When Life Gives You Lemons: How “the Resistance” is using its Political Power
On November 5, 2017 the New York Times published an opinion piece that concluded with the following statement: “The reign of Trump is the reign of ruin. That is why the Resistance is needed now more than ever”. While “The Resistance” sounds like the name of an ominous militia from a science fiction movie, it is really a term that the media has been using to refer to the broad movement targeting President Donald Trump and his administration. We can see this sense of conflict in the bumper stickers on cars and we can hear it in the jokes that talk show hosts make. Behind this cultural sentiment there is legitimate and concrete action taking place in an effort to politically cripple the president. Currently the “resistance” is nonviolent and has almost exclusively focused on working against the present regime through political institutions. This strategy allows for citizens and lawmakers alike to use government-provided tools as the means for pushing back against the regime.
One technique for resisting the policies of a U.S. President and his regime is a strategy that Yale Law Professor Heather Gerken calls “Uncooperative Federalism”. Gerken asserts that this practice could be a primary way for liberals to protect laws and legislative priorities that they hold dear throughout Donald Trump’s time in office. “Uncooperative Federalism” is a method for state and local governments to oppose federal laws and regulations by deciding not to enforce them in their respective territory. This technique has been employed for decades by both Democrats and Republicans, although in recent years this method of resistance has primarily been used by Republicans. During the Clinton administration GOP members in California pushed back against affirmative action legislation and during the Obama administration multiple states filed suits in an effort to target the Affordable Care Act. California has already done significant work to fight against President Trump’s impositions on environmental regulations and immigration law. Heather Gerken raises the possibility that if Democrats play the dissent card enough, “Republicans will sometimes be forced to compromise rather than pay a political and fiscal price.” Democrats from around the country are capable of forcing the hands of GOP members who want to avoid the logistical costs of pursuing “The Resistance”.
Donald Trump is currently the most powerful member of the Republican Party and his election into office has cost the rest of his party incredible instability, the formerly red seats of government officials in both state and federal governments, and scores of supporters. In order to understand resistance coming from voters, we first need to understand the resistance within the Republican Party. The philosophy that seems to have overtaken the right side of the aisle following the election is “If you can’t beat them, join them”. In this case, “them” refers to Trump supporters holding political office. An organization of frustrated and determined conservatives called “Meeting of the Concerned” has expressed their disappointment with politicians like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan who have been complicit with the Trump agenda. Members of this group are among members of the Republican party that are worried to see that elected representatives within the GOP who try to resist the president and his ideas have either retired, experienced isolation from their colleagues, or lost their seats to Democrats. Renowned conservative columnist Mona Charen claims that this embrace infiltrated the conservative media a while ago, “‘the infotainment side of the conservative media, they’ve been completely Trumpified for some time.’” In spite of party identification, this movement toward noncooperation with the commander-in-chief could bring Democrats who are all resisting Donald Trump together with resistant Republicans. Political science professor Erica Chenoweth claims that both size and diversity make for a successful movement. While racial diversity was likely what Chenoweth had in mind, political diversity could be immensely powerful in this resistance as well.
The first and, maybe, most telling fact concerning the rebellious and empowered voters of the United States is that more voters than ever before are registering to vote without affiliating with a party. For some, voting after the 2016 election is easy, as the congressman for Pennsylvania’s fifteenth district Charlie Dent said, “’Voters are taking their anger out at the president, and the only way they can do that is by going after Republicans on the ballot.’” Voting ballots act as a figurative gun to the head for many, certainly for some Republicans who went out to vote in the November 7, 2017 election. They joined the liberal voters who are set on reversing the election of Donald Trump to any extent they can, while also resisting him. The most explicit example of resistance by voting from the November 7th election comes out of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. In this traditionally red territory stood yard signs that read, “’ Vote Nov. 7th Against Trump.’” This negative association between the president and his conflicted party makes the GOP vulnerable to the wrath of “the Resistance”. This cohort is not only tired of waiting to see if legislators will adjust President Trump’s itinerary, but also more aware than ever before of the power that comes with casting a ballot, as evidenced by the man occupying the Oval Office.