Anti-Trump Democratic activists are out in force around the country stirring up the kind of public turmoil the media love.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) got the full treatment on Feb. 9 when he showed up to meet with locals at a suburban Salt Lake City high school auditorium. Police estimated that at least 1,000 people jammed into the space and more chanted outside.
Television, newspaper and online channels showed people yelling, “Chaffetz is a coward” and “Do your job.”
Watching from afar, you might think this turmoil is spontaneous and that Chaffetz is in deep political trouble with his constituents. But looks can be deceiving, which is exactly what the protest organizers want.
Chaffetz represents Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. The heavily Republican district is located in the eastern portion of the state and includes Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan, and Wasatch counties as well as portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Chaffetz was first elected to the House in 2008 with 65.6% of the vote and has consistently won subsequent races by wide margins. In his 2016 race he won convincingly with 73.5%.
Not only did he win in 2016, but his constituents voted overwhelmingly for Trump in all but two of the counties represented in his district. In Carbon County, Chaffetz took 79.8 percent of the vote. In Utah County, Hillary Clinton took only 14 percent.
In other words, despite the orchestrated chaos in the auditorium, it’s highly unlikely, that the protesters represented the majority opinion in Chaffetz’ district and Chaffetz is pretty damn safe in his seat. But pictures and news stories about the hostile, roaring crowd helped spread the liberal, anti-Trump message.
That’s what Indivisible wants.
Beginning with a conversation between two former congressional staffers for Democrats anguished over Trump’s win, Indivisible is a national movement with a reported 7,000 affiliated groups in every state and almost every congressional district.
Created as a flip side to the Tea Party activists, the group even has an Indivisible Guide, A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.
“Donald Trump is the biggest popular-vote loser in history to ever call himself President-Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the Members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding,” the guide says.
The Guide encourages anti-Trumpers to go to in-district events held by members of Congress (“Make them listen to you, and report out when they don’t.”), local events members attend (“Don’t let them get photo-ops without questions about racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.”), and to members’ district offices (“Report to the world if they refuse to listen.”).
The overall goal?
“Reaffirm the illegitimacy of the Trump agenda,” the Guide says. “The hard truth is that Trump, McConnell, and Ryan will have the votes to cause some damage. But by objecting as loudly and powerfully as possible, and by centering the voices of those who are most affected by their agenda, you can ensure that people understand exactly how bad these laws are from the very start—priming the ground for the 2018 midterms and their repeal when Democrats retake power.”
Indivisible is being aided and abetted by Trump opponents within the government’s vast bureaucracy. This is illustrated by the highly unusual disclosure to the Washington Post of secret recordings, presumably made by the NSA, of Michael Flynn’s telephone conversations with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. In this case, somebody in the intelligence community was willing to play dirty, even a the risk of being charged with a felony
It’s not clear whether this highly scripted anti-Trump effort will succeed, but it does signal a new phase in American politics of permanent, organized rebellion against whoever is currently in power. That’s an alarming prospect.