The Resistance is evolving, and growing in strength
Something is afoot in American politics these days.
When massive, spontaneous protests took shape mere days into the new Trump administration, many observers and pundits were left asking whether the reflexive anger of the millions of voters who took to the streets would dissipate, grow, or evolve as the reality of the next four years set in.
Looking at news around the country in the past week, it appears that we are beginning to be able to answer that question.
While some feared that the energy of the early mass protests would taper off without clear direction, objectives, or a theory of change, politically reawakened citizens have been using the energy that brought them to the streets and directing it toward members of Congress who in the eyes of many have been too passive in the face of an aggressive and chaotic administration.
From Maine, to Virginia, to Utah, to Kentucky, to Iowa, Republican members of Congress are being overwhelmed – both in-person at town hall meetings and over their phones, emails, and even fax machines – by constituents demanding that their senators and representatives do their constitutional duty and check the power of an increasingly reactionary and erratic president, and to cease actions that would imperil the lives of millions of individuals whose access to health care is tied to the Affordable Care Act; a piece of legislation that Republican members have vowed to dismantle without any clear plan to ensure that those covered under the ACA would continue to be able to access care.
Through this evolution in action toward more sustained, specific, and targeted activism, these activists are showing that they are learning an essential lesson: recognizing where in the landscape of political power protest and civic participation can make a maximum impact, and developing impactful tactics to use the power of their collective action to influence that landscape. Shows of mass support or protest have been and will remain to be essential tools in building a successful movement of resistance, but the development of these more complex organizing structures at the grassroots are absolutely essential in building a movement that will persist.
Members of Congress may try to downplay the movement that is growing beneath them, or they may try to avoid interacting with their constituents when the return to their districts during this congressional recess, but they will do so at their own peril. If constituents have enough passion and anger to take to the streets in the thousands and millions to voice their desire for a different political direction (which they have), and then have the political education to be able to recognize that their senators and representatives hold the power to bring about that change (which they are), then it’s not a stretch to imagine these people showing up at the polls in 2018 if their concerns go unheard or unaddressed, and the outrages of the Trump administration continue unabated.
Political engagement is a habit-forming activity, and as tactics evolve, activists are turning that habit into a movement.
To get more involved, consider attending the Maine Resistance Summit in Augusta on March 5th.
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