It’s too soon to tell if the current resistance movement will follow the tea party’s pattern. But there are already many parallels. It has arisen spontaneously and en masse. Many Republicans believe it’s not real: The protests, they tell me, are Astroturf funded by George Soros; the opposition to Betsy DeVos as education secretary, which jammed Senate switchboards, was merely manufactured by the teachers’ unions. But the unions and Soros didn’t start this fire any more than the Kochs started the tea party—they’re merely riding the wave in hopes it will advance their goals.
Second, Trump’s election appears to have galvanized a lot of people who weren’t previously Democratic activists or politically minded at all. They may have voted Democrat, they may consider themselves “progressive,” but they’re not the Democratic base that donated to politicians and knocked on doors in years past. Commentators on the right have seized on the violent sentiments expressed by some participants as proof the whole movement is composed of frightening extremists.
Third, while Trump’s Cabinet, executive actions, and Supreme Court nominee are sharply and traditionally right-wing, he has an agenda his team believes is truly cross-partisan. Senior White House officials say he is serious about pursuing policies Democrats have supported in the past, like negotiating Medicare prescription-drug prices, a big-spending infrastructure bill, and a more protectionist trade policy. Trump’s team sincerely believes at least some Democrats will put governing above partisanship and go along with these initiatives.