Good story from Matt Yglesias at Vox
on the effectiveness of the remarkable organizing and protest movements across the country against President Donald Trump
and his policies:
The millions of people who marched in Washington and other cities around the world on inauguration weekend and then demonstrated again at airports the following weekend are making a concrete difference in the world. So are the tens of thousands who’ve called members of Congress or showed up in person at their events.
Trump is getting things done, but all presidents do that. Look at what he’s not getting done. A Republican-controlled Congress bowed to public outrage over an attempt to water down an ethics office. Trump dramatically downscaled his own executive order barring entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. He’s having unprecedented difficulty getting his Cabinet nominees confirmed even though the Senate’s rules have changed to make confirmations easier than ever. Conservatives in Congress have put their big plans to privatize Medicare and public lands on hold. And the drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act is running into very big trouble.
None of this is based on the discipline and self-restraint on the part of the White House. It’s thanks to bold acts of resistance. The result is lives have been saved, many more lives have been demonstrably improved, and the proven template for future success has been created.
Yglesias details at length the impact public pressure has already had on the Trump administration. Read the whole thing
This stuff is relative, of course. Trump is still in power and he still has Republican lap dogs in control of Congress, most of whom cower before Dear Leader. He still can, and will, do lots of bad stuff. But the political organizing efforts of the majority of American voters who oppose him have had a real impact (just as the Tea Party had a real impact eight years ago). My take from covering politicians is that many citizens massively underestimate how powerful it can be when a whole bunch of folks call or write their representatives. Politicians are wobbly types, and there is a tipping point. Most people don't bother to call or write. Those who do, eventually, get heard.
We've seen this in Arkansas already. Pressure from the citizens group Ozark Indivisible pushed Sen. Tom Cotton
to change his appointment-only policy for visits to his state offices and agree to a town hall this month (Cotton had previously refused to set a date; many Republican lawmakers are dodging town halls in fear of coming face to face with angry constituents). I'm told, by the way, that Cotton promised Ozark Indivisible that the event will be open to members of the group. Does that mean it will be fully open to the public? I've asked Cotton's communications director, Caroline Rabbitt
, and will update in the unlikely event that she deigns to respond.
The next question is whether protesters can turn this budding movement into a real force for political organization. Demonstrations are powerful. But the stuff that moves the needle is the long slog: showing up to town halls and field offices and local government meetings, making calls and writing letters, phonebanking and knocking on doors, organizing and galvanizing friends and neighbors. And most of all, voting: Showing up to midterm elections and local elections, and making sure their allies do too.
The Tea Party got an assist from well-funded groups like Americans for Prosperity. Liberals groaned about this at the time, but ultimately groups like AFP were doing more than just wink-wink dark-money campaign ads (though they did that, too) — a lot of what those groups were actually doing on the ground was...community organizing
. Democratic donors have tended to spend too much time on big-ticket presidential campaigns and not enough time on nurturing sustainable grassroots organizing.
I'll say this much: This is the most motivated and energized I've seen liberals, the left, and fellow travelers and allies in a long time. The seeds are there. The most powerful check on power in a democracy remains the people.