Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Is the Populist Movement a Party Surge or a New Kid on the Block?


In the brief time since President Donald Trump's inauguration, an unrelenting wave of protests against the new administration has motivated grassroots activists. The populist movement is steadily growing all over the United States. Contingents from all degrees of the left are joining together. All of them have one thing in common – they are anti-Trump.

The latest high-profile protests have been organic, not organized by any party. The women’s march on inauguration weekend and the protests that brought thousands to airports following Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries have brought great promise to this new American movement.

So, Democrats have good reason to feel energized these days. As the minority party, they point to these grassroots protests, marches, and demonstrations as a sign that President Trump has already sparked involvement by their base at historic levels. They know they have a great opportunity to plug into both the outrage over the election of President Trump and the new electoral movement to solidify a brighter future.

The problem with any one party justifying the recent unrest as support for them alone is the reality that the anti-Trump movement is comprised of many factions. As a political party attempts to channel the enthusiasm, they may easily misread the desires of this agitated contingent.

If the movement becomes a part of a re-energized, established party, then that group – most likely the Democrats – must assume accountability for the will of the people. Not only must a party keep the movement engaged, but also it must actively represent their interests.

Representative Kathy Castor (Dem. Florida) said ...

“It’s how we turn the protest into a movement. The grassroots, the citizens across the country, I feel, are way ahead of politicians. Citizens across the country are worried and they’re energized and they are in the lead for a change. They want to hear from their elected representatives at all levels. They’re more engaged than ever. We’re focused on how do we focus that energy into elections and really making a difference in policy from the Hill."

(James Arkin. “Dems Hope to Ride Grassroots' Anti-Trump Wave Till 2018.” realclearpolitics.com. February 13, 2017.)

But wait.

Others are not content with the Democrats “riding” a grassroots movement that has, quite frankly, produced much of the “same old, same old.”

After a decade of Democratic control in Washington, rank-and-file liberals had mostly retreated from the activist community. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said, "Some organizations would have it be the highlight of their year if people showed up at events across the country in response to months of planning. And here it happens within a couple hours, organically."

(Gregory Kreig. “The anti-Trump protest movement digs in -- but can it win?” CNN. February 12, 2017.)

You see, for the party to pick up the mantle of protest, they likely fear inserting themselves too much, and they worry about problems if they professionalize the effort. Also, they must consider the possibility of backlash. An enraged grassroots group might turn some of its fire on Democrats if they’re seen as working with Trump or if the movement judges them too traditional.

What concerns a political party most is converting the movement into an electoral outcome. Politicians want to be elected, and many use such surges for personal gain. Plug in, take advantage, get paid.

Certainly many of the anti-Trump contingent cares less about party affiliation than about policy agendas. They are seeking new solutions to pressing problems. Some fear one party might attempt to weaken their messages and control the content of a wide scope of grievances.

The populist group understands that the party certainly did not ignite their activism. In addition, they realize the organic nature of the movement is part of its strength. “Change” is the mantra for the protesters. To them, the status quo is partisan and ineffective.

Green explained, "These are people who are getting engaged in protests for the first time. It's really the white blood cells of democracy attacking unconstitutional actions and a fairly illegitimate president."

Granted, political movements understand that party affiliations provide proven means of successful maneuvering. I'm sure this grassroots group would revel in a solid, powerful alliance. However, it remains to be seen if any old political entity is able to inspire a collective awakening of people across all spectrums of the country.

Right now the message of the movement is if you are unwilling or unable to create actions to end hatred and inject values of respect, inclusion, love, and equality back into our national politics, then stand aside. President Trump is a grave threat to democracy, freedom, human rights, equality, and the welfare of our country.


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