Trump's First 100 Days: The State Of 'The Resistance'

Apr 27, 2017
Originally published on April 28, 2017 9:20 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Trump administration's first 100 days have been a very anxious time for the resistance. We're talking about progressive activists who have seen their ranks swell since Donald Trump was elected president. Now as Trump's agenda stalls, they're starting to feel more hopeful. NPR's Scott Detrow reports.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: For many progressives, election night 2016 is burned into their minds like a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

TIFFANY KANG: And processing that was definitely something that I'll always remember. It's almost like 9/11.

DETROW: Tiffany Kang (ph) is standing on a balcony at a downtown Los Angeles loft office building. She's one of about 20 progressives there for a day of training for digital political organizing.

AMY BIVEN: Because in 2017, it feels like it's all the unexpected, right?

DETROW: Many in the room are like Amy Biven (ph)

BIVEN: I sort of slid into some complacency after George W. Bush was out of office because I had the luxury of being able to do so.

DETROW: Now Biven is back into political organizing, and she's looking for tools to make her actions more effective. All over the country but especially in deep blue cities like LA, progressives are organizing, rallying, calling their congressmen, donating to causes. And 100 days in, many feel like it's working.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Refugees are welcome here - no hate, no fear. Refugees are welcome here.

DETROW: Searching for a high point of optimism from the first few months of the Trump era, Biven points to this spontaneous protest that followed Trump's first travel ban.

BIVEN: People in the streets going to airports - and people hate going to the airport, especially in New York City. Anyone who's lived in New York City will tell you they'd rather eat broken glass.

DETROW: Other resistors point to the failure to repeal Obamacare or national security adviser Michael Flynn resigning. Each Trump stumble leaves the resistance more energized. But Democrats in office are beginning to worry whether it will turn on them, too.

Several miles north on the 405, a group of activists is settling into the back room of a bowling alley, getting ready for its monthly meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Please take a seat. We're going to get started.

DETROW: The group organizes under the banner of Indivisible, thousands of similar local organizing efforts that have sprung up across the country. Everyone here is really frustrated with their congressman, Democrat Brad Sherman. And their beef has more to do with style than substance.

JOHN PELZER: He doesn't do anything for International Women's Day - no tweet, no press release, no nothing. Even Trump did that.

DETROW: That's John Pelzer (ph), who wants Sherman to be more aggressive, to take public stands against Trump like other Los Angeles area Democrats are doing. Sherman does have a solid liberal voting record. But for many in the room, that's not enough. They want him to be more active and confrontational.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: We are more progressive than you are.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: He hasn't been doing his job for 13 years. Why are we encouraging him?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Yeah, but we haven't been participating either. We hadn't been participating until Donald Trump got elected.

DETROW: Many members of the resistance are like Owen Ellickson. He was horrified by Trump in 2016 and spent most of the year poking fun at the Republican candidate by writing a Twitter account that imagined fake conversations between Trump and his advisers.

OWEN ELLICKSON: And it was, I thought, good, silly fun that was undergirded by the fact that I thought he would not become our president.

DETROW: Sitting outside at a South Pasadena cafe, the TV comedy writer explains how on November 9 he became all business - no more Trump jokes, just a lot of organizing and a lot more civic engagement. Ellickson is one of many progressives who are even starting to think with a whole lot of caveats of course that maybe in the end, Trump could be good for their cause.

ELLICKSON: Not to dive into pop culture, but the end of the "Watchmen" comic book...

DETROW: Confused - just stick with the comparison for a moment. "Watchmen" is a late-'80s graphic novel.

ELLICKSON: ...Ozymandias creates an alien that falls from space, killing half of New York, and it is this external horror that forces the Americans and the Russians, ironically, to put aside their differences and avert the Cold War. It does feel like Trump is the (laughter) external squid that a lot of us needed to put our differences aside and really get engaged and worked up.

DETROW: One big question is whether this can turn into something like the Tea Party, and the resistance can turn that anger into long-term political victories. Scott Detrow, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.