Democrats don’t control the White House, the Senate, or the House of Representatives. Some feel we are therefore powerless to stop the damage the Trump agenda will do. The majority of Americans didn’t want Donald Trump to be president, but, thanks to the Electoral College—with an assist from the Russian government—he is.
In the science fiction series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the most unrelenting nemesis for the crew of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise is the cybernetic hive-minded Borg. The Borg intone one threat: “Resistance is futile.” In our battles against the Trump administration, the American people are now wondering, is it?
The answer from these first two weeks is unequivocally no. As bad as the situation is—and I certainly don’t underestimate it—there is also real reason for hope. Across this country, Democrats, Independents, and reasonable Republicans are speaking out, from protests to op-eds, and from town hall meetings to radio call-ins. The resistance is resisting.
And that’s why we can’t stop now. This has to be just the beginning.
The first glimmer of effective resistance came in the first few hours of this new Congress. In the dead of night, Republicans passed a new rule gutting the independent ethics office. The American public was rightfully outraged. Their uproar led congressional Republicans to reverse the change the very next day. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reported that “most members [of Congress] tell me [the] blizzard of angry constituent calls were [the] most important factor in getting the House to sideline” the ethics shutdown.
Resistance can take a variety of forms. Over just one weekend, 200,000 Uber users deleted their Uber apps to protest the company’s work with Trump. The reaction led the CEO of Uber to resign his position on Donald Trump’s Business Advisory Council even before the first meeting took place.
Some resistance has been more visible. From the moment President Trump signed his discriminatory Muslim ban, the American people took to the streets. That first night, protests emerged all around the country. Thousands assembled at airports. That night in Brooklyn, while I stood in the growing crowd outside the courthouse, a federal judge made the first ruling against the Trump administration. After a week of peaceful opposition and legal challenges all across the country, last Friday night another federal judge put a nationwide stay on the ban.
It hasn’t always been something big. Republican Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz put forward and then quickly rescinded a controversial proposal to “dispose” of three million acres of public land. The Washington Post reported that Chaffetz reversed course after “facing backlash” from conservationists and sportsmen, “citing objections from constituents who complained that the move would limit access to public hunting and fishing grounds.”
The latest example of effective resistance was the confirmation fight over Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. After Democrats exposed her ignorance on education policy at her confirmation hearing and her other controversial views were revealed in media reports, public pressure began to mount. Two Republican Senators joined every Democrat in opposition, causing her nomination to be the closest to defeat thus far. One of those Republicans, Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, specifically cited constituent calls to her office objecting to DeVos as a major reason for her vote. Phone lines on Capitol Hill have fielded a nearly doubled volume due to backlash on this unqualified nominee. While she wasn’t defeated, the American public has far great concerns about the Trump administrations stance towards education because of this public outcry and backlash than when the battle began.
The best example of effective opposition may be the slowdown in the Affordable Care Act’s repeal. This was a top commitment of Donald Trump’s campaign and a relentless pledge of Republicans running for House and Senate (and probably even dogcatcher) since the 2010 elections: all vowed that they were going to repeal “Obamacare.” Trump promised it on “day one.” Fast forward to now, when Members of Congress are getting caught sneaking out of town hall meetings to avoid answering health-care questions, and others don’t even show up. Poll numbers for repeal are plummeting. Republicans are expressing greater and greater doubts about fulfilling this reckless promise. Prominent conservative columnist Matt Lewis argued that the Republicans should abandon their repeal efforts, Maine Governor Paul LePage argued that repeal is simply not going to happen, and a group of Republicans at a closed-door retreat meeting detailed all the reasons that their fight is unlikely to be won. Most recently, Republicans have even started poll-testing new words to use instead of “repeal” and President Trump has now revised his timeline to sometime in 2018. And all the while, more and more Americans are speaking out about the dangers of repeal every day.
In the end, the resistance effort that may have the most lasting impact was the most visible: the Women’s March on January 21. Over 5 million men and women globally came together to say we will not stand for what the Trump administration intends to do. Besides embarrassing Trump, who couldn’t handle the reality that a group of women commanded a Washington crowd that dwarfed his own, the March launched the development of an enduring national network of like-minded resistors – the march has turned into a movement. This network is now a potent force in American politics.
None of this progress means that Democrats have to reactively resist everything – Trump provides us more than enough reasons. Nor do our victories so far mean that we will win every fight. But we have shown that we will fight the fights that are worth fighting. We have shown that we can win when it matters.
Our path isn’t through likely changing this president: he’s more likely to lash out at critics on Twitter than he is to internalize and adapt to dissenting opinions. Instead, the path of our most effective resistance is the path that goes through the politically minded members in the administration and, more importantly, through Congress. There are 52 Republican members of the Senate and 240 Republican members of the House of Representatives. They see this resistance mounting, and they rightfully fear for their job security. Every time the phone rings from a constituent, they feel their odds of re-election waning. When they saw 5 million people protesting on the day of the Women’s March, their brows furled at the Republican Senatorial and Congressional Committees, because their midterm prospects suddenly looked more bleak. That’s how the resistance will make a difference—by convincing Republicans to change their minds or defeating them at the ballot box next time around. That’s our charge, and it’s already showing results.
The Enterprise crew always seemed to be facing a threat, but they always managed to defeat the Borg. In the same way, for the majority of the American people who oppose the Trump administration and its agenda, these first two weeks have proven one thing: our resistance is not futile.