The weeks following Trump’s inauguration have seen an era of protest unprecedented in American history. Millions took to the streets the day after the inauguration in the Women’s March, and when the White House instituted the Muslim ban, thousands went out again and congested travel at every major airport in the country until the American Civil Liberties Union was able to get a stay against the order. Conspicuously absent from these demonstrations were elected Democrats, who didn’t throw their full weight behind the protests until the undeniable and instantaneous airport sit-ins. The events of the past few weeks have shown that the only way to successfully oppose Trump is overwhelming public pressure directed at elected officials of both parties.
While the American majority was horrified by the results of the election, the democratic elite were largely indifferent. Many Democratic senators voted for Trump’s cabinet nominees and have been open to his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said that Democrats “should not repeat the Republicans’ wrong” by filibustering Gorsuch’s nomination. Attitudes like this show how out of touch many Democrats are with their
constituents, who refuse to validate their officials’ insistence that this is the new normal.
Fortunately, these constituents are bringing their representatives back to reality. As of Jan. 31, 14 Democratic senators, including household names such as Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and Dianne Feinstein, D-California, had voted to confirm every one of the five Trump nominees that had gone to vote. Among these senators was Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, recently lambasted at a town hall by his community. Protesters filled up the building and criticized Whitehouse for voting for Trump’s nominees. Faced with criticism, Whitehouse admitted that he “might have been wrong” in his votes.
This public pressure has even been shown to work with conservative politicians. The backlash surrounding the nomination of Betsy DeVos has been fiercer than any other Trump nomination, motivated by fear of DeVos’s dangerous views on school privatization and her disastrous senate questioning. This backlash is so intense that it has moved beyond the left, and motivated two Republican senators, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to oppose her. To explain her opposition, Murkowski cited the “thousands of Alaskans who have shared their concerns about Mrs. DeVos.” Republicans have shown they can’t be trusted to keep Trump in check, but the fact that some have found the courage to oppose him, even on just a single cabinet nomination, shows how much power the public still has.
The Democrats have shown us who they are. They will only actively oppose and filibuster Trump if they’re constantly receiving pressure from their constituents to do so. If we want to oppose Trump, we’ve seen what works. Massive protest, contact with representatives and enabling the ACLU are all methods we’ve seen work. What won’t work is sitting back and expecting our politicians to fix the problem on their own. Propriety in politics died a long time ago, and we as Americans must remind our democratic politicians of that at every opportunity, and push them to do the right thing.
Chastain-Howley is a writing and rhetoric junior from Dallas.