There’s no doubt that liberals, unhappy with the election of Donald Trump as the nation’s next president, are up in arms and taking to the streets in significant numbers. Something (or someone) is clearly driving them (if not funding them) to activism in broad strokes. They’ve been showing up at town hall meetings and disrupting the normal order of business, quite similar to what was seen in 2008 through 2010. This has led the media to attempt to draw tempting parallels to the genesis of the Tea Party. Another example of this phenomenon is found in a weekend piece at the Washington Post which seeks to describe both the opportunities and perils awaiting Democrats should they attempt to hitch their wagon to this new unruly beast. (Washington Post)
Three weeks into President Trump’s term, the Democratic Party and progressive establishment have almost entirely adopted the demands of a restive, active and aggressive base. They are hopeful that the new activism more closely resembles the tea party movement, which embraced electoral politics, than the Occupy Wall Street movement, which did not.
The pace of the activists, and the runaway-train approach of Trump’s administration, have given them little time to puzzle it out.
“He has a strategy to do so many things that he overwhelms the opposition,” Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) said of Trump, “[but] he’s creating the largest opposition movement I’ve seen in my lifetime in the United States.”
The incentive for left-leaning reporters to try to make these comparisons is obvious and in some ways understandable. What is not being reported, either intentionally or through oversight, is the fact that there are also significant differences between the ground game being seen in 2017 and what took place at the end of George W. Bush’s term in office.
Having been around for that raucous era, I can well remember much of the chaos that engulfed the “movement.” When the Tea Party formed, it was quite the hot mess. It began in fits and starts in different parts of the nation, frequently with less than glowing results. In the upstate New York area where I live, two different tea party groups formed with headquarters less than an hour apart. The two organizations almost immediately went to war with each other, while at the same time fighting internal battles with competing leaders attempting to set the agenda. When money was required it was donated by willing and well intended members but all too often, in the normal fashion of such things, bad actors would arrive and attempt to pocket the cash for themselves. All in all, the fact the tea party managed to survive was something of a miracle in and of itself.
What we’re seeing today is almost entirely different. I do not doubt the sincerity of many of the liberal activists expressing their outrage, but the mechanisms being used to engage and coordinate their efforts are both obvious and very different from the early days of the Tea Party. Social media chains erupt on a moment’s notice directing protesters to show up at town halls, airports, municipal centers or wherever else they may be needed. These “grassroots activists” seem to arrive in large groups, frequently with buses provided, carrying pre-printed professional signage and well orchestrated chants which they read off of their mobile devices like an army of Stepford wives whose programming has run into a critical error loop.
Another key difference is the fact that the Tea Party groups generally had a specific agenda of items in matters of governance which they wished to see changed. They were seeking to throw out the old guard regardless of party affiliation before even beginning a discussion of what the new agenda might be. Conversely, today’s liberal activists seem to have only one thought in mind: finding a way to end the Trump presidency before it even begins. Rather than fighting for change, they are heeding a call from someone – we don’t know who yet – to forcibly roll back the clock and replay the last eight years of the Obama administration.
These activities are certainly newsworthy and I don’t begrudge the media for covering them. But let’s not make a mistake here… this is not the Tea Party. It’s not even remotely similar. This is a finely tuned protest machine, bitter about the recent defeat and seeking to harness friendly forces in the mainstream media to reinforce a daily narrative that the winner of the election as failed before he’s even begun. If there’s any good news on the horizon, it’s the fact that much of the public doesn’t seem to be paying attention, or at least not blindly accepting everything they see on cable news.