From Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) backing unqualified Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, to 14 Senate Democrats voting to confirm torture supporter Mike Pompeo as CIA chief, to the looming possibility that any Democrat might support Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general, progressives have reason to fear that Democratic opposition to the Trump administration is weaker than it needs to be—even in the face of a fervent and growing resistance movement.
"Resistance means resisting," Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas wrote Thursday in response to Warren's committee vote on Carson. "All those people in the streets last Saturday didn't march for Democrats to make nice with the GOP. They marched to resist—whether it's Trump, or his acolytes like Carson. And if even progressive champions like Warren can't figure that out, we really are in trouble."
Republicans learned this lesson in 2009, Huffington Post reporters Jennifer Bendery and Ryan Grim wrote this week, referring to the "wave of populist protests [that] swept across the country" and essentially forced GOP leaders to adopt an obstructionist agenda.
"Elected Democrats are now facing the same challenge, as a fired-up progressive base is marching far ahead of the party leadership," said Bendery and Grim. "Democrats are scrambling to keep up."
Referring to the Women's March on Washington and global solidarity actions, they noted: "This newfound energy is driving throngs of people into the political process―and it's quickly being turned against Democratic politicians for being soft on [President Donald] Trump, whether it's by approving his cabinet nominees or signaling a willingness to work with him."
But senators "appear unwilling to do what their base is asking," according to the Washington Post, which pointed to this week's committee and full Senate votes on Carson; Pompeo; Nikki Haley, Trump's nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations; Wilbur Ross to serve as commerce secretary; and Elaine Chao to lead the Transportation Department; as well as last week's votes on Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly.
"Senate Dems' response to millions taking to the streets is beyond disappointing," Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the online advocacy group UltraViolet, told HuffPost. "It is outright shameful."
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Furthermore, it's also not what the party needs, Sarah Jones argued Tuesday at the New Republic:
It's not enough for Democrats to call themselves The Resistance. They must also explain what it is they're resisting. Is it simply Trump? Or is it the ideology that helped put Trump in power?
Here, Democrats should take a lesson from the left. "Movements can mobilize people to refuse, to disobey, in effect to strike," Frances Fox Piven recently wrote in The Nation. "[P]eople in motion, in movements, can throw sand in the gears of the institutions that depend on their cooperation." Fight for 15, Occupy, Black Lives Matter: They point the way forward. So, too, did last Saturday's Women’s March. In each instance, people rallied around a cause, not a person or a party. They did not turn out for politicians, they were not attracted by celebrities. They turned out because they wished to identify themselves with a specific values statement. Their actions teach us what it means to do politics—and warn us against defining politics in electoral terms alone.
The Democratic Party will continue to fail unless it understands this. The victims of its failure won't be Hillary Clinton or David Brock but vulnerable Americans whose survival depends on the party's ability to oppose Trumpism. Its left-wing critics have no choice but to reject its calls for unity. The stakes are too high to do anything else.
As Charles Pierce wrote Thursday at Esquire, "Any Democratic senator who votes to confirm Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as Attorney General should immediately be rendered dead to the party and to every Democratic voter in the country."
"[R]esistance to the Sessions nomination is a bright line in the sand beyond which should be found nothing but exile," Pierce declared.