Will the Resistance Join the Graveyard of Democratic Politics (take 2)?

I posted a piece with this name right after the midterm elections in November 2018 and, after it came up in a conversation with Danielle Kurtzleben on NPR about the future of the Resistance, it seems like a good time to revisit it.

With yesterday’s inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, the 2020 election is finally behind us. As executive orders are signed to replace some of the most unpopular of Trump’s policies, we need to ask ourselves (again): Will the Resistance join the Graveyard of democratic politics? History suggests that progressive political movements lose their potency after Democratic electoral wins.  Just look at the post-9/11 anti-war movement and the Obama campaign in 2008 for evidence.  Although some called the campaign to elect Barack Obama a movement to elect the first Black president, the campaign’s infrastructure (which became Organizing for America) was subsumed into the Democratic party quickly after the inauguration.  The grassroots army of activists celebrated as the future of grassroots organizing was swiftly disarmed into a cadre of donors and phone bankers.  Will the Resistance meet a similar fate?

Before the 2020 election November, I conducted another wave of follow-up surveys with participants in the American Resistance. Some preliminary findings from that survey was published on election day in the Washington Post. Overall, the data showed that many resisters continued to be politically active through fall 2020 and that they had channeled their activism into working for the election.

In part thanks to these efforts, the 2020 election had record turnout with two-thirds of registered voters participating. But what happens to a movement that has been laser focused on one election after that election is over?  Leaders of Resistance groups have developed strategies to keep fighting and channel their members’ enthusiasm into specific political and legislative campaigns now that the Democrats hold the majorities in both houses of the Congress and the Presidency, but will the ground troops continue to follow their lead?

At this point, it is too soon to tell.  History provides a cautionary tale, but the sting of the past few years and the very real threat of the Radical Right may just provide sufficient incentive to stay engaged.