Four weeks from TODAY are the midterm elections. In addition to determining what party will hold the majority in both houses of the US Congress, as well as local and state-level elections, the midterms are the end point for this study of the American Resistance.
Before then, I have a final push of data collection and analysis. First, I am spending the next week interviewing representatives of ‘Resistance Groups’ to understand the work that they are doing a month before the election to organize Resistance in the Districts. This component of the research is particularly important as civic groups and social movement organizations are the cartilage that holds together American Democracy. In other words, these groups have the potential to channel outrage into longer term political work and activism.
The week after the election, I will field one final survey of participants in the Resistance in the Streets to learn about their engagement in civic activities including around the election. This final survey will round out the project and inform the connection between Resistance in the streets and Resistance in the Districts.
One of the hallmarks of the American Resistance is the degree to which institutional and non-institutional forms of activism and political engagement have merged. Although recent research chronicles some cases when social movements have connected with more institutional electoral politics, it is relatively uncommon. However, the merger of the tactics and targets employed by the Resistance is clearly visible in the activism against the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court that is currently underway.
Yesterday, I took my social movements class on a ‘fieldtrip’ down to the US Senate to observe this activism in process. There, we observed evidence of how multiple groups are working together and separately to coordinate daily visits to Senate offices (as well as confronting Senators in public spaces), marching in the streets, direct action around the US Capitol, and candlelight vigils on the steps of the US Supreme Court. In fact, tonight’s vigil is scheduled to include musical performances by Alicia Keys and Michael Stipe.
Although it is unclear if the activists will achieve their political goals of blocking the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh, it has certainly mobilized people to engage in politics in innovative ways. Moreover, I expect the legacy of this wave of activism to persist for years to come.
This month, the New York Times has run two separate Op-Eds about the Resistance: one anonymously claiming that people working within the Trump Administration are the Resistance and another questioning the utility of calling the movement against the Trump Agenda the Resistance. In response, I feel compelled to expand my previous post about what is the Resistance (as well as to revise that specific part of Chapter 1).
American Resistance (rɪˈzɪstəns) : People working individually and through organizations to challenge the Trump Administration and its policies (therefore NOT people in the Administration who are challenging the President as a person if they support his broader agenda). The Resistance includes people working as individual citizens, through their professions as lawyers, scientists, artists, 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, Indivisible, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance–are all playing parts in the Resistance. The oft-discussed violent fringe that stirred in response to White supremacist activities around the US—the Antifa—is also part of the Resistance to the degree that it is focusing specifically on targeting the Trump agenda.
In many ways, the Resistance is a countermovement to the Trump regime (like the Tea Party was a countermovement to the Obama Adminisration and its policies). The fact that it is a countermovement makes it possible to bring diverse streams of progressive activism together to form the raging river of resistance that we see today. In other words, the Resistance represents a merging of movements—including Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the Women’s, Anti-Gun Violence, and Climate Movements. Because it is unified against a common enemy driven by moral outrage, the Resistance has united movements that have historically competed for resources, energy and attention. At the same time, however, the bonds among these movements and the organizations that coordinate them are fragile and create a challenge for the strength and persistence of the Resistance.
With numerous large-scale marches having taken place since the Resistance began with the 2017 Women’s March, my research has found that people are turning out again-and-again to march for various issues across the progressive spectrum. One of the questions that I’ve recently focused on is what explains who has persisted?
In a new paper, Lorien Jasny and I answer this specific question. We find that the two major predictors of persistence are: (1) having contacted your elected official in the past 12 months and (2) being motivated by the issue of Reproductive Rights. We also find that being motivated by the political system in general is negatively associated with coming out again-and-again.
Overall, these findings provide additional evidence that the participants in the Resistance are engaging in politics in their local communities and Congressional districts.
With three months to go until the Midterm elections, this week is bringing lots of different types of Resistance, particularly focusing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Even Hillary Clinton has gotten involved in resisting the confirmation, taking to social media with her message.
On September 24th, I am hosting a symposium on Studying Protest in An Age of Resistance at the University of Maryland. The symposium features the work of colleagues who have been working to track the Resistance since the beginning, including the folks at the Crowd Counting Consortium and at Count Love, along with those of us who survey protesters. The event is open to the public, but registration is strongly encouraged.
Click here to RSVP
Now that the bulk of American Resistance is drafted, I will be spending the next few months leading up to the midterm elections updating and revising the chapters (which will involve some new data collection).
In addition, I am currently working on a paper that focuses specifically on the differential rates of participation at the various protest events since the Resistance began. This table presents the rates of differential participation across the protest events. Although one of the hallmarks of this current wave of contention is the fact that people are turning out again-and-again for protest events focused around different progressive issues, there is quite a bit of variation among first-timer participation at the various protest events (see this piece in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog for a discussion of the Families Belong Together Event). The paper discusses how we can understand these varied rates of participation more clearly.
I’ve been asked a number of times this week if the Resistance is experiencing “protest fatigue.” At this point, I see no evidence of it: people are protesting daily in downtown DC at the White House and there are numerous counter protests scheduled for this weekend around the Unite The Right 2 rally in DC. This weekend’s events mark the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA that claimed the life of a counter protester. In advance of the anniversary, the state of Virginia and the city of Charlottesville have declared a state-of-emergency .
At the same time, turnout at this week’s primaries provides more evidence that the Resistance is diversifying its tactics beyond marching in the streets. For more on the ways the Resistance has focused its attention in the districts, check out Chapters 3 and 4.
Attached is my draft of Chapter 3, which focuses on how individuals who have participated in the American Resistance–Resisters–are focusing their attention in the districts leading up to the midterm elections. The findings presented in this chapter are based on a follow-up survey with resistors six months before the midterm elections in May 2018. Like chapter 4, which focuses on Resistance groups working in the districts, these findings are likely to change quite a bit as we get closer to the election. Given the findings from the follow-up survey, there are clear opportunities for groups and political candidates to think about what issues are most important to resistors (and potentially effective for mobilizing people to get more involved). In addition, Chapter 3 provides thoughts about what to expect from the American Resistance after the midterm elections in November 2018.
Chapter 3 is almost finished and it will be released before the end of the month (as promised). In the meantime, I wanted to share an overview of the ways that participants in various moments of resistance in the streets have been engaging more broadly in democracy. As you can see, some of these measures of civic engagement have gone up substantially since the Inauguration. These data provide evidence that those who are marching in the streets are doing a lot more that just marching and yelling in the streets. Moreover, they suggest that participants in the Resistance in the streets are extremely likely to vote.
In a piece I just published through the Monkey Cage at the Washington Post, I highlight some of my findings from this weekends #FamiliesBelongTogetherMarch.
There was a lot of similarity between this recent march and previous large-scale protests in the Resistance in terms of demographics: the Resistance continues to turn out more women than men who are highly educated. For a highly educated crowd, though, Families Belong Together was relatively diverse–with the event turning out the highest percentage of Latinx that I have seen in my research so far.
Here is a table of the findings I discuss, showing the relationship between organizational membership and civic engagement.
As I note in the piece, the Families Belong Together March provides evidence that organizations are not just mobilizing people to march in the streets, they are also providing channels through which they can take action in their own communities and districts. In fact, many groups in the organizing coalition have focused increasing attention on political activities leading up to the midterm elections. Given what these organizations were able to do in just 12 days, one can only imagine what is possible in the next 5 months.