The Democrats are moving left without self-destructing

Liberal voter intensity and grass-roots energy, driven by anger at Trump, sometimes evokes comparisons to the Tea Party. But the resistance has less money, is less organized, and therefore is less able to bend the party in its direction. “I envy how well-funded the right is,” says Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesman for the progressive activist group MoveOn. “It’s not the most glowing thing to say about the progressive movement, but at this point in the Tea Party cycle they were purifying the ranks. And we’re still catching up to that.”

At the same time, the resistance is avoiding the suicidal tendencies of the Tea Party, which nominated radical candidates who blew winnable races for the Senate, such as Sharron Angle in Nevada, Todd Akin in Missouri, and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. In 2010 and 2012 the movement defeated Republican incumbents with strong general election appeal such as Delaware’s Mike Castle and Indiana’s Dick Lugar, only to watch Democrats win those races. “The only significant races we won in 2010 were in races where Republicans ate themselves alive,” says Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. “What should scare the hell out of Republicans is that we have energy and relative unity. That’s hard, because with energy usually comes some opposing forces, and that has not happened in any meaningful way so far.”