Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Could the Trump Resistance be a Left Wing Tea Party?


Can we go home now?

No? Okay, first a little history to show how different these movements are. The Tea Party started when Rick Santelli made his famous rant on CNBC on February 19, 2009. That was 30 days after Barack Obama took office. There was no hint of opposition to him at that point. We are still a few days away from 30 days into Donald Trump's term. The organized resistance started before Trump took office and showed up in the women's march a day after Trump was inaugurated. So right away Democrats appear to be ahead of Republicans. Being faster to have this much resistance might be good, as they already have their supporters in place. It might not because the Republican wave built up over time with people jumping on board when they were ready. The left runs the risk of not sustaining this movement. A lot of people won't be active for two years. Occupy also had a huge number of supporters faster than the Tea Party.

Republicans did meet the night Barack Obama was inaugurated to discuss how to respond to him and make him a one term President. This is normal. Did anyone think Republicans weren't going to try to win the Presidency back in 2012? That Republicans weren't going to oppose policies they had always opposed? Opposition in congress was light at this point. All of Barack Obama's cabinet nominees sailed through. Most were confirmed by voice vote. A voice vote is taken when no one objects to what's on the floor. Only two nominees were confirmed with less than 75 votes. Kathleen Sebelius got 65 votes and Timothy Geithner was confirmed 60-34. Almost every Democrat has voted against a little less than half of Donald Trump's nominees.

At first, Republicans were working with Barack Obama on the stimulus. When they objected to tax cuts for people who didn't pay taxes, Barack Obama told Eric Cantor, "I won." It was basically, "Vote yes or no on my bill and go away." Over the next several months, Republicans started to become uniform in their opposition to Democratic legislation. They say it was because the legislation contained too many things for them to vote yes to. Republicans were working on the healthcare bill for some time before being discouraged from doing so by the party base. Democrats have indicated they'll vote no on Republican bills already. Will Republicans make the bills so poisonous that no Democrat would think of voting for them or will there be more outreach to Democrats than Democrats did in 2009? Regardless, Democrats have put up their wall of opposition earlier. That might or might not be better for them.

Another comparison people have made is the town halls. The Tea Party was active in them in August 2009 and Democrats seem to be gearing up for them. Many of the loudest 2009 town halls were in Democratic swing districts. Democrats have made a lot of noise at town halls for Congressmen Tom McClintock and Jason Chaffetz. Both are in very safe Republican districts. If they want to take back the House they need to organize in districts belonging to Pat Meehan and Steve Knight. They may well do that and the only reason they've gone after McClintock and Chaffetz may be that they were the ones having town halls.

The Tea Party didn't start out as a movement trying to win elections. In fact, their trajectory was to slowly get larger and larger until the November 3, 2009 special election in NY-23. Local New Yorkers organized behind the Conservative Party candidate and he lost. The first big victory for Republicans during this period was the January 2010 Massachusetts special senate election. Again this started small locally in Massachusetts and got larger because they reached out to Tea Parties throughout the country.

Democrats appear ready to start organizing to win elections now. Starting earlier should be better but they may just be a lot of people organizing and not enough people voting. The Tea Party didn't have a goal of winning elections. They won one and, after the fact, they looked brilliant. Democrats have had lower enthusiasm at almost every election since 2009. Are they less enthusiastic or were they less enthusiastic because they controlled the White House?

The anti-Trump movement could be a force at the ballot box. Enthusiasm is better than non-enthusiasm. They just aren't following the Tea Party trajectory.

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