After the shock of losing the White House and failing to take the majority in the House and Senate, Democrats quickly regrouped and developed a new approach.
From town hall protests to sometimes violent demonstrations, they’re fighting the Trump agenda at every step. Hillary Clinton recently emerged to announce she’s “part of the resistance.” In recent weeks, we sent our “Full Measure” cameras to meet some of the people in the field organizing the resistance.
They’re organizing in Berkeley, California, where violent clashes and street brawls broke out. They’re organizing at town hall meetings held by members of Congress. In the latest episode of “Full Measure,” I pried into the development of anti-Trump demonstrations.
Gene Stilp, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Campaign Coordinator: I think there’s more energy now that they realize what has happened in this election.
“What has happened” is—after liberal donors shelled out more than $700 million to put Hillary Clinton in the White House … Donald Trump won. And that prompted a national freak out on the left.
Since the election, hundreds of groups have formed to convert the disappointment and tears into something more productive: organized resistance. Stilp is Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party congressional campaign coordinator. We caught up with him at a rally in March on the steps of the state capitol.
Stilp: We have basically an idiot running the government right now and attempting to run the government, or I think he governs by Twitter. I think he’s one of the worst presidents we’ve ever had. And that’s why he’s not my president; but how do you stop him?
For many, the answer lies in taking a page from the enemy; the conservative tea party movement that caught the nation by surprise in 2009. Tea party advocates overran town halls, lashing out against big government and Obamacare.
Now, in 2017, a mix of new and established liberal organizations have partnered to use tea party tactics to stop the Trump agenda. We repeatedly asked national organizers for interviews, but they declined. So we sent our cameras to some field events to meet local organizers.
We were at the first anti-Trump meeting organized by Andrea Walker in Arlington, Virginia. She’s a retired federal worker and Clinton supporter.
Andrea Walker/Anti-Trump Activist: There’s an incredible amount of things that we could do, including pick-up marches, you get an email and it says for you just to go and, you know, “tomorrow show up here!”
In Wye Mills, Maryland, we found organized opposition at a raucous town hall. Afterward, we caught up with the target: Republican Congressman Andy Harris.
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.: It’s just people came out and they expressed their frustrations. That’s part of the American system.
And on the state House steps in Pennsylvania, we met organizer Terrell Bryant.
Terrell Bryant/Anti-Trump Organizer: This goes back to what the Founding Fathers want. What Thomas Jefferson wants. He wanted active citizens and this is what we’re doing, what Thomas Jefferson wanted to see in our democracy.
You have MoveOn.org getting involved with the resistance hashtag and you’ve got a whole lot of other groups getting involved. There are some big money names. For example, MoveOn.org’s top donors in 2016 were Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife. They gave $2.5 million. Another top MoveOn donor is environmentalist and hedge fund mogul Tom Steyer, who’s given $160 million to liberal causes since 2014.
Sharyl Attkisson: As an outsider, I see Republicans in charge of the House, the Senate, and the White House. And yet, I feel like Democrats are able to, through their organization, direct the conversation right now.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.: They are directing it, and of course that makes me a little uncomfortable here in my chair, you know, as you see that, because you’re seeing what is actually the case. We’re seeing at town halls across the country a real organized effort … to not really change policy as much as it is to get videos to go viral. I’m very familiar with the tea party … activists and grassroots activists. I would say that this is a different type of group; highly organized but not as much content-driven. It’s really a factor of just not accepting a new president.
Attkisson: Beyond the public town hall opposition that we see, some people think there’s sort of a shadowy version of this opposition going on inside government. What’s your take on that?
Meadows: Well, we do see some of that. I mean, unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of that. They certainly have a name and they certainly have a face.
It’s referred to as the “Shadow Government” or “Deep State”… the notion that “influential members of government agencies or the military are involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.” It may sound like the stuff of conspiracies, but liberal and conservative analysts are among the believers: “The deep state is a very real thing—it’s the civil service … ” writes one. “Two Cheers for the Deep State … ” says another. “The defense establishment is part of the Deep State. So are the courts … the FBI and the CIA … ”
Attkisson: Besides these public protests with the town hall meetings, a lot of people think there is sort of a shadowy effort underway by Democrats to influencing control of government. What do you think?
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.: I think they’re trying to sabotage it, quite honestly.
Johnson says the tea party movement inspired him to run for office in 2010, and isn’t dismissing the new, organized resistance.
Johnson: I would say it’s somewhat similar. I think there is an awful lot of organization in that movement, but there is also some real strong, firmly held beliefs on that, some real concerns, so you have to take all of it seriously.
There is a twist to this organizational plot. Democrats, too, are being targeted by resistance on their own side who blame leadership for their net loss of more than 1,000 state and federal seats in the past 8 years. As entrenched and visible as the resistance may be, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t necessarily translate to results. After all, the tea party didn’t stop Obamacare or dial back big government.
Attkisson: Has anything really changed since then in terms of the big government?
Johnson: No, it’s gotten worse. It’s gotten worse. It just continues to grow.
Still, the Democrats’ resistance vows to sustain a tireless campaign. They hope to stop Trump at every turn, and win congressional seats in the 2018 midterm elections.
Walker: What I’m hoping for is to make this as easy as possible for people to have a sustained protest. Let’s try and go on for two years, you know, without swooning in fatigue.”
Stilp : The demonstration season isn’t even in full swing yet. The spring and the summer you’re going to see people really get active. These guys are going to be afraid to even cross the state line to come back into Pennsylvania.