I gave up on keeping on top of all the anti-Trump protests spreading across the United States, but the emerging resistance certainly isn’t giving up. People who marched in one of the women’s march or protested ant-Muslim travel restrictions at the airports–or just cheered those who did–have fanned out to carry on the political battle.
Some of it is focused on specific issues, like reproductive rights. Last weekend when anti-abortion activists staged protests at Planned Parenthood clinics, their opponents held larger rallies away from the clinics on behalf of the cause and the organization.
Abortion politics hasn’t really disappeared since Roe v. Wade, but the new wave of protests signals an uptick in public concern, which will only increase during hearings on the next appointment to the Supreme Court. Candidate Trump promised to push to restrict abortion and stop funding Planned Parenthood. Anti-abortion activists will expect him to deliver on these promises, while reproductive rights activists will work hard to stop him. There’s absolutely no ready resolution in sight, and the protests and conflicts will continue even when there’s little national attention.
Trump’s commitment to resurrecting the Dakota Access Pipeline invites the resumption of contention. The Standing Rock Sioux have environmental groups have both continued their opposition in the courts, and protests at the construction site will soon resume as well. Meanwhile, supporters across the nation who are not prepared to decamp to the Standing Rock reservation are looking for more proximate targets, organizing divestment campaigns, for example, from pipeline investors like Wells Fargo.
In an odd reprise of the Tea Party protests at Congressional town hall meetings in 2009, opponents of the promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act have swarmed meetings organized by Republican legislators. They’re bringing questions about health care, mass deportations, and conflicts of interest; even more obviously, they’re bringing anger and vigorous political engagement. Across the country, activists are downloading the Indivisible Guide for coordinated resistance, engaging mainstream politics as well as protest.
Thus far, most Republican members of Congress have postponed their own town meetings, perhaps hoping that the anger will dissipate some time in the next two years. I’m not sure that’s a good bet.
Hillary Clinton carried 23 districts that elected Republicans to the House of Representatives, creating obvious electoral targets for the emerging resistance. In California’s 45th district, where I live, demonstrators have regularly turned out to protest Republican Rep. Mimi Walters’s refusal to meet with them. I suspect there are similar campaigns across the country that are not generating national headlines.
It’s all overwhelming and exhausting. The anti-Trump protesters don’t agree on everything, but share a contempt for the new president and a commitment to stop his administration from delivering on its agenda. Thus far, the administration’s simultaneously aggressive and sloppy approaches to politics and policy have fed the resistance.
Trump’s opponents face the challenge of finding ways to continue in the face of the policy defeats they’ll face in the short term. They must also forge connections among their issues to present a relatively unified political movement. The administration is trying to make policy gains on many fronts at once, defying the conventional wisdom for presidents to prioritize and focus. As a result, the opposition is also fighting on many fronts at the same time as well.
These diverse efforts can all make progress in the same way, increasing the costs and risks to Republican politicians for supporting Trump. Many already disagree with the administration on some issues: immigration, Russia, health care. They’ve made an explicit bargain to look the other way on differences in hopes of making inroads on issues they care about: cutting taxes or restricting access to abortion. The activists are working to make that bargain look like a very bad deal.