The Anti-Trump Resistance and Beyond: Building a Progressive Movement

By Peter Dreier

Over the past few years, efforts like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers immigrant-rights movement, the battles against the Keystone pipeline and for marriage equality, and the Fight for $15 (minimum wage) campaign have generated a new wave of activism, but nothing has inspired more protest than Donald Trump’s election in November.

“Lots of us woke up the next morning wondering whether we understood the country as well as we thought we did,” said Gara LaMarche, president of the Democracy Alliance, a network of wealthy liberals that support progressive candidates and organizations. “We spent some time trying to absorb it.”

But it didn’t take long for people to recover from the shock and begin a resistance movement. “I can’t overstate how unprecedented the grassroots energy of this resistance is,” said Anna Galland, MoveOn’s executive director. “This is far beyond anything I’ve seen, even at the height of the anti–Iraq war movement.”

Many established liberal organizations, as well as the dizzying array of new upstart groups, are discussing how to sustain this burgeoning anti-Trump movement. They face three key challenges:

First, how to stop Trump and the GOP-led Congress from inflicting significant harm and pain through executive orders, legislation, and appointments to key positions in government.

Second, how to translate the rise in activism into a powerful electoral force to help progressive Democrats take back Congress and the White House in 2018 and 2020.

Third, how to keep a grassroots progressive movement alive for the long haul that trains new leaders and candidates, advances a progressive policy agenda, and links people concerned with specific issues (i.e., women’s equality, immigration, workers’ rights, environmental justice, public education) into a broad, ongoing crusade for a more inclusive and equal America.

Stopping Trump

Trump’s election and his presidency reflect both an aberration from and a continuation of the business-backed conservative assault on liberal and progressive government policy that began in the 1970s and has expanded ever since.

Corporate America began a sustained attack on the legislative achievements and ideological underpinnings of the New Deal and the Great Society that had helped create a mass middle class, reduced poverty,  expanded the social safety net, and increased the rights of workers, African Americans, women, and others.  That attack on government as a vehicle for achieving a more humane society won a major victory with Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980.

Since then, business lobby groups consolidated their efforts to influence public opinion and government policy at the state and federal levels.  In coalition with the Religious Right, the National Rifle Association, and the Tea Party – and with the support of new conservative media outlets (especially Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, but also Breitbart News and other “alt right” platforms) – business groups reshaped American politics. They have funded a network of conservative think tanks, strengthened their local, state and federal lobbying efforts through corporate-funded groups like the Business Roundtable and the American Legislative Exchange Council, and significantly increased campaign contributions to candidates for office through a web of interconnected political action committees and independent expenditure groups, some of them funded by dozens of politically-engaged right-wing billionaires like the Koch Brothers, Betsy DeVos,  the Walton family, Robert Mercer, and Sheldon Adelson. In recent decades, conservative forces have dramatically outspent liberal and progressive organizations and networks and carefully invested in building a political infrastructure that includes local groups that can mobilize people around conservative issues.[1]

When Trump first announced he was running for president in 2015, few of these groups and individuals supported him. But once his candidacy caught fire, most of them jumped on board the Trump train.  After he won the presidency in November 2016, they and most Republican politicians embraced him, some more enthusiastically than others.

Trump’s Cabinet appointments and key advisors reflect a combination of mainstream business-oriented Republicans (like banker Steven Mnuchin, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, private equity entrepreneur Wilbur Ross, and Cong. Tom Price), conservative military leaders (like General James Mattis and General John Kelly), and “alt right” extremists like Devos, Senator Jeff Sessions, Ben Carson, Representative Ryan Zinke, and Steve Bannon).  Trump’s lack of experience in government, his narcissistic personality, his declining favorability among the public (except hardcore Republican voters, who represent no more than 30 percent of all voters), and the chaos within the White House staff has made it difficult for him to forge an effective governing coalition or a working relationship with the Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump’s campaign and his presidency so far violated many established norms dealing with the president’s relationship with the media (including his public statements about “fake news” and his view of the press as an “enemy”), his dealings with leaders of foreign countries, and his disregard for science and facts.  Many of his statements – about Muslims, Jews, immigrants, Latinos, African Americans, women, people with disabilities, and LGBT people – have encouraged an upsurge of hate crimes, according to reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Trump’s election and his actions as president sparked a new mood of frustration and urgency and a new level of political activism across the country. According to a Washington Post poll released in late January, 25 percent of Americans—including 35 percent of Democrats, 40 percent of Democratic women, and 43 percent of Democrats under the age of 50—said they planned to be more politically active this year.

The most obvious manifestations of the anti-Trump resistance are the many protest marches on a variety of issues that have attracted millions of Americans, many of whom were never politically engaged before.  Several new websites—including WhatDoIDoAboutTrump.com—keep people abreast of the many anti-Trump events.

The January 21 Women’s March attracted about five million people – the largest one-day protest in American history – in hundreds of cities and towns across the country.  This was followed by coordinated nationwide protests around climate change, science, immigrant rights, and Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.  Many of the people marching in the streets had never been to a protest before.   These marches reflect not only growing anger and frustration, but also hope that change is possible. Most immediately, the protests have been designed to stop Trump and the Republicans in Congress from inflicting damage through executive orders, legislation, and appointments. They have also served to delegitimize Trump in the eyes of many Americans, as reflected in statement “not my president” and in his unprecedented low ratings in public opinion polls.

Stopping Trump has involved not only targeting Republicans in Congress to oppose his legislative initiatives but also pushing Democrats to stand up to the president and his GOP allies. For example, Brad Lander, a former community organizer who represents Brooklyn in the New York City Council, instigated Get Organized BK! to mobilize Brooklynites around progressive issues and to pressure the state’s congressional delegation—including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer—to oppose Trump’s initiatives

“The popular upsurge is stiffening the spine of the Democrats,” explained Dan Cantor, political director of the Working Families Party, a group that mobilizes voters and supports progressive candidates in 17 states. The problem, however, is that if Republicans continue backing Trump, he will prevail legislatively. So one challenge for the activists is to raise the political costs for Republicans when they walk the plank for Trump by backing unqualified or corrupt nominees and unpopular policies.

Although many of these national and local marches and rallies have a single-issue focus, the level of mutual support has increased significantly. Many unions and environmental groups, for example, mobilized large contingents to the Women’s March in January.

“Trump’s been a great organizer for us,” explained Peter Colavito, chief of staff to Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union. “There’s a higher level of collaboration across movements and issues than I’ve seen in a long time. Now we are seeing a period of unified opposition, led by grassroots activists, that we need to harness into elections.”

In response to Trump’s effort to ban Muslim visitors and increase deportation of immigrants, a coalition of religious, immigrant-rights, and labor groups led a campaign to fight back, protesting at airports,  and persuading dozens of cities, universities, and churches, as well as California’s political leaders, to resist cooperation with the federal crackdown.  Along with lawsuits filed against several versions of Trump’s travel ban by attorneys general in several states, these actions have kept the president from carrying out one of his top campaign pledges.

As of this writing (late June), Trump has been unable to get Congress to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, adopt a tax or infrastructure plan, build a wall on the Mexican border, or defund Planned Parenthood.  He was able to get most of his Cabinet appointments, as well as his Supreme Court nominee, approved, but grassroots opposition kept Trump’s initial pick for Labor Secretary and several nominees quickly withdraw in response to public protest and media scrutiny.

“When everything is at stake, and with Republicans in power, we’re going to lose much of the time, [so] we need a framework to decide what fights are most important to fight,” explained LaMarche of the Democracy Alliance. “On some issues—like immigration, abortion, and health care—we have no choice. But we also have to attack the sources of the right’s power. We have to protect voting rights and reform our campaign-finance laws. We have to defend the courts and the independence of the media. We have to fight fights that weaken Trump and drive a wedge between him and his base, like defending Medicare and safety-net benefits.”

The anti-Trump resistance doesn’t speak with one voice or agree on an overall strategy. It is composed of well-established groups and new upstarts, seasoned activists, and political neophytes.

But this resurgence of activism should be seen as part of a cumulative process of movement-building. For example, every day since Trump’s inauguration, Hetty Rosenstein gets up at 6 a.m. to write an email to activists throughout New Jersey about upcoming rallies, marches, meetings, and other events to protest Trump’s agenda. The list began with 80 names, but by the end of February, the 62-year-old Rosenstein, state director of the Communications Workers of America union, was sending her daily email blasts to more than 2,700 people.

Her missives include information on protests at town meetings sponsored by Republican Congress members, weekly vigils to defend the Affordable Care Act, training sessions of burgeoning activists, rallies for immigrant rights and transgender students, a talk and rally at a Trenton church by activist Reverend William Barber II, reminders of upcoming marches like the International Women’s Day strike (“Wear red in solidarity”), and an “Evict Trump-Kushner” rally at a Jersey City office building owned by Jared Kushner’s real-estate company.

These daily emails have helped strengthen the resistance movement against Trump and the Republicans in Congress. Even Rosenstein has been surprised by the thousands of people who have shown up to protest at the offices of New Jersey’s Republican Congress members on a regular basis, demanding that they vote against repealing Obamacare, oppose Trump’s travel ban on Muslims, get Congress to investigate Russia’s interference in U.S. elections, and push Trump to release his tax returns.

“I’ve been organizing for over 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Rosenstein. “Lots of people went to the Women’s March who hadn’t been to a demonstration before. Now they come to the health-care vigils every week. The folks who show up at the town halls include some longtime activists and some new people. I go to two or three demonstrations a week now, and there are many others I don’t get to.”

No story better illustrates the power of the growing anti-Trump grassroots resistance movement than Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen’s about-face on the president’s health-care bill in March.  Frelinghuysen’s defection was a major victory for a new liberal grassroots movement that sprung up in his affluent suburban New Jersey district (centered in Morristown) soon after Trump’s November victory and pressured him to change his vote.

The sixth member of his family to serve in Congress, Frelinghuysen was first elected in 1994 as a moderate Republican but has steadily shifted to the right since the Tea Party insurgence. For example, he and his wife used to donate money to their local Planned Parenthood chapter, and he voted to fund Planned Parenthood in 2007, 2009, and 2011. But in 2015, he began voting against funding. As chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Frelinghuysen is a key member of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership team. The New Jersey Republican has been an important ally on the president’s policy initiatives. Like other party stalwarts, he repeatedly pledged to support Trump and Ryan’s Obamacare “repeal and replace” bill. But just hours before Ryan scheduled a vote on their American Health Care Act, Frelinghuysen threw the administration a curveball. Calling the legislation “unacceptable,” Frelinghuysen said in a statement that he planned to vote against it.

His change of heart doomed the bill’s prospects, signaling to other House Republicans that they could defy Ryan’s leadership and Trump’s threats to punish them. Acknowledging defeat, Ryan pulled the bill before Republican House members had to cast their votes. Overall, 33 Republicans brought the bill down. Until this bill, Frelinghuysen had fallen in line with Trump and Ryan on every vote during this congressional session.

The burgeoning movement to pressure Frelinghuysen was spearheaded by a newly-formed group called NJ 11th for Change coalition. To bring together people angered by Trump, Montclair resident David Rosenberg created a Facebook group one week after the presidential election, “after the shock wore off,” he noted. At the outset, there were only three members, but that number skyrocketed to 7,000 by early March and included many independents and Republicans.

“When we started, I thought we’d have ten people sitting around, having coffee, bitching and moaning,” Rosenberg explained. “But people are coming out of the woodwork. They’re saying, ‘I want in. How can I help?’” He added, “Our mission is to hold Rodney accountable and let people know where he stands.”

The group organized weekly “Fridays with Frelinghuysen” protests outside his Morristown district office. They gathered at a nearby Starbucks before walking over to Frelinghuysen’s office, bringing pastries for his office staff and messages opposing his stances on key issues. As many as 400 people have shown up.

Upset that Frelinghuysen hadn’t held an in-person town hall meeting in three years, NJ 11th for Change also invited the congressman to five “Where’s Rodney?” town hall gatherings in Morristown, Little Falls, Sparta, Livingston, and Boonton.

He didn’t show up to any of them. But each time, hundreds of voters did, and organizers responded to Frelinghuysen’s absence with a cardboard cutout cartoon likeness of the 70-year-old “seated” in a chair. Stung by the group’s success in drawing media attention, but still unwilling to attend in-person meetings with his constituents, Frelinghuysen instead held several lightly publicized “telephone town halls” in March. The night before the scheduled vote, NJ 11th for Change staged a symbolic seventh birthday party for Obamacare outside Frelinghuysen’s Morristown office.

Frelinghuysen’s support for “repeal and replace” was only one of the issues that brought hundreds of people to NJ 11th for Change’s protests and monthly meetings. The group has challenged him on immigration, the elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the overturning of environmental regulations, and the loosening of restrictions on gun purchases by people with mental illnesses.  To strengthen its clout, the group has also joined forces with Planned Parenthood, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Working Families Party, New Jersey Citizen Action, Clean Water Action, and Blue Wave New Jersey, a coalition of progressive activists.

Most of NJ 11th for Change’s members are political neophytes, according to Rosenberg, himself a newcomer to activism. The group arranged a Skype session to discuss strategy with Ezra Levin, the founder of another new group, Indivisible, whose “how to” guide for protesting against and defeating Republicans has spawned about 6,000 local groups around the country in all 435 Congressional districts.

Its instigator, Ezra Levin, is a 31-year-old former staffer for Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas and, since 2013, the associate director of a D.C.-based anti-poverty group. After the election, he and his wife (Leah Greenberg, another former congressional staffer) invited friends to their living room for what he called a “grief counseling meeting for progressives.” Visiting Austin, Texas, over Thanksgiving, they met with some local “resistance” groups and discovered “lots of energy but a lack of direction about where to focus.”

When they returned to D.C., Levin and Greenberg met with others who had all worked on Capitol Hill in 2010 when the Tea Party emerged to thwart Obama’s presidency and push the Republicans further right. In a few days, they produced an easy-to-read document, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,” based on lessons they’d learned from the Tea Party, including sections on “How your Member of Congress thinks, and how to use that to save democracy,” and “Four local advocacy tactics that actually work.”[2]

Levin sent it to his 650 Twitter followers on a Wednesday night with this message: “Please share w/ your friends to help fight Trump’s racism, authoritarianism, & corruption on their home turf.”

Word spread quickly through social media and within a few hours the Google document crashed. “So we started a website,” Levin recalled. “Within eight weeks, the site had about 16 million views and two million downloads. About 270,000 people signed up to be on our email list. They wanted to know, ‘What can I do? Is there a local group in my city?’ So we added a registration function to the website. Twenty people would get together in someone’s living room and the next week 500 people would show up at a community center. Within a few days, 700 people showed up at a meeting in Fargo, North Dakota! Some folks in Alaska started a new group called 49 Moons—the length of time Trump would be in office.”

Indivisible sponsors weekly conference calls—some with 60,000 participants—that link its members with the ACLU, MoveOn.org, the Working Families Party, and other groups. After Trump announced his ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries, Indivisible hosted a conference call cosponsored by the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, with 35,000 people on the line, leading to thousands of phone calls to Congress and participants in protest rallies against Trump’s policy. Levin says they will do future conference calls with other groups around taxes, health care, reproductive rights, and other issues.

Indivisible joined with People’s Action and the Center for Popular Democracy (both nationwide networks of local community-organizing groups), MoveOn.org, and the Working Families Party to start #ResistTrumpTuesdays actions at Congress members’ and state legislators’ offices, to demand they publicly denounce Trump’s agenda and Cabinet appointments.

“We’ve all read the Indivisible manual,” explained Rosenberg of NJ CD11 for Change. “We know we have to apply the Tea Party tactics, but be more respectful. We’re angry and fed up, and we’re making ourselves known. Frelinghuysen is out of touch with the people in our district.”

After Trump’s victory, Meetup added a new network under the hashtag #Resist. Within a few weeks, more than a thousand new groups were created to engage in political action. Writer Laura Moser started Daily Action, a text message service that makes it easy for users to call their member of Congress. Since its launch in December, about 100,000 users have signed up, generating almost 10,000 calls per day against Trump’s agenda.

Part of the effort to neutralize Trump involves undermining some of the key pillars of his support as well as resisting efforts to “normalize” the man and his policies.

Several tech-savvy activist groups,  including MoveOn, Sleeping Giants, and Ultraviolent,  successfully waged a social media campaign against the right-wing white nationalist website Breitbart News, which had been run by Trump’s closest adviser Steve Bannon. Within a few months of Trump’s inauguration, they had successfully pressured more than 2,000 companies to stop advertising on the site.  In June, the Washington Post reported that Breitbart News had lost 90 percent of its advertising partners over the previous two months as a result of the boycott campaign.  Color of Change and other groups started a petition and social media campaign, called Grab Your Wallet, to push corporate chieftains to resign from Trump’s business advisory council; the first to quit was Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Partly in response to this upsurge of activism and the Trump administration’s own blunders, the media have changed the way they report and frame the president and his advisors.  The mainstream media have begun using the word “lie” in headlines and news stories to describe many Trump statements – an unprecedented shift in journalistic norms. They have added reporters and started new columns designed to fact-check Trump’s statements.[3]

Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Alec Baldwin, and Melissa McCarthy mock Trump on television on a regular basis. Meryl Streep spent six minutes condemning Trump at the Golden Globes award ceremony without mentioning his name, which nevertheless triggered one of Trump’s Twitter tantrums.[4]  Members of Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots and NBA champions Golden State Warriors announced they’d refuse to meet with Trump at the White House.  The vice president of the Baltimore Orioles said that if it were up to him, he wouldn’t let Trump throw out the first pitch on opening day. In fact, Trump declined to throw out the first ball at the Washington Nationals opening day game, fearing a chorus of boos. He was the first president in a century to decline to participate in this annual ritual.  This year’s Super Bowl featured commercials for Coca Cola, Budweiser, and other sponsors that promoted diversity and tolerance—a not-very-subtle dig at Trump’s attacks on immigrants, Muslims, and others. In one ad, hair-product company It’s A 10 warned viewers that we’re “in for four years of awful hair.”

Winning Elections

The burgeoning protest movement can push back against the Trump nightmare, but its success ultimately depends on whether it can translate the new wave of activism into enough victories for liberal and progressive Democrats at the local, state, and federal levels to win majorities and promote a progressive policy agenda.

Getting people to show up at a protest march is one thing. Getting them to walk precincts, make phone calls and send emails, and donate money for candidates is more difficult. Trump’s approval ratings are the lowest of any president so early in his first term, but people’s frustrations about Trump don’t necessary translate into their support for Democrats in state legislatures and Congress or, looking forward, the White House.  The big challenge for liberal and progressive issue-oriented groups is whether they can mobilize their supporters to participate in elections.

Immediately after Trump’s victory, it seemed implausible that Democrats could regain control of the House of Representatives, where they need to win a net 24 seats to have a majority. In November, Hillary Clinton beat Trump in 23 House districts that were won by Republican candidates for the House.  At the time, those 23 seats seemed the upper limit of potential Democratic shifts. Even if the Democrat incumbents held on to all their seats and Democrats won these 23 additional seats, it wouldn’t be enough to take back control of the lower chamber.

But the number of “swing” districts has grown in the wake of the Trump meltdown. Between January and May, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee expanded its list from 59 to 79 GOP-held seats it intends to target, hoping to take advantage of Trump’s historically low popularity, the upsurge of activism, and the growing local protests against House Republicans.[5]  Nine of these “swing” districts are in California, including several in Orange County, once a GOP bastion, but an area that Clinton won in 2016, the first Democrat to do so since Franklin Roosevelt.[6]

Many of these swing House districts are in suburban areas like Frelinghuysen’s district in New Jersey. At his peak in popularity, he won  re-election with 72 percent of the vote. But his victory last year, with 58 percent of the vote, was his lowest margin ever. Trump, meanwhile, beat Clinton by less than 1 percentage point—48.8 percent to 47.9 percent—in the district.   CD 11 for Change’s Rosenberg is confident a Democrat can beat Frelinghuysen in November 2018. “This is now a swing district,” he said, “and it can be swung to the Democratic side.”

Democrats around the country were hopeful that they could win two special elections in June in what had long been “safe” Republican districts in Georgia and South Carolina. Instead, both Democratic candidates — Jon Ossoff and Archie Parnell — narrowly lost.

Ossoff’s campaign in the Atlanta suburbs attracted the most attention and the most money. Last November, no political expert expected Georgia’s 6th Congressional district to be a hotly-contested swing district. For many years it was represented by right-wing Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich. When he retired, he was replaced by Tom Price, his ideological twin. After Trump picked Price to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, Ossoff, an unknown 30-year old documentary filmmaker, jumped into the race to replace Price in a special election.

The national Democratic Party did not initially support Ossoff’s campaign. The party leaders viewed it as a long shot at best. What propelled Ossoff’s campaign were hundreds of local volunteers – many of them political neophytes – who formed new local groups like PaveItBlue, Johns Creek-Milton Progressives Network, Roswell Resistance Huddle, and Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb, some of them connected through Indivisible, to support Ossoff.[7] Progressive groups like MoveOn and Daily Kos, and a strong endorsement from civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (who represents Atlanta in Congress) helped Ossoff raise millions of dollars, mostly in small-size donations. In the April primary, he came in first among 18 contenders, with 48 percent of the vote, only 3,700 shy of winning the 50 percent needed for victory. Instead, he faced a run-off with the second-place finisher, Karen Handel, a conservative Republican and former Georgia secretary of state. At that point, in part because of the contest’s symbolic value, the national Democratic Party began helping Ossoff. In fact, Democrats and Republicans from around the country poured money into the race, making it by far the most expensive U.S. House race in the nation’s history.

A week before the election, polls showed Ossoff with a narrow lead. But on Tuesday, Handel narrowly beat Ossoff by a 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent margin.

Similarly, in a special election in South Carolina on the same day, Republican Ralph Norman beat Democrat Archie Parnell by a 51.1 percent to 47.9 percent margin. Last November, Republican incumbent Mike Mulvaney beat his Democratic opponent by a 59.2% to 38.7% landslide. Mulvaney gave up his seat to become Trump’s budget director. At the time, few thought that this seat was up for grabs. The race attracted less attention than the Georgia contest, but it had many of the same dynamics — an upsurge of Democratic volunteers (particularly women) inspired by anti-Trump sentiment and fears of what the Republican-led Congress might do to health care and other issues, energized by the Women’s March and connected through Indivisible and other networks. Parnell raised $763,000 compared with Norman’s $1.3 million. The national Democratic Party didn’t invest in Parnell’s campaign until a month before the election.

Both the Georgia and South Carolina races were long shots for the Democratic candidates.  Both Ossoff and Parnell made huge strides in overcoming big Republican advantages.  Last November, Republicans won landslide victories in both districts. In June, two little-known Democratic candidates almost won. As a result, Ossoff’s and Parnell’s defeats in these special elections don’t necessarily portend similar results in the November 2018 House races.  Only 18 of the 79 “swing” House contests next year are in the South — six in Florida, four in North Carolina, three in Virginia, two each in Texas and Georgia, and one in Alabama.  The GOP advantage in most of the “swing” districts is nowhere as large as it was in the Georgia and South Carolina races.[8]

As part of the anti-Trump insurgency, progressives have added some new gadgets to the political machinery used to identify and support candidates.

Swing Left is a website that allows people to plug in their ZIP codes to find the nearest competitive House district. It was started by Ethan Todras-Whitehill, a writer in Amherst, Massachusetts, who hadn’t been politically involved before November.

“I live in a safe Democratic district,” said Todras-Whitehill, “but we’re not far from New York’s 19th Congressional District, where [Republican] John Faso beat Zephyr Teachout by just 26,000 votes.

“I posted a message on my Facebook page that I’m going to work there in 2018 to flip it to a Democrat. Then I asked myself: Why isn’t there an app to do this for me—to find the closest swing district? I called my best friend from high school, an entrepreneur in the Bay Area, and said, ‘Dude, we need to build this.’ He talked with his wife, who is a brand strategist. … It blew up faster than we could have imagined.”

Soon after the website went public, comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted, “Start thinking midterm elections now—this makes it CRAZY easy,” and linked to Swing Left’s website.

By early March, Swing Left had 300,000 people on its list, and information about 53 districts, researched by volunteers, on its website. It organized an initial conference call with 17,000 people, put together more than 500 teams, and organized local house meetings.[9] Swing Left partnered with Knock Every Door — a group started by Becky Bond, who ran the field operation for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign — to help train volunteers in the art of canvassing, voter registration, and recruiting volunteers.

“I don’t think the existing infrastructure can meet the moment and scale up grassroots participation on its own,” observed Bond. “We need new things.”

“Most of the mainstream liberal groups think that people can only do one thing at a time. Sign a petition. Give money. Make phone calls. But when people are angry or hopeful, they can do multiple things. They want to do something every day with other people. There are tons of people ready to get to work. They’re not waiting for national organizations to tell them what to do.”

Bond started Knock Every Door in January to enlist experienced organizers to train local volunteers in the skills of grassroots organizing, running campaigns, and recruiting progressive candidates. Bond’s approach resembles the Camp Obama training, which helped the Illinois senator win the White House in 2008, and similar efforts that catapulted Sanders from an obscure Vermont senator into a strong contender in the 2016 Democratic primaries.

“Democrats can’t depend on candidates who can self-finance,” Bond explained. “If you have the charisma to be a leader and are good on issues, you’ve got a shot. We can train them. We can help them organize their campaigns.”

Many people engaged in various resistance activities were part of Sanders’ campaign. Since November, Sanders has attended meetings and rallies across the country to keep his campaign’s momentum alive and make sure his followers have a strong voice within the Democratic Party. The group created out of his campaign, Our Revolution, has the benefit of Sanders’s volunteer and fundraising lists, and 900 local affiliated groups. It has supported progressive candidates for local, state, and congressional offices, like Pramila Jayapal, a community organizer and state legislator whom Seattle voters sent to Congress in November; Monica Kurth, who was elected to the Iowa state legislature in a special election in January; and Jane Kleeb, a leader of the fight against the Keystone pipeline, a founder of the progressive group Bold Nebraska, and a Sanders delegate to the Democratic convention, who was elected chair of Nebraska’s Democratic Party. But some activists have criticized the group for not investing its resources to hire field staff.  In May, Our Revolution, along with labor unions, Color of Change and other progressive groups helped activist Larry Krasner win the Democratic nomination for Philadelphia district attorney. In a city where Democratic voter registration outnumbers Republican by a factor of 7-to-1, Krasner is favored to become Philly’s next  DA in November.[10]

“Our goal is to build sustainable local groups that can work inside and outside the Democratic Party in all 3,143 counties in the country,” explained Larry Cohen, the former president of the Communications Workers of America who was a senior adviser on Sanders’s presidential campaign and is now chair of Our Revolution.

If Democrats can gain a majority in the House in November 2018, they can thwart Trump’s agenda by refusing to support any of his legislative initiatives. Democrats would become chairs of all the House committees. In those roles, they would have the legal authority to demand that the IRS release Trump’s tax returns, expand investigations into Trump’s business activities and Russian ties, and even begin impeachment proceedings. They could also sponsor progressive legislation to force House Republicans to vote on issues like the minimum wage, environmental regulations, funding for Planned Parenthood, taxing the wealthy and Wall Street, and others. This could help Democrats position Republicans running in November 2020.

But if the Democrats want to pass legislation, they not only have to take back the House but also the Senate and the White House.

Next year’s political map makes it almost impossible for Democrats to gain a majority in the Senate. The GOP will be defending just eight seats, while Democrats must fight for 23 — plus another two held by independents (Sanders and Angus King of Maine) who caucus with Democrats.  Eleven of the seats they must defend are in states won by Trump.  To gain a majority, the Democrats would have to hold on to all 25 seats and topple Republicans in at least three other states. But the Senate political map is more promising in 2020 when two-thirds of the seats up will be those held by Republicans (although only two of them are in states carried by Clinton last November).

They also have to regain influence in many state governments now controlled by Republicans and where key decisions – including redistricting (to challenge GOP-friendly gerrymandering in Congress and state legislatures) and policy choices on health care, education, and other issues — are made. Republicans now hold 33 of 50 governor positions. The GOP controls both state legislative chambers in 32 states and has total control—both legislative chambers and the governor’s office—in 25 states outright.

Clinton lost the presidency because of low turnout by Democratic-leaning voters in a few key states. Putting the White House back in Democratic hands in 2020 seems plausible if one assumes that a Democratic candidate could win the same states that Clinton won in 2016 and add at least the three states (Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania) that Trump won by very narrow margins.  Although Clinton won three million more votes than Trump nationwide, he had an Electoral College majority because he narrowly won those three states. Trump won those states by 0.2, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively — by 10,704, 44,292, and 22,748 votes – a total of 77,744 votes. Those three wins gave him 46 electoral votes. If Clinton had done one point better in each state, she’d have won the Electoral College vote.

In Wisconsin, Trump beat Clinton by a mere 22,748 votes out of more than 2.9 million votes cast. Statewide, Trump received about the same number of voters as Mitt Romney in 2012, but Clinton received almost 240,000 fewer votes than Obama did in 2012. The statewide decline in voter turnout was particularly devastating in Democratic strongholds. In 2011, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislature adopted tougher voter-registration laws, including a requirement that voters provide a photo ID to vote. This election law change had a chilling effect in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, which has a large African American and low-income population. According to Neil Albrecht, the Milwaukee Election Commission’s executive director, voter turnout in that city declined by 41,000 people between 2012 and 2016, with most of the drop-off coming in high-poverty districts. Voter-watchdog groups also said that Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles officials gave incorrect information to people seeking to obtain a photo-ID card.

Moreover, in all three states, Green Party candidate Jill Stein won more votes than Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton.  Had most of Stein’s supporters voted for Clinton, she would have won enough Electoral College votes to win the White House. If the Democrats invest more resources in those three states and are able to excite Democratic leaning but low-propensity voters, they should be able to prevail and gain an Electoral College majority.

A successful Democratic presidential candidate for 2020 will have to be somebody who has a record of accomplishment, played a key leadership role in opposing Trump’s policy initiatives, can win Democratic primaries that will be dominated by liberals, turn out black, Latino, young, and low-income voters, and win back some white, working-class, swing-state voters who voted for Trump.[11]

One has to assume that the next Democratic candidate will be facing off with Trump, but it is possible that he won’t want to run again or that he will be dethroned by the Republicans after causing enormous chaos and intra-party division. In that case, the most likely GOP candidate will be House Speaker Paul Ryan, who will be saddled with his support for Trump and his inability to pass significant legislation despite having a Republican majority in his chamber. Vice President Mike Pence will probably want to run, too, but he, too, will be saddled with the Trump legacy and, in any case, won’t have Trump’s wider appeal.

A strong Democratic candidate will need to draw a sharp contrast with Trump, Ryan, or Pence, all extreme conservatives. She or he can’t be too close to Wall Street, and must have a credible plan to promote jobs, improve the safety net for families, expand health care while controlling drug and insurance costs, expand workers’ rights, protect reproductive health, limit the sale and spread of military-style assault weapons to civilians, challenge racism in the criminal-justice system, and strengthen consumer and environmental protections. To win, the Democratic nominee will also need to be someone with charisma, able to withstand the Republican attack machine, and be free from personal controversy.

The prevalence of nonvoting challenges the widely discussed notion that Trump’s victory means that a majority of Americans voted for a racist, sexist demagogue. Only 26.7 percent of America’s 231.5 million eligible voters voted for Trump. The number of eligible voters doesn’t even include the more than 3.2 million prisoners and ex-prisoners who, depending on state laws, are denied the right to vote.   America’s low voter turnout is due primarily to our complex voter registration laws that place enormous obstacles to sign up to vote, exacerbated by the growing number of voter suppression laws adopted in recent years in Republican-controlled states.[12]

Ossoff’s defeat in Georgia illustrates the importance of investing in turnout.  In 2014, a mid-term election, long-time Republican incumbent Tom Price received 139,018 votes to only 71,486 for the Democratic candidate Robert Montigel.  Last November, a presidential year, Price won another landslide victory over his Democratic opponent Rodney Stookbury by 201,088 votes to 124,917 votes. Turnout increased for both candidates but Price still won a rout.  In June, Karen Handel beat Ossoff by 134,595 votes to 124,893 votes.  Thanks in part to the huge infusion of money and volunteers for his campaign, Ossoff doubled the number of Democratic voters that Montigel had received in 2014.  But he got 24 fewer votes than Stookbury, who was considered a sacrificial lamb in last November’s race with no chance to win. The reason that the Handel-Ossoff race was so close is because the number of Republican voters fell off dramatically.  Handel received 66,493 fewer votes in June than Price  did last November – clearly a reflection of Republican voters’ disapproval of Trump. Compared with November’s election, Ossoff did not expand the Democratic vote despite all the media attention, money, and volunteers his campaign attracted.

There is an important lesson to be learned from Ossoff’s loss as well as Parnell’s loss in South Carolina. A few days before the election, the Los Angeles Times described Ossoff’s last-minute effort to drive up the Black vote. Ossoff’s campaign, the Times reported, is “scrambling to engage with black voters, who make up 13% of the district’s electorate,” but a much smaller percentage of those who actually vote.[13]  The Wall Street Journal described a similar dynamic in South Carolina. On Tuesday morning, before the polls had opened, it reported, “South Carolina Democrats have spent recent weeks trying to build a machine to turn out the districts black voters.”[14] In that district, Blacks represent 28% of the potential voters but a much smaller percentage of actual voters.   In other words, the Democrat candidates in both races ignored the Black vote until the last minute. Then they parachuted organizers and operatives into the districts to rev up Democratic-leaning but low-propensity voters, particularly Black voters. Had Black turnout been higher, both Ossoff (who lost by 9,702 votes) and Parnell (who lost by 2,836 votes) probably would have won.

To win the Senate and the White House in 2020, Democrats have to increase turnout among African American, low-income, and young voters who, if they go to the polls, are more likely to vote Democrat.[15] They also have to win back some white working-class voters who supported Obama in 2012 but voted for Trump last November.

To achieve this goal, established groups like labor unions, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club, as well as new groups such as Indivisible and Swing Left, will need to work together to focus resources on conducting voter registration and turnout drives in key swing House districts as well as important swing states for governor, Senate and presidential races.

For example, Color of Change is one of several groups that are working to mobilize black voters.   The civil rights group is best known for its campaign to get corporations to withdraw from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative lobby group that pushed state legislators to support voter-ID and stand-your-ground gun laws. With 1.2 million members, Color of Change has primarily focused on fighting racial bias in the criminal justice system. Its primary strategy has been to mobilize black voters to elect progressive local district attorneys, prosecutors, county-level officials, and judges whose decisions shape voting laws, the number of polling places, whether to prosecute rogue cops that kill black residents, whether to plea bargain, how much bail to set, and what prison sentences to seek in court.

“For black communities, these are day-to-day, life-and-death decisions,” explained Arisha Hatch, executive director of the Color of Change PAC, which uses the campaign hashtag #VotingWhileBlack. “These are issues black voters care about. It is a way to translate resistance to Trump in a very concrete way.” Their strategy is not only to help elect more progressive local district attorneys, prosecutors, and judges but also to increase voter turnout among African Americans, which helps Democrats running for other offices.

Last November, Color of Change helped six of seven targeted candidates win races in Florida, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, and St. Louis. It enlisted more than 3,000 volunteers who sent text messages to more than three million voters, according to Hatch.

The variety of issue-oriented groups that engage in grassroots organizing tends to be progressive and generally support Democrats running for office. But the Democratic Party itself is not unified on policy or strategy, which varies from state to state and district to district.  The battle within the party in 2016 over the platform reflects that division. For example, Clinton supporters wanted to increase the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour, while Sanders supporters pushed for $15.  Of course, compared with their differences with Republicans, the splits within the Democratic Party are relatively minor – what Freud called “the narcissism of small differences” – but the activists don’t see it that way.

Although most party activists are progressives and provide candidates with large numbers of volunteers, the party still depends on big business and wealthy donors to fund its candidates’ campaigns. This makes some of its candidates susceptible to the accusation of being “corporate” Democrats, even if they are significantly more liberal than all Republicans. Moreover, if Democrats are going to win a majority of the seats in the House and Senate in 2018 and/or 2020 by gaining victories in “swing” or “purple” districts and states, they are not likely to all be as progressive as the Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Luis Gutierrez, and Karen Bass wing of the party.

Since the 1980s, the number of Democrats in Congress from the South – often called moderate “blue dog” Democrats — has declined dramatically. If the party is to begin to reverse this trend, it will need to recruit and support candidates like Ossoff, running in swing districts, including those in the South.  Ossoff’s views are considerably to the left of the former “blue dog” Democrats, but not as progressive as the Sanders/Warren wing of the party.   Sanders’ initial reluctance to endorse Ossoff because he was not “progressive” enough illustrates this strategic tension within the party. (Sanders eventually did endorse him).[16]

Some of these splits played out in the fight over who would become the Democratic National Committee chair.  Sanders’ followers backed Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He narrowly lost to Tom Perez, Obama’s labor secretary and a seasoned progressive who was unfairly characterized as the candidate of the party’s “establishment.” Perez immediately asked Ellison to serve as the DNC’s deputy chair, a bow to the Sanders wing and an effort to unite the party for the upcoming election cycle.

Building a Sustainable Progressive Movement

A crucial debate among the issue-oriented activist groups and within the Democratic Party is whether and how to translate the upsurge of activism into an ongoing, sustainable progressive movement that mobilizes people in between election cycles.

Since Trump’s election, many existing progressive groups have seen an increase of new members and contributions since the election. The ACLU’s dues-paying membership jumped from 400,000 to one million, with another million on its email list. Within three months after Trump’s election, it raised more than $50 million.

“We’re going to invest much of it to do grassroots organizing,” explained Faiz Shakir, a former staffer for Senator Harry Reid, who was hired in January as the ACLU’s first political director. In March, the ACLU held the first of a planned series of what it calls People Power “resistance training” workshops—conducted in Miami but live-streamed to more than 2,000 house meetings around the country—for its growing membership.

MoveOn.org saw a surge in the number of people on its email list, which now exceeds eight million. The number making a monthly contribution more than tripled to 75,000 within a few months after Trump’s election.

The Sierra Club saw a spike in donations, while its membership and supporter base climbed to 2.7 million. Trump’s election produced a large bump for Planned Parenthood, which faces defunding from Trump and Congress because it performs abortions at its health clinics. The group now has 9.5 million people on its email list.

The day after the January 21 Women’s March, Planned Parenthood co-sponsored a training workshop for 800 people in Washington, D.C. Most of them had never been involved in political activism before, said Kelley Robinson, the group’s deputy organizing director.

“The Women’s March gave them an opportunity to express their feelings,” explained Robinson. “But what happens next is equally important. Our message was: Don’t make this a one-time thing. Go back home and be an organizer.”

Within a month after the women’s march, Planned Parenthood had recruited 50,000 volunteers—called Defenders—who pledged to take some action—a phone call to Congress, attending a rally—at least once a week to oppose defunding Planned Parenthood and Obamacare.

Even the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has gained new members and donors, thanks to socialist Bernie Sanders’s growing prominence and the fear incited by Trump. A legacy of the Socialist Party that began in the early 1900s, DSA was languishing in early 2016 with only 6,200 members. By April it had nearly 20,000 members and 121 local chapters, according to national director Maria Svart.

Going forward, a big issue is whether the hundreds of organizations within the liberal and progressive world can coordinate and collaborate to increase their overall effectiveness.  This mosaic of groups includes unions, Planned Parenthood, the Working Families Party, MoveOn.org, the Sierra Club, the Center for Popular Democracy, the Center for Community Change, EMILY’s List, Next Generation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Human Rights Campaign, People’s Action, the NAACP, PICO, the National Council of La Raza, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, United We Dream, the ACLU, Demos, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Wellstone Action, Mijente, Color of Change, Caring Across Generations, and many others.  When progressive activists are asked to identify how they are working together to challenge Trump and build momentum for the 2018 and 2020 elections, they talk about the different “tables”  — meetings, conference calls, coalitions — they are invited to. But it is still unclear if this web of organizations can join forces and coordinate efforts in ways that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

A big dilemma for the progressive movement and the Democratic Party is the weakened labor movement. Unions are the backbone of every social democratic country with a strong safety net and robust rights and protections for workers, women, and consumers.  Unions are much weaker in the U.S. than in Europe, Canada, Australia and other nations, but they have served as a major source of votes, volunteers, and money for liberal and progressive candidates. Unions’ ability to bankroll elections for friendly Democrats is tiny in comparison to money that corporations and wealthy reactionaries like the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and the Waltons provide conservative Republicans. Labor’s steady pummeling and resulting decline in membership—now only 10.7 percent of the workforce, one-third what it was in the 1950s—means it has fewer people to mobilize for campaigns and to turn out on Election Day. In 2016, union households represented only 18 percent of all voters.

Even so, unions remain the largest constituency in the progressive landscape, with close to 15 million members. Unions still provide considerable funding for Democratic candidates and progressive coalitions, but their political budgets are much slimmer than they were only a decade ago.

Unions are in a fight for their very survival. Trump has declared war on organized labor, although the construction unions—whose leaders met with him at the White House in February, praising him for greenlighting the Keystone and Dakota pipeline projects and for pledging to push Congress to adopt a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan—didn’t seem to notice. The number of Republican-dominated states that have passed anti-union “right to work” laws has increased from 22 in early 2012 to 28 today, including once-union-friendly states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. Republicans have designed these laws to weaken unions and remove one of the progressive movement’s key pillars. Public employee unions also expect the Supreme Court to rule against them in a case initiated by right-wing groups that would ban automatic dues payments, which would dramatically cut their overall budgets and capacity.[17] Unions will be prioritizing several governors’ races next year in order to thwart and reverse the right-to-work momentum.

Without the labor movement as the Democrats’ fulcrum, there’s no key power player that can bring all the core constituencies together to strategize about targets, resources, recruiting and training candidates, policy, voter registration and turnout, and message. Perhaps the new leadership of the Democratic National Committee can play that role, but they have not yet been tested.

Ossoff’s Congressional campaign in suburban Atlanta, like dozens of other anti-Trump movements and Democratic campaigns in Republican and swing districts, generated a lot of excitement and recruiting lots of people, including many who have never been involved in politics before. It provides a good example of the need to combine electoral organizing and movement-building.

Ossoff’s campaign enlisted hundreds of volunteers. For many of them, it was their first engagement in political activism. Now that he has lost that race, what will happen to all those volunteers? What will happen to the many people who developed new skills and an appetite for politics and organizing? What will happen to the social networks that developed during the campaign between people who hadn’t known each other before or who at least hadn’t worked together in some political enterprise?   What will happen to the new volunteer groups — Pave It Blue,  Johns Creek-Milton Progressives Network, Roswell Resistance Huddle, Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb, and Indivisible – that emerged in that Congressional district?

The national Democratic Party helped raise significant funds to help Ossoff’s campaign, but will it continue to invest in that suburban Atlanta area to build an ongoing movement infrastructure, not only to help Ossoff win if he decides to run in November 2018, but also to help candidates for other local and state offices? Will the issue-oriented groups – the  unions, environmental groups, the Democracy Alliance, and others –invest money to hire full-time organizers to build a permanent liberal organization/coalition after the election is over?  Will they recruit and train leaders to run for other offices in that Congressional district – city councils, school boards, and, importantly, the state legislature – and keep the activists who helped Ossoff in motion for those other electoral campaigns?  Will the people who were activated by Ossoff’s campaign – motivated in part by opposition to Trump and his policies – stay together not only for other electoral campaigns but also for other issue campaign, like protecting Planned Parenthood, working on environmental issues,  protecting undocumented immigrants in their communities, fighting for affordable housing, or even supporting workers efforts to unionize (there are still unions in Georgia) or raise the state minimum wage?

After most liberal/progressive Democratic electoral victories, the campaign infrastructure disbands, and grassroots leaders and volunteers who emerged during the campaign go back to doing what they did before. Will the upsurge of anti-Trump activism and the efforts to win a Democratic majority in the House translate into building a sustainable movement for change, even in places like the Atlanta suburbs?

The Democrats’ mistake in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania last year and in Georgia and South Carolina this year wasn’t simply failing to focus campaign resources on Black and other Democratic-leaning but low-propensity voters. Most Democratic leaders and suffer from a kind of short-term-itis that limits their ability to think beyond the next election cycle. Studies of voter turnout reveal that people are more likely to vote if they’ve developed trust and social relationships with other people through ongoing activities (including churches, sports activities, and issue-organizing campaigns), that people are more likely to vote is someone they know contacts them one-on-one, and that people are more likely to vote if they’ve been involved in some kind of activism in-between elections. You can’t build that kind of trust and organizational capacity by dropping into Congressional districts a few months before Election Day. The Koch brothers and their fellow Republican billionaires understand this. They’ve spent the last decade investing in building a conservative and Republican political infrastructure that turns out the vote on Election Day but also engages people in-between election cycles.[18] It isn’t just about last-minute TV ads.

The various wings of the liberal and progressive movement, in partnership with the Democratic Party, need to find a way to work together to build an ongoing organizational infrastructure in-between election cycles.  Otherwise, they will blow this opportunity to take advantage of all the exciting political activism that has emerged since Trump’s inauguration.

These are the kind of questions that many activists had hoped that the DNC, under the leadership of Tom Perez and Keith Ellison, would address to not only rebuild the Democratic Party but also keep the grassroots base involved and energized after 2018.

At the DNC’s February meeting in Atlanta, delegates not only elected Perez as chair but also elected Maria Elena Durazo—longtime leader of the hotel workers’ union and champion for immigrant rights—as the party’s vice chair. As the head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Durazo helped transform Los Angeles and California into labor-friendly and Democratic bastions.

“The party’s bad habits won’t just disappear,” she explained. “We have to change the party’s culture. We have to focus on organizing.”

“If we’re going to think about building a progressive movement for the long haul—not just the next election cycle—we have to turn these new activists into leaders, we have to invest in them,” said Durazo, who is the daughter of immigrant farm workers. “They know they need more training so they can strengthen their organizations and increase their numbers. They want to develop their skills, not be told to show up at the next action.”

“We have thousands of talented organizers in our movement,” she added. “They know how to develop leaders, recruit candidates, run political campaigns, build sustainable organizations, and engage in nonviolent direct actions that win results. But that takes resources and a commitment to movement-building. That’s what the DNC should be doing.”

Conclusion

Many Americans — not just liberals and progressives — view the prospect of four years of Donald Trump in the White House as frightening. He has already inflicted much suffering on vulnerable Americans, and more pain is in the offing. It is uncharted territory. Nobody has a clear road map. But the upsurge of protest in the streets and political activism in the precincts is promising — not only to win back the House next year and put a progressive Democrat in the White House in 2020, but also to build an ongoing movement for change.

Containing Trump, and using that energy to rebuild a persuasive progressivism, is a challenge unlike any other we’ve faced. Looking back on a century of organizing, there were periods when large numbers of ordinary people were mobilized for years, even for decades. But the struggles to build unions, the anti-war movement of the 1960s, and the fights for civil rights, women’s rights, disability rights, LGBT rights, and environmental justice were each about a reasonably well-defined project with concrete objectives.

The movement to resist Trump is in a whole other category. Its goal is nothing less than to save American democracy, and then to use that mass mobilization to resume the project of creating a humane America that is more like social democracy than corporate plutocracy. The challenges are on multiple fronts, but never has the need for solidarity been so urgent. To succeed, this movement will require a permanent increase in the level of popular engagement—a reinvigoration of democracy to save democracy.

The stakes have never been higher. Trump is too dark a threat to use words like “blessing in disguise.” The best response is to defeat Trump’s fake populism and his appeals to fear and bigotry by showing the world that the American people are more decent than he is.

 

Footnotes:
[1] James Hohmann, “Thwarted in Washington, the Koch network racks up conservative victories in the states,” Washington Post, June 27, 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/06/27/daily-202-thwarted-in-washington-the-koch-network-racks-up-conservative-victories-in-the-states/5951647ce9b69b2fb981de5d/?utm_term=.3d4de6515026 ; Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, 2011; Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, 2016; Theda Skocpol, “Who Owns the GOP?” Dissent, February 3, 2016  https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/jane-mayer-dark-money-review-koch-brothers-gop; Theda Skocpol and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, “The Koch Network and Republican Extremism,” Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 14, No. 3, September 2016 http://terrain.gov.harvard.edu/files/terrain/files/the-koch-network-and-republican-party-extremism.pop-sept2016.pdf; David Callahan, The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age, 2017; Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, 2017.

[2]Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda https://www.indivisibleguide.com/guide/

[3] See, for example, David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson, “Trump’s Lies,” New York Times, June 23, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html?_r=0

[4] At 3:27 am on January 9, 2017, Trump tweeted the following: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big.”

[5]Christina Marcos, “House Democrats Expand 2018 Targets,” The Hill, May 22, 2017 http://thehill.com/homenews/house/334559-house-democrats-expand-2018-targets; Jim Newell, “The Class of Trump: Why Democrats Feel So Comfortable Trying to Expand the 2018 Map,” Slate, May 22, 2017. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/05/democrats_just_expanded_their_targets_for_2018_house_races_why_that_s_so.html

[6] Christine Mai-Duc, “Democrats Target 7 Congressional Seats Held By California Republicans for 2018 Midterm Elections,” Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-dccc-sets-sights-on-seven-california-1485806622-htmlstory.html

[7] Trip Gabriel and Richard Fausset, “In Georgia, Anti-Trump Activism Stirs Democratic Hopes,” New York Times, April 4, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/us/georgia-special-election-jon-ossoff.html; Rebecca Traister, “Can the New Activist Passion of Suburban White Women Change American Politics?” The Cut, June 19, 2017; https://www.thecut.com/2017/06/jon-ossoff-karen-handel-georgia-race-white-suburban-women-activists.html?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=s3&utm_campaign=sharebutton-t; E.J. Graff, “Trump’s Victory Inspired Thousands of Women to Get Involved in Politics,” Mother Jones, July/August 2017;

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/06/indivisible-women-resistance-trump;Michelle Goldberg, “Will the 6th District Swing Left?” Slate, June 19, 2017; http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/06/jon_ossoff_s_campaign_to_take_georgia_s_6th_district_for_democrats_comes.html?wpsrc=sh_all_mob_fb_top

[8] David Wasserman, “GA-06: Why Handel’s Win Isn’t a Disaster for Democrats,” Cook Political Report, June 21, 2017 http://cookpolitical.com/story/10391; Nate Silver, “Where Can Democrats Win?” FiveThirtyEight, June 21, 2017 https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/where-can-democrats-win-georgia-6-ossoff-handel/

[9] By June, SwingLeft had expanded its list to 64 swing House districts – 47 of them held by Republicans. It defines a swing district as one where “the last  election was won by 15% of the vote or less, where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump, or where a high concentration Swing Left volunteers make certain districts very winnable.” https://swingleft.org/about

[10]Alexander Sammonway, “After a Career Suing Cops, This Lawyer Wants to Be Philly’s Next District Attorney,” Mother Jones, May 12, 2017  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/05/larry-krasner-district-attorney-philadelphia-reformer

[11] Peter Dreier, “Twenty in ‘20,” American Prospect, January 18, 2017. http://prospect.org/article/twenty-20

[12] Peter Dreier, “Democrats Must Mobilize America’s Largest Political Party: Nonvoters,” American Prospect, November 23, 2016.  http://prospect.org/article/democrats-must-mobilize-americapercentE2percent80percent99s-largest-political-party-nonvoters.

[13]Evan Halper, “The black vote is key in Georgia’s House race — but can Democrats energize it?” Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2017 http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-georgia-democrats-blacks-20170616-story.html

[14] Reid Epstein, “Black Vote Is Key in South Carolina,” Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2017.

[15] Anthony Fowler, “Regular Voters, Marginal Voters and the Electoral Effects of Turnout,” Political Science Research and Methods, Volume 3, Issue 2, May 2015.

[16] Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “Jon Ossoff and the Future of the Democratic Party,” The New Yorker, April 19, 2017  http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/jon-ossoff-and-the-future-of-the-democratic-party; Ben Kamisar, “Sanders Endorses Ossoff, But Won’t Call Him a Progressive,” The Hill, April 21, 2017 http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/329927-sanders-endorses-ossoff-but-wont-call-him-a-progressive

[17] Adam Liptak, “Unions Come Into the Justices’ Cross Hairs, Again,” New York Times, June 12, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/us/politics/unions-come-into-the-justices-cross-hairs-again.html

[18] James Hohmann, “Thwarted in Washington, the Koch network racks up conservative victories in the states,” Washington Post, June 27, 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/06/27/daily-202-thwarted-in-washington-the-koch-network-racks-up-conservative-victories-in-the-states/5951647ce9b69b2fb981de5d/?utm_term=.3d4de6515026

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