I confess a bit of amusement at Yglesias embracing protest politics, but that’s petty on my part. He’s absolutely right that protesting Trump has worked in some really concrete ways.
It is telling that in most of these cases, the Trump administration is committed to pretending that resistance isn’t the cause of the reversals. Trump has attempted to argue that he — rather than public outcry — is responsible for the OGE reversal. And the administration has tried to sell the public on the idea that his orders were never meant to apply to green card holders, and that the “confusion” around this and other subjects is the fault of the media.
Those of us who lived through these events owe it to ourselves and to others to remember them correctly. In all cases, Trump acted in response to public outcry, not in advance of it. Things changed because people paid attention, spoke up, and made a difference.
A flood of telephone calls to members’ offices has suddenly imperiled Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as secretary of education. More important than her personal fate, the fight over DeVos has gotten multiple Republican senators — including very conservative ones like Jerry Moran of Kansas — to come out swinging against the idea of a federal school voucher program, a key Trump administration promise.
The other is the fate of the DREAMers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and were granted relief from deportation under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. The Sessions/Bannon/Miller faction of the Trump administration has written a draft executive order rescinding this protection, but Trump seems cautious about actually promulgating it, fearing the massive blowback that would surely result from deporting a large, visible, sympathetic, and well-integrated group of immigrants.
If opposition to Trump is demobilized and demoralized, these initiatives will be vulnerable. If it is sustained and active, they can be preserved.
If the ACA and the DREAMer program are preserved, then substantial chunks of the Obama legacy will remain in place, and the momentum of Trumpism will be blunted. If they are rescinded, the opposite is the case, and the door is open to things like Paul Ryan’s broader “war on the poor” or Bannon’s broad-brush attack on all forms of immigration.
Democrats do not have the power, on their own, to win either of these key battles. But citizens do have the power to win them, by making Republicans scared. All the evidence of 2017 thus far is that Republicans are, in fact, scared. The question is whether people will stay mobilized and ensure that the GOP stays nervous.
Yglesias also notes that the impact of protest is to make people more comfortable doing it, meaning that they will do it again and it will become fun and part of their lives. That’s why garbage posts by Capital One executives arguing that protesting the Muslim ban need to be ridiculed and their authors shunned. They are wrong, they are damaging, and if people take them seriously, the one thing we can do to resist Trump will disappear. And that cannot happen.
So keep calling, keep marching, keep embarrassing Trump. It’s up to you to stop fascism. And up to me too. So let’s do it!