The resistance to the travesty of Donald Trump’s presidency is holding up just fine, thank you very much.
As we approach the 100th day of the Trump administration, a tremendous amount of attention and coverage will be devoted to analyzing its impact and efficacy. But I would also like to take time to celebrate the impact and efficacy of the resistance.
I must say that the issue of resilience was one that I worried and wondered about from the beginning: For far too many Americans in this digital age, stamina is rare, attention spans are short and the urge for instant gratification, or at least for expedient resolution, is enormous.
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I worried that modern shortsightedness would prevent resisters from seeing the long game, that the exhaustion of constant outrage would numb them to unrelenting assault.
But, to my great delight, my worry was unfounded. Not only is the movement still strong, it appears to be getting stronger. People have found a salve for their sadness: exuberant agitation. Far from growing limp, the Trump resistance is stiffening and strengthening.
As John Cassidy put it this month in a progress report on the resistance in The New Yorker: “Indeed, what is striking is how many people Trump has mobilized who previously didn’t pay very much attention to what happens in Washington. He has politicized many formerly apolitical people; ultimately, this may be among his biggest achievements as president.”
These comments came specifically in reference to the throngs of resisters showing up at lawmakers’ town hall events, sometimes in record numbers. They are passionate, vocal and confrontational. They are not bowing down; they are holding their representatives accountable and giving a very visual reinforcement to the threat that defending Trump or supporting his agenda will be punished at the ballot box.
The Republican House Oversight and Government Reform chairman, Jason Chaffetz, who made a surprise announcement last week that he would not seek re-election in 2018, found this out firsthand. As Mother Jones put it:
“The once-brash congressional inquisitor has twisted himself into a pretzel trying to explain why he hasn’t been investigating President Trump, the most conflict-ridden commander-in-chief in modern U.S. history. And the 50-year-old congressman has experienced an unexpected level of outrage in his own deep red district.”
In February, constituents swarmed Chaffetz’s town hall in efforts to (what he called) “yell and scream.” At the time he put on a defiant face: “I thought it was intended to bully and intimidate. But, the last four elections in Utah in a row I’ve won the widest margin of anybody playing at this level.”
Well, that’s over.
Not only are people showing up to town halls, they are clogging their lawmakers’ phone lines, which is surprisingly important.
As Kathryn Schulz pointed out last month in The New Yorker: “There are a great many ways to petition the government, including with actual petitions, but, short of showing up in person, the one reputed to be the most effective is picking up the phone and calling your congressional representatives.”
Schulz went on to explain: “For mass protests, such as those that have been happening recently, phone calls are a better way of contacting lawmakers, not because they get taken more seriously but because they take up more time – thereby occupying staff, obstructing business as usual, and attracting media attention.”
Furthermore, young people are particularly unhappy with Trump and turning against him. A Gallup poll released last week found that the percentage of respondents ages 18-34 who believed Trump keeps his promises fell a whopping 22 points in the two months from early February to early April, from 56 percent to just 34 percent.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, young people ages 18-29 also give Trump his highest disapproval rating (63 percent) of any age group.
But these young people aren’t just stewing and complaining. They’re taking action.
As Time magazine reported this month: “For more than 15,000 students across the country, Wednesday marked the first day of Resistance School – a program where the educational focus is mobilizing against President Donald Trump’s administration.”
As the magazine explained, the “school” was organized by “a group of Harvard graduate students” and offers “lessons on mobilizing activists and sustaining long-term resistance.”
Finally, and perhaps most importantly: money. Wired magazine reported this month that the resistance is “weaponizing data” with the emergence of a new nonprofit, crowdsourcing fundraising tool called Flippable. It was founded by “three former Hillary Clinton campaign staffers” and pinpoints “which districts it believes are the most competitive for Democrats (the most ‘flippable')” and allows donors to target those districts.
Taken together, all signs are looking up for the movement. The Trump administration, from pillar to post, is an unmitigated disaster, lumbering forward and crushing American ideas and conventions as it does. Damage is being done, there is no doubt, but Americans are not taking it lying down. They are standing in opposition. They are feeling their power. They are energized, and I’m very much encouraged.