The progressive Left is just devastated right now over President-elect Donald J. Trump’s upset win over Hillary Clinton. How to deal with this? Well, they need a Tea Party of their own, legions of grassroots activists who will purge the Democratic Party of establishment figures. So, will this be Occupy Wall Street 2.0 without the violence, the drugs, and the sexual assaults? Yes, very much so; they’re ditching the encampments and focusing on winning elections (via Politico):
“Our big goal is to support primary challenges against those Democrats who negotiate with Donald Trump,” said the organizer, Waleed Shahid, a veteran of Bernie Sanders’ campaign who is working for a group called AllofUs, launched in September. The approach mimics that of the tea party, which has used insurgent primary bids to unsettle establishment Republicans and drive the Republican Party rightward.
Progressive groups are planning to combine that tactic with direct actions like marches and sit-ins to more seamlessly merge an anti-Trump protest movement with electoral politicking.
Those plans represent a dramatic shift in strategy for the anti-establishment left, which responded to the last major shock to the world system, the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, with Occupy, a protest movement disconnected from electoral politics. While Occupy brought the issue of growing inequality to the forefront of the national conversation, the movement faded when its physical encampments were disbanded.
That shortcoming has been at the top of progressive leaders’ minds this week.
“American activists are finally starting to understand that protest is broken,” wrote Micah White, an architect of Occupy Wall Street, in an email. “The people cannot attain sovereignty over their governments by collective protest in the streets. There are only two ways to achieve sovereignty in this world: Win elections or win wars. Now that street protest is not an option, we will see the Trump resistance split into these two fronts. Some will pursue the strategy of using social movements to elections while others go down the dark path of '70s guerrilla insurrection. I advocate winning elections.”
Yet, this left wing movement isn’t totally ditching the street protests game, as you saw by the post-election Trump temper tantrums that occurred in the usual places across the country; heavily democratic and liberal bastions, like New York City, San Francisco, Portland, and Washington D.C. Politico added that, like the Tea Party, don’t expect this reloaded version of Occupy Wall Street to have a boss at the top of a leadership pyramid. Should we be worried? Complacency is a governing body’s worst enemy. Yes, we should. After all, looked what happened when the GOP decided to get more organized, with a few forming Tea Party groups to fight its own establishment after the 2008 election. The Republicans retook the House in 2010, with gains in the Senate; finished their retaking of Congress in 2014; and finally retook the presidency in 2016. On top of that, the GOP has won 33 governorships, 69/99 state legislatures, and has the most elected state lawmakers in office since 1920. That’s domination. That’s why the GOP is the most dominant force in American politics today, which also means that they have to deliver over the next four years to avoid massive losses. There’s no excuse now.
Eric Sasson wrote in The New Republic why the Left needs to study what the Right did regarding grassroots work, a call to arms for his liberal compatriots:
It was this misreading of the electorate and the complacency of many Democrats (like me) which bordered on smugness that allowed for Trump to sweep to power. Still, nothing stirs people out of complacency like a genuine threat to their way of life, which Trump and total Republican control seem certain to provide over the next four years. A Trump presidency leaves us with no choice but to wake up and engage with politics in a way similar to that of the Tea Party.
Democratic leadership is aging. Its ranks are thin thanks to Republican dominance on the state and local levels, and we need fresh blood to bubble in and take over the progressive cause. We must translate despair and anger into action, but not just with protests and marches or with well-meaning but politically ineffective movements like Occupy Wall Street. These are important but insufficient. The only way to effect real change is to encourage a new generation of leaders to commit themselves to running for office at every level of government and empower them to be the change they want to see in this world.
We must make the 2018 midterm elections a national cause, insist that these election years are just as important, if not more so, than presidential election years. Starting today, we must come up with our own “Contract with America,” a plan that can express in clear terms what Democrats stand for, and what they will not stand for. If we believe the survival of our republic is at stake, do we have any other choice?
Clinton may have been a wet towel on the Democratic base, but a Trump White House can and will energize these voters to possibly turnout in record numbers for the 2018 midterms if Trump trips up and these progressives are successful at organizing their rabid left wing posse. It’s very possible. Trump was elected on a populist wave, the old Ross Perot cohort of voters (or at least the ideals of that cohort) who are a massive swing bloc. They vote Democratic and they go Republican, it depends who is coming into their communities, relating to their issues, and delivering on what they promise. Trump promised job creation, job protection from free trade, and a renegotiation of trade agreements. There were also references to the opioid epidemic, the straight talk, the aversion to political correctness—all of which is received warmly in these communities. Clinton ignored these people. At the same time, she was also old, sick and dishonest Hillary Clinton who was not Barack Obama. Maybe Bernie Sanders and other like him could reenergize the base and win back Trump voters. Million of Obama supporters flipped for Trump.
This isn’t necessarily the most concrete voter coalition the GOP has created. It’s chock full of voters who will boot the GOP and Trump out of power if things devolve into a total disaster. What will be left is the Right facing an emboldened, more organized, and more left wing Democratic Party, who will certainly be fearless to go after issues thought to be political suicide (i.e. Second Amendment, single-payer health care, etc.) without fear due to establishment anchors being cut. This is something we should watch with care and make sure our own voter outreach programs and databases don’t become stale. Oh, and Trump better deliver on his economic agenda. Maybe that’s why he decided, much to conservatives’ annoyance that he’s not going to pursue any further criminal investigations against Hillary Clinton. He’s got a lot more on his plate than focusing a lot of time and capital on a former rival who he pummeled in the Electoral College.