Bernie Sanders’ vision of a political revolution in which millions of people stand up and fight back against the establishment by getting involved in the political process is no longer an inspiring vision but a fact of life and a force to be reckoned with.
First there was the ‘yooj,’ historic Women’s March the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States organized by Planned Parenthood and other establishment liberal groups.
Then there were the protests against Trump’s travel ban at airports throughout the country that were more spontaneous than the Women’s March but still required legwork by working-class and immigrants’ rights groups to get off the ground.
Now there are a slew of town hall protests organized by local liberal, progressive, and radical forces targeting both Republican and Democratic lawmakers all over the country on a variety of issues —defending the Affordable Care Act, opposing crackdowns on immigrants, stopping Trump’s cabinet picks, and even contesting which party legislators choose to caucus with which is ‘inside baseball’ and of little interest to the public during normal times.
Clearly we are not living in normal times.
People are rising up and moving, taking political matters into their own hands. Videos of recent town hall protests below show what this mass upsurge is like in practice — angry, defiant, and determined:
The explosion in mass political activity that began with Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and continued into the early days of the Trump administration has spawned a dizzying array of sometimes competing and/or overlapping organizations and initiatives: Our Revolution, Brand New Congress, Knock Every Door, Swing Left, Run for Something, Justice Democrats, Operation 45, Pussy Hat Project, Movement Match, Millennials for Revolution, to name just a few. In the next five months there are at least five national days of action around climate change, tax policy, and women’s and LGBT rights. The liberal organizations behind the Women’s March have endorsed a call for a general strike under the slogan, “A Day Without a Woman” which echoes Un Día Sin Inmigrantes (“Day Without Immigrants,”) the 2006 May Day de facto strike by immigrants that defeated draconian anti-immigrant legislation after an estimated 1 million people skipped work and came out into the streets.
While this upsurge in struggle is a welcome development, we should be clear that the vast majority of these battles are defensive and not offensive in nature. The Republican Party (GOP) achieved almost unprecedented dominance out of the 2016 election cycle and now controls the presidency, the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, 33 out of 50 governorships, and 69 out of 99 state legislative chambers. As a result, GOP attacks on unions, working people, immigrants, abortion and gay rights, and the environment are coming down fast and furious. Anti-union laws have already been passed in Kentucky and Missouri with New Hampshire next on the hit list. Millions of people could lose their health insurance coverage if the admittedly un-progressive Affordable Care Act is repealed. More executive orders targeting immigrants could be issued. The Department of Veterans Affairs may be privatized in whole or in part.
The stakes in these fights have never been higher and doubling down on political revolution is the only way to successfully resist the Alt-Right onslaught.