Maybe I’m just the eternal optimist, but I have serious doubts about those lamenting the “fatigue factor” in resistance to the Trump administration and the Republican controlled Congress. First, I’m not sure we’re measuring the right things.
Granted the Women’s March was spectacular, but to bemoan the lack of huge responses on the streets in the period between that march and today is to miss one of the important features of that event. Speaker after speaker encouraged people to actively engage in the political process. I’ve wondered — how many people in this country even knew that Congress had switchboard numbers for access to Senators and Representatives before those speeches?
The march for science was smaller, but there again — have we ever been able to mobilize any significant number of people in science related fields to hit the streets before? Then there was the immediate and profound reaction to the Muslim Travel Ban — instantaneous and powerful. We ought not to measure the impact of the “resistance” by numbers on pavement. Perhaps quantification is simply going to be elusive, as is the ripple effect.
We can list the number of Indivisible organizations, and we can delineate other related organizations — some general and some interest oriented. However, what we can’t quantify is the effect of demonstrating resistance on people who would otherwise sit quietly on the sidelines. How many people now have made their first ever phone call to a Representative or Senator’s office? How many people took the postcard idea from the Women’s March and stocked up on post cards for other, future, comments to elected officials? How many people who weren’t “interested in politics” before the “Resistance” now pay attention to news broadcasts and articles about our politics — and have spoken about these topics to others. These activities aren’t easily quantifiable, and perhaps we don’t even need to measure resistance attempting to “make the numbers.”
Nor should “resistance” be limited to single issues or even a particular legislative agenda. For example, a young friend on a neighboring Reservation was particularly moved by the DAPL movement — she made signs, talked about the issue with others, and for the first time in her life expressed an interest in “politics.” Count her as part of the Resistance. Somewhere out there is a grandmother disturbed by the prospect of her autistic grandson losing special education services he desperately needs — if she made one phone call or sent one postcard — count her as part of the resistance. If a father of a young daughter who was born with a congenital heart defect is worried about her “pre-existing condition” and made a call or sent a letter, then count him as part of the resistance.
There’s a temptation to dismiss that which we can’t count, or to disregard what we can’t see. However, the ‘resistance’ is out there. Sometimes quiet, sometimes smoldering, and sometimes flaming up. There’s another angle we should appreciate: Human contact.
Someone went to a demonstration…he or she met someone there unknown before…they exchanged phone numbers? They exchanged addresses? They agreed to meet again, or to contact each other if some topic emerged in which they shared an interest? This isn’t necessarily “party building” but it’s just as much a part of resistance as more highly organized formats. If the human contact is initiated the more organized formats will follow. They always do because at some point all the “interested parties” don’t fit around a kitchen table.
We may never know whether, for example, it was a call made to Representative Bilgewater’s office from a phone bank operation or from someone’s recliner in the living room that made the Representative truly aware that there was serious opposition to his bill. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. The origin of the calls is of less importance than the fact that they were made. The calls matter, the engagement matters, and the engagement is resistance.
One thing we can measure is the interest being generated in running for political offices. The graphic on the Rachel Maddow Show is instructive. In 2009 there were 78 Republicans interested in a seat in the House of Representatives contrasted with 40 Democrats. As of June 2017 there are 209 Democrats seeking seats and 28 Republicans. There are more women running. there are scientists running, there are people who were happy being on the county commission and hadn’t considered a congressional run before recently tossing their hats into the ring. This is resistance.
Vive la Resistance.