Anyone can be startled by a yelping dog. The true detective, as Sherlock Holmes taught us, is the one who notices dogs that don’t bark and asks why they remained silent. Over at Vox, Matthew Yglesias points out that the Resistance, the guard dog whose vigilance played such a crucial role as a check against Donald Trump, has gone quiet since the Democrats won the House in the 2018 midterms.
“The resistance has demobilized,” Yglesias notes. “There was no mass mobilization to call senators in advance of the resolution blocking Trump’s border emergency declaration. There were no crowds on Capitol Hill. There are no reports of Republican senators canceling town halls because they’re afraid to face angry crowds demanding a floor vote on the anti-corruption bill HR 1. There are no protesters demanding that Trump accede to Congress’s request for his tax returns in part because no request has been made.”
Partially, this is just a matter of the political thermostat adjusting itself to a change in temperature. With Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, ordinary Democrats might feel that Trump is being held in check and they can concentrate on other matters, notably the presidential primaries.
But the silencing of the Resistance might also be a result of Democratic Party leadership deliberately trying to demobilize the grassroots, lest they push for politically challenging action like impeachment. As Yglesias reports, “One veteran operative who’s deeply involved in party-aligned work on corruption issues tells me he thinks congressional leaders have deliberately demobilized the resistance because they’re so afraid of the impeachment issue.”
This demobilization follows a familiar pattern. Democrats are the party of governance, so, once they win elections, elected officials focus more on Washington politics than riling up the base. By contrast, Republicans tend to be on a constant war footing at all times, even when they control all branches of government, as seen in Trump’s non-stop rallies since he won the presidency. One of the biggest mistakes of the Obama presidency was the demobilization of the grassroots movement that won him the presidency in 2008. We might be seeing history repeat itself, unless Democrats can figure out a way of keeping the fires of the Resistance going.