The unwitting unifier

Say what one will about Donald Trump, he has fostered a remarkable change in politics in the United States.

Not since the 1960s has there been such a level of citizen activism. Existing organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and various environmental groups find themselves with many new members. New organizations have been formed in reaction to various Trump actions or policy stances.

Each time Trump says or tweets something dumb, individuals and organizations go into action. Much of this activism takes place in cities and towns across the country.

Here’s an example. By the time Trump got around this week to signing the measure passed by Congress allowing businesses to sell private information about their customers—including browsing histories—an array of privacy organizations had filled news coverage with the case against the bill, which overrode Federal Communications Commission rules. In some states such as Nevada, advertising was online informing citizens how their members of Congress had voted. In Nevada’s case, American Bridge ads were telling Nevadans that Sen. Dean Heller had voted “to gut FCC privacy rules, putting consumers’ most private information at risk.” The Nevada Democratic Party pitched in with attacks on Heller.

That kind of activism is seen on issue after issue. The languid, listless Democratic campaign of last year has given way to concerned activism. When Trump canceled many of the federal efforts to deal with climate change, parents who feel their children’s future threatened were seen in protests outside federal buildings around the nation.

One weak link in this chain is the national Democratic Party leadership. While local Democratic parties have been renewed and enlivened by the challenges presented by Trumpism, at the national level the party seems to have learned little since the election about how to animate the base.

In February, the party elected a new chair of the Democratic National Committee. The two candidates—Tom Perez and Keith Ellison—stood pretty much the same on issues, but Ellison offered the hope of freeing the party from its corporate masters. Loathe to offend those masters, the national committee chose Perez, dampening the enthusiasm of locals.

In Congress, Democrats are up to their old tricks of keep those corporations happy at the expense of workers. In January, the Senate was finally within striking distance of making the sale of Canadian prescription drugs legal in the United States when a dozen Republicans crossed over to vote for it. But the bill failed when a similar number of Democrats crossed over the other way. Democrats like Cory Booker argued they were protecting the public from tainted drugs, as though they were being imported from Burkina Faso or Mozambique, not Canada. These kinds of policy positions from Democrats come far too often and dampen local enthusiasm.

Fortunately, Trump’s opposition outside the beltway is doing its job of informing the public and recruiting that public to block his foolish, meanspirited administration. And Trump is doing his part in keeping his opposition highly motivated.