As protest spreads….renegotiating bad deals

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.

Image result for Dakota access pipeline protestTrump’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 Roseville police escort Rep. Tom McClintock through an audience from the Tower Theatre in Roseville, California on Feb. 4.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.

And public school teachers, unable to prevent Senate confirmation of Betsy Protesters gather outside Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington to oppose a visit by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.DeVos as Secretary of Education, tried to keep her from physically entering their schools.

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.

About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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5 Responses to As protest spreads….renegotiating bad deals

  1. olderwoman says:

    When I get a chance, I’m going to pull out my Gerlach and Hine notes for a blog post. Maybe we can have a dialog. I’m less worried about protest being too diffuse than about alienating those who don’t like protest. My G&H post will be about division of labor. Even a little Christian rhetoric possibly about the Body of Christ.

    • I’m always eager to engage with you. I think alienation is inevitable, but some approaches can make it worse….like the anti-Milo protests in Berkeley.

      But we live in a very divided country, and everyone’s not going to be happy.

  2. Hi, David. I heard your interview on NPR and just now found your blog. I appreciate your work on protests and am interested in your initial opinion on a newer resistance movement called White Rose Resistance.

    Here is a brief description of it:

    White Rose Resistance (WRR) is a thorn in the side of an oppressive government. A movement of citizens who will provide the counterweight to the autocracy.

    There are other groups forming, but clustered around single cause concerns or, equally problematic, general unrest.

    Working from written guides for activists and team leaders, local WRR groups will operate as part of a whole, with a national, COHESIVE, and DISCIPLINED approach to resistance. When WRR protesters are on the scene they aren’t splintered, they aren’t infighting, they aren’t voicing their own personal concerns above all else, fracturing the message. They are speaking as one voice so the movement is taken as a force to be reckoned with.

    This will not silence you. It will silence those who would otherwise hear disparate voices and think, “These people don’t even know what they’re mad about!”

    You can still attach specific concerns. At an event protesting how Trump and his family are trying to profit off the Presidency, for example, attendees would be coached to say, “We’re here to tell Trump to stop treating America as his own piggy bank. And on a personal level, I’m also here because [concern].”

    There’s a lot to do and say; we find ourselves at a critical time where we are diligently advancing our cause on many fronts simultaneously. We are actively recruiting, establishing groups across the country, negotiating with suppliers, promoting our Facebook and Twitter presence, arranging travel and accommodations for those at risk that need to get to a safe location, planning events such as sit-ins and freedom rides, and fundraising – all concurrently.

    Because of the speed at which the administration is dismantling civil liberties and the promise of a free America that welcomes the poor and oppressed, and the speed at which he is destroying international relations and goading other powers into confrontation, we don’t have the luxury of time.

    Donations are going directly to implement our actions—to make WRR a banner under which the snowflakes can become an avalanche. By working together on specific campaigns, each having a clear stated purpose and unwavering message, we can effect resistance.

    A part of doing so effectively is branding and awareness. Letting others of like mind know where they can find us, and what they can do. Towards this goal we’re actively fundraising to promote our page and site, to produce and distribute branded materials, merchandise, pamphlets, and kits, and to begin moving those who are at the greatest risk.

    You, and others, have an opportunity to take part. If you’ve ever imagined yourself as a part of the French Resistance, or refusing to go to the back of the bus, or joining Dumbledore’s Army; if you’ve ever thought or said, “If I was there, at that time, I would have…”

    This is the time. This is your chance. Stand with us, share our strength, and offer your own in return. Join us.

    • Thanks for your comments, Nancy. The original White Rose provides an inspiring but frustrating model, because it was quashed so quickly and harshly. We hope for better this time, both because of a broader and more diverse resistance, and because of some faith in our institutions.

      • Nancy Sawyer Thomas says:

        I appreciate your response, David. It is heartening to see the growth of these resistance movements, and I certainly hope White Rose is more successful than the original! Thank you for your important work, which I will continue to follow.

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