Tuesday, March 19, 2019


Matt Yglesias is right:
The demobilization of the resistance is a dangerous mistake

The Women’s Marches over-awed Donald Trump’s Inauguration. Protesters at airports checked the initial version of Trump’s travel bans. Ordinary Americans’ phone calls and door knocks defeated multiple attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act. It all sent a clear message during Trump’s first two years in office: Resistance works.

Engaged protesters were not able to block the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, but they did render both toxically unpopular. The resistance spurred an unprecedented level of interest in special elections, swinging seats across the country, and powered Democrats to sweeping wins in the 2018 midterms.

And then it stopped. There was no mass mobilization to call senators in advance of the resolution blocking Trump’s border emergency declaration. There were no crowds on Capitol Hill. There are no reports of Republican senators canceling town halls because they’re afraid to face angry crowds demanding a floor vote on the anti-corruption bill HR 1. There are no protesters demanding that Trump accede to Congress’s request for his tax returns in part because no request has been made.

The resistance has demobilized. And for Democrats, it’s probably a huge mistake.
Yglesias sees Democrats on Capitol Hill no longer bothering "to activate grassroots participation to shape the course of events," possibly out of fear that the grassroots will demand impeachment. He also thinks resistance energy has been dissipated by controversy surrounded organizers of the Women's Marches.

But I think the loss of momentum is our own damn fault. Our side regularly concludes that if you win just one election, everything will get a whole lot better right away, and ordinary citizens can just stand down. That was the widespread belief after Barack Obama won in '08. Obama had fired up the grassroots during his campaign, but then there was no citizen pushback when Republicans in Congress used every means at their disposal to block his agenda. There was no effort to push him to the left when he chose to compromise. And there was no countervailing force when the Tea Party rose up and helped lead the Republican Party to huge congressional victories in 2010. (Democrats could barely bring themselves to vote in 2010. Why bother? We had Obama, right?)

Rank-and-file Democrats aren't engaging in resistance now because the party did well in 2018, and now there's a whole new election cycle starting up, with some of our favorite cast members from the previous election cycle. (Beto! Maybe Stacey!)

I see this even among lefties who regard themselves as too progressive for the Democratic Party. The Bernie Sanders movement in 2016 was premised on the notion that Sanders would be elected and his very left-wing agenda would just ... happen. To be fair, that wasn't as unreasonable as the Ralph Nader lunacy of 2000 -- if you really believed he could win, what Congress do you think he'd be working with, and how much of his agenda could possibly be enacted?

But that's how our side thinks. Republicans are the opposite -- they always believe they're besieged, even when they control most of the government. The conservative media encourages this siege mentality. Even when Republicans are effectively unopposed, the right-wing rank-and-file is told that enemies are everywhere -- in Hollywood, in academia, in godless, gender-fluid cities.... So ordinary Republicans never let their guard down, even when their party is winning every battle it fights. We let our guard down when we haven't even started winning yet.

No comments: