And now, finally, for some good news. From the broadest landscape, the biggest structural shift between the Obama administration and what so far has transpired under Donald Trump is that last administration faced an opposition Congress while this one does not. Congress is on Trump’s side, at least for now.
This means that the responsibility for fighting Trump is squarely on the people. Those who favor sanity in their government know that they can’t rely on Congress to keep the president on his political meds.
The good news is that the people are responding. From yesterday’s New York Times:
Protests against the Republican agenda have become routine since President Trump took office, with momentum building through widely shared videos of lawmakers being confronted by constituents angry over efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now, national groups see the recess as the chance to capitalize on that local activism, with a show of might aimed at declaring the arrival of a new, and sustainable, political force — barely three months after their humiliating defeat in November.
The story suggests that the real impetus is coming from the people. Arms of the Democratic party and independent but aligned organizations such as MoveOn.org are not in the vanguard. They are struggling to keep up with a far more locally-based and pure nascent activism. From the same article:
In fact, some of the most formidable and well-established organizing groups on the left have found themselves scrambling to track all of the local groups sprouting up through social media channels like Facebook and Slack, or in local “huddles” that grew out of the women’s marches across the country the day after the inauguration.
This is how it should be. It is our country. Contrast this to the logical scenario if Trump was facing a Congress in which one or both chambers was controlled by democrats. A dynamic superficially similar to the Obama years would have emerged. The key difference would have been that the democrats wouldn’t have had the inclination to block Trump as Republicans did Obama. That’s to our credit. The democrats also would have lacked the discipline even if it they wanted to simply block everything. It is not in our DNA. Instead, some the hardest edges would have been taken off Trump’s bad ideas and they would have become law.
That landscape would have been a replay of the Reagan years. It would have been less dramatic and less likely to have inspired the spontaneous grass roots reaction – much of it comprised of heretofore apolitical people — that is happening today.
The reality underlying all this is that the emergence of the Internet and, more recently, social media has democratized political action. Many people think that the change was first felt in the Tea Party battle against the Affordable Care Act. Others say that change first was apparent in the fight against George Bush’s drive to reform Social Security in 2005.
Whatever the timing, the tools have been refined. Now is the time to drive a wedge between Congress and the president. Make no mistake: As many republicans in Washington as democrats think Trump is nuts. The difference is that he is their nut. It’s a fragile alliance, and the damage can be minimized by convincing republican politicians that that their re-election chances are endangered by support for Trump. Once enough republican politicians believe this, the situation fundamentally changes.
The prospects in 2018 are not good for the democrats in either the House or the Senate. That is unfortunate. It is far from a hopeless situation, however. If Trump’s approval ratings crater into the 20-percent range – he already is below 40 percent, an unheard of level for a new president – the House will be in play. Pressure as the mid-terms approach will have a deep impact on how the politicians act and subsequently vote. Each is fighting his or her race and will cast votes accordingly. There is value in the protests even if neither chamber flips.
The president is a flamboyant tool. A majority of Americans know it. Elected republicans know it. His Gallup numbers reflect it. His opposition is engaged and organized at the grass roots and in Washington. That dislike has coalesced into a sustained movement.
Donald Trump will do a lot of damage. But, amid that carnage, there is good news.