lowest common denominator between those forms of resistance. In our particular American context, though, there is one more step anyone hoping to resist the coming onslaught of Christian nationalist authoritarianism should take: embrace any and all Christians who have chosen to stand against Christian nationalism.

As an ideological project, Christian nationalism is heavily focused on seizing and monopolizing definitions. Christian nationalists seek to define what it means to be American in a way which excludes millions of Americans. They also seek to define what it means to be a Christian, so that they can cloak themselves in the raiment of an entire faith and deflect criticism of their movement by reducing it to a criticism of their religion. A crucial step in resisting Christian nationalism is resisting the movement’s attempts to monopolize what it means to be an American, and what it means to be a Christian.

As I’ve written before, the data on this issue is remarkably clear: Christian nationalism is openly embraced only by a minority of American Christians. Pew found that only 35% of American Christians believe that the Bible should have “a great deal of influence” on laws, and that 60% of respondents under age 50 feel that the Bible should not influence laws. The same Pew survey found that American Catholics are split on the issue, and that Black and most other non-white protestant communities reject the idea. In aggregate, the beliefs embodied by the Christian nationalist political project are held almost exclusively by older white protestants, and rejected by the majority of Christians. In their attempts to define Christian nationalism as synonymous with Christianity – as the natural, and only acceptable, incarnation of their religion in the civic realm – Christian nationalists have to exclude the majority of American Christians.

Which means that we should not.

Ultimately, resistance is about building coalitions. Yes, your intentional community should be built of people who share the most important values. But your broader coalition, the other communities your community stands with in pursuit of shared goals, does not have to be aligned on all of the finer points. They only need to be aligned on the objective. If that objective is to stop the Christian nationalist political movement from remaking the country in its own image, polling shows that a majority of American Christians would be willing to stand with your community in pursuit of that objective. Adding Christians to the coalition not only provides more strength in greater numbers, it undercuts the effort to seize and monopolize definitions which lays at the center of the Christian nationalist project to redefine who is and is not welcome in society. It makes the counterargument that all kinds can exist in society, together.

Several Christian organizations have already started that important work of coalition-building in order to resist Christian nationalism. Christians Against Christian Nationalism, for instance, exists for that exact purpose. Currently, the group sports more than 37,000 members, and organizes in-person gatherings to build community around the idea of resisting Christian nationalism. The Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty has also risen to the occasion, compiling resources and helping groups organize against the Christian nationalist political movement. These organizations and the crucial work they are doing deserves support not just from Christians who oppose Christian nationalism, but from everyone who opposes Christian nationalism. They are allies in a time when allies are needed the most. 

As I wrote this piece, I came to a better understanding of why these conversations have lagged behind where they need to be: they are uncomfortable to have. Considering worst-case scenarios feels both helpless and paranoid. It requires a conscious effort to remember that it is neither. The problem with unprecedented times is that, by their nature, appropriate responses become far removed from normal responses. If the normal responses applied in these times, the times would not be unprecedented. They would be normal. There is nothing about considering how to withstand the potential collapse of American democracy which feels normal

But it is necessary.

There remains a chance that Donald Trump will not win this November, meaning that Project 2025 will not have a chance to be implemented. There is a chance. But it is important to soberly acknowledge that it’s a slim chance. As things stand today, the most likely future is one in which Trump returns to the White House, backed by Project 2025’s plans to completely remake American government and civic life. In a reasonable world, that would not be the case. The felonious, philandering real estate magnate wouldn’t stand a chance. But we do not live in a reasonable world, we live in this one. 

You should vote in November, and you should encourage your friends to do the same. You should do whatever is within your power, electorally, to help avert the scenario which appears to be coming. But that is the least you should be doing. Community isn’t built overnight, but it’s never too late to start. If you want to be in a position to survive a catastrophe – not just avoid one – there is no better use for your time and resources between now and November than strengthening the bonds with those around you, discussing your shared values, and building the capacity you will need to take care of each other if the bottom drops out.

And if the bottom doesn’t drop out, you will have built a community anyway, and you will be stronger for it.