Chapter 1: How Did We Get Here

In honor of the 2017 election results, which some have called a Tsunami for the Resistance, I am posting chapter 1 today.  This chapter catalogues the emergence of the Resistance, which is America’s response to an out-of-touch Democratic Party, a President who shows no interest in compromise, and the reach of conservative donors’ usage of Dark Money.  It is still going through peer-review.  I will post a revised peer-reviewed draft when reviews are back and I have responded to them.


#Manafort Monday Update

On this Monday that may live in infamy, I write with an update.  Chapter 1 is almost complete and will be going out for peer-review later this week.  I realize it will be posted later than originally scheduled, but life got in the way.  My family and I had to return from sabbatical in Sweden early due to our parents’ health issues.

It’s a great day to be settling back into the DC Area and to be putting the final touches on Chapter 1: How Did we Get Here.  I have adjusted the schedule on my previous post to accommodate for these changes.  More Soon!

What is the Resistance?

As I work on chapter 1 (which I plan to post by the end of the month), it has become clear that a working definition of the Resistance is needed.  Today, in the semi-plenary on Science and Activism at the Earth System Governance conference in Lund, Sweden, I proposed the following working definition:

Resistance (rɪˈzɪstəns) : People working individually and through organizations to challenge the Trump Agenda.  The Resistance includes people working as individual citizens, through their professions as lawyers, artists, scientists or professional athletes.  It also includes organizations that run the gamut in terms of their levels of professionalization–the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Greenpeace, professional associations like the American Sociological Association, and Indivisible–are all playing parts in the Resistance. In addition, the Resistance includes actors within the government itself that are working at multiple scales of governance.  To date, the Democratic Party is a small and isolated component of the American Resistance.

American Resistance documents the Resistance, focusing on the issues that are mobilizing participants and the tactics they are employing.  It concentrates on three specific components of the Resistance: Resistance in the Streets, Resistance in the Districts, and Resistance from Within.  It concludes with a discussion of what the Resistance means for democracy and politics in the United States after the 2018 election.



The March for Racial Justice Joins #TheResistance

On September 30th my colleagues and I fielded a research team to survey a random sample of participants at the March for Racial Justice in Washington, DC. Like at other protest events, teams of 2 surveyed participants throughout the rally area (full details of sampling and methodology available upon request). In total, 187 people completed the survey (representing an 83 response rate).

Analysis from data collected at the March for Racial Justice (M4RJ) indicates that the Resistance is still growing.  People who are getting engaged are staying engaged: most participants (76%) reported also participating in the Women’s March; a third (34%) reported participating in the March for Science; a quarter (25%) reported participating in the People’s Climate March; and a fifth (21%) reported participating in the Equality March.  As a result, the March mobilized a relatively low percentage of first-time protesters (18%) and only 2% of participants said that they had not participated in a protest in the past 5 years.

In addition to attending marches, respondents were very civically engaged.  More than half (52%) reported attending a town hall meeting in the past year (since September 2016), which is one of the major tactics employed by the Resistance.  Beyond repeat attendance at protest-events, town hall meeting attendance rates have gone up at each march and this number was the highest to date.

Like at previous marches, most respondents said that the outcome of the 2016 election was important to their decision to participate (97%).  However, this march had a lower level of Clinton voters than previous marches (79%).  This finding suggests that more people who supported a third party candidate or did not vote in the 2016 election are getting involved in the Resistance.  No respondents reported voting for Trump.

So far, the Resistance is mobilizing highly educated Americans who lean to the left:  70% reported completing a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.  This march turned out a higher proportion of Black participants (18%) than the national average.  Given that the focus of the M4RJ was on Racial Justice, this finding makes a lot of sense.

This march was smaller than expected—about 10,000 turned out.  In contrast to the large-scale marches since the Inauguration, the M4RJ was endorsed by only a few of the major national organizations that have been involved in events since the inauguration (such as ACLU and NAACP and the unions).  Had the large national groups joined in, I expect turnout would have been much larger and the march could have attracted some of famous people involved in #TakeAKnee.  It is possible that protest fatigue is setting in for some national groups that have been involved in a number of events since January.


Intersectionality across the Resistance

Today, Science Advances published my paper about the intersectionality of participants at the Women’s March (co-authored with Dawn Dow, Rashawn Ray).  By intersectionality we mean how individual identities and interests overlap. The paper shows that the Women’s March mobilized a crowd with intersectional interests that cross racial, class, gender, and sexual identities.  Individuals were more likely to be motivated by issues connected to the social identities that were most salient for them: Black participants mobilized for Racial Justice, Hispanic participants mobilized for Immigration, and women mobilized for Reproductive Rights. However, we also find participants reported being motivated by reasons that extended beyond their individual social identities.

In this post, I look at the role that intersectionality plays across the American Resistance. Here, I present results of analyses of data collected from three of the largest protests in DC since the Inauguration:  the Women’s March, the March for Science, and the People’s Climate March. Participants continue to act based on intersectional motivations, but the pattern is less clear and consistent when we look across these different protest-events.

This diagram maps out the connections among motivations at these events. Nodes represent each of the fourteen different motivations identified by participants at the Women’s March.  Arrows show which motivations were statistically significantly connected.  Blue lines indicate a positive association across the motivations and red lines indicate a negative association.  The standalone nodes (the black dots) represent cases where the motivations are not connected.

Although there are clear coalitions in each event, they vary substantially by event and few of these bonds are durable ACROSS the different protests. For example, people who were motivated by Racial Justice to participate in the Women’s March were also motivated by Immigration, Politics, Religion, and Women’s Rights. However, people who were motivated by Racial Justice to participate in the March for Science reported being motivated by LGBTQ issues and Politic Brutality; and people who were motivated by Racial Justice to participate in the People’s Climate March reported being motivated by Equality, Police Brutality, Religion and Social Welfare.  In other words, the American Resistance involves coalitions across existing social movements on the Left, but these coalitions do not seem to be particularly durable, at least not so far.


*   Source:  Fisher and Jasny, In Progress, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, 12 August 2017.  These models control for number of protests, gender, race, and age and are slightly different from the analysis in our Science Advances paper so that the data can be compared across the protest events (feel free to contact me for a more detailed methodological note).  Because the environment was a motivation for over 90% of the people at the March for Science and the People’s Climate March, the models do not converge across the various motivations that might be associated with it.



Welcome to American Resistance, a Book-In-Progress about the ways Americans are resisting the Trump Administration and its policies.  Sections of this book will first be published online on this site.  The blog format enables me to comment on current events as they happen and frame my findings around real world events in real-time.  My intention is for the site’s content to contribute to the conversation about the Resistance as it is happening in the US. In addition to posting shorter blog posts, I will post full chapter drafts once they have gone through peer-review at Columbia University Press.

By tracking the American Resistance over time, we can understand and interpret its meaning and how it fits into American politics more accurately.  After the mid-term elections in 2018, these chapters will be revised to reflect the election’s outcome.  Then, the book will go to Press. The book will be available for purchase in summer 2019.  In the meantime, stay tuned for updates on the book and drafts to go live every month.

Since Donald Trump won the presidential election without winning the popular vote, there has been substantial and continuous protest against the Administration’s plans for the United States.  Street demonstrations are some of the most visible forms of opposition to the new Administration and its policies. Hundreds of thousands marched in pussy hats on the day after the inauguration; thousands stood in airports to show support for an America that is open to immigrants; tens of thousands of people marched (some sporting brain hats) to support science; and hundreds of thousands circled the White House to show concern for climate change and the ways the new Administration is quickly undoing all the previous administration’s progress. More recently, protest has erupted around the US in response to White Supremacists’ rallying and the President’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, VA.

At the same time, the Resistance has extended into Congressional districts.  Constituents have flooded the town hall meetings of their Congressional members to voice their concerns.  And people working within the US government have also resisted through rogue social media and data preservation, with members of advisory panels resigning left and right.  Even more recently, a US State Department science envoy stepped down from his appointment.  The first letters of the paragraphs in his public resignation letter were an acrostic spelling out the word “impeach.”  In other words, the election of Donald Trump has revitalized democracy in America.  People are no longer bowling alone, they are marching, yelling, and working together.

Although there have been numerous claims about how the election of Donald Trump will galvanize the progressive movement—spanning issues of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation—little has been written about how the progressive movement has come together to form the Resistance.  This book documents the American Resistance, focusing on the issues that are mobilizing participants and the tactics they are employing.  It concentrates on three specific components of the Resistance: Resistance in the Streets, Resistance in the Districts, and Resistance from Within.  It will conclude with a discussion of what the Resistance means for democracy and politics in the United States.

Keep checking back here for updates.  Here is the current schedule for posts on the American Resistance (NOTE:  as the world changes, this schedule and the actual posts may change):

  • Note on Intersectionality in the Resistance, September 2017
  • Draft of intro chapter, November 2017
  • Note on Science and Climate activism in the Resistance, December 2017
  • Draft of Chapter on Resistance in the Streets, January 2017
  • Overview of the American Resistance (in reality and in print), January 2017
  • Memo on Fieldwork about Resistance in the Districts, February 2018
  • Draft of Chapter on Resistance in the Districts, March 2018
  • Memo on field research about Resistance from Within, April 2018
  • Draft of Chapter on Resistance from Within, June 2018
  • Mid-term election, November 2018
  • Post-election revisions submitted for peer-review, February 2019
  • Book published by Columbia University Press, August 2019