Welcome to the Graveyard of the Progressive Movement

5 years ago this weekend, millions joined the Women’s March in the largest single day-demonstration in US history. This weekend, however, there is no Women’s March scheduled. Instead, we will only see activists marching in DC as part of the Annual March for Life (against abortion rights).

Last January, I spoke with Danielle Kurtzleben on NPR about what will come of the Resistance in the wake of the 2020 election and how progressive groups need to pivot from defense to offense to support the progressive agenda. There’s historic precedent that, when Democrats win, movements die.

A year in, it’s clear that, even with a Democrat in the White House, the progressive agenda is failing: the Build Back Better Act, which includes funding to support childcare, healthcare, and to address climate change, is dead in the water; Roe v. Wade may be overturned this year; and last night, Federal Voting Rights legislation failed when two Democrats joined the Republicans to block changes to the Senates rules.

Although the Biden Administration has made some progress on a range of issues in the past year, the progress has been limited by the Senate and a conservative Supreme Court. The top issues that motivated the Resistance and turned people out in the streets to raise their voices in protest during the 4 years of the Trump Administration are floundering.

What comes next is the trillion dollar question. Policy failure can be demobilizing for many movements and there is evidence that Resisters are following that pattern. The political Right provides an interesting contrast: conservative civic groups have been very effective at maintaining momentum in recent years, even when Republicans win. If the Left doesn’t figure out how to sustain engagement and support its agenda from within the political system, it is destined to keep losing–and that’s bad news with the 2022 Midterm elections only 8 months away.