Puzder’s withdrawal is a victory for the resistance, but next time won’t be so easy
On Wednesday afternoon, the Labor movement scored a major victory as Labor Secretary candidate Andrew Pudzer became the first nominee to the Trump Cabinet to go down in flames, with Puzder withdrawing his candidacy in the face of unanimous opposition among Senate Democrats and growing uncertainty as to whether he had enough Republican support to win a floor vote.
While sustained progressive organizing on Puzder’s atrocious record on labor issues appears to have been critical in keeping the Democratic caucus in solid and essential opposition to his nomination, there is increasing evidence that his erosion of support from the GOP, on the other hand, was borne out of Puzder’s past support for immigration reform (although, to be clear, Puzder’s record even here was, at best, highly problematic). After seeing progressive lobbying efforts to peel off Republican votes fall short in higher-profile cases cases like Education Secretary pick Betsy DeVos, it is distressing that even in this repudiation of a radically unfit Trump Cabinet pick, members of the Republican caucus seemed to be doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.
Within the larger framework of organized political resistance to the Trump administration, however, it is important to view the Senate’s imperfect rejection of Puzder in a wider context: the Senate has demonstrated its capacity to deny the President what he wants, and in doing so has reasserted itself as a key leverage point in resisting the administration. For better or worse, this nomination failure represents the first instance in which Congress has exercised any meaningful check on Trump’s power to enact his agenda, and creates an opening for effective organizing at the congressional level to yield results in pushing back against the administration. If the members of the Senate GOP are indeed signalling that their support for Trump –rather than being absolute– extends only as far as his alignment with their self-interest, it is within the political power of mass movements to change how senators interpret what their self-interest looks like.
Trump, with his departure from social and political norms, authoritarian tendencies, and startling disregard for basic facts, has made it clear that rather than acknowledging the concerns of the people, he will simply and emphatically ignore or demean them. This creates a novel set of strategic problems with which organizers and activists are continuing to grapple.The process of producing enough pressure to make members of Congress question whether or not supporting Trump will work against their own self-interest, however, is a strategy that does not require the reinvention of the wheel.
Concerned citizens are continuing to organize, and with the previously unbroken wall of Republican appeasement starting to crack amid divisions revealing themselves within the caucus, Republicans must now begin to ask themselves how far they can follow their standard-bearer in the White House before he leads them over a cliff in the next election cycle. The fact that they even have to start asking themselves that question is a victory worth celebrating. The fact that they don’t yet seem sure means that we still have a lot of work to do.
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