We're not three days into a new President Trump administration and we have already witnessed an amazing series of events -- most notably the highly visible protest demonstrations around the country. The big question is this -- Will this turnout lead to political action?
Let's contrast January 2017 with January 2009. At President Obama's inauguration, there was a massive turnout with very little visible counter protests. However, the Republican leadership was already plotting and planning how to obstruct the new President. A grass roots movement was taking shape backed by big donor money that would emerge as the "Tea Party." Regardless of your political views, that movement utlimately had a huge impact on the political landscape across the country. Republican candidates in safe districts became more worried about a Tea Party challenger in a primary election than a democratic opponent in a general election. As a result, the party overall swung more conservative. That movement led to appreciable gains at every level in government starting with the 2010 mid term elections. Those elections led to substantial gains not only at the federal level, but at the state level. Which, in turn, led to more gerrymandering and more "safe" Republican districts leading to an even further turn rightward for the Republican party. Don't think the gerrymandering made a difference? In the 2012 election, Democrats won the overall popular vote in the House of Representatives but still lost the House.
The movement begun almost immediately after President Obama's election and led to the current state of Republican control of the White House, Senate, House of Representatives and the majority of state executive and legislative branches. It's hard to argue with the political success of that movement.
We just witnessed a rather impressive display of opposition this weekend. Looking at the sheer numbers and passion generated, it would be easy to forecast significant Democratic gains over the next few election cycles. Politics isn't always that simple, though. It takes money and a sustained and cohesive operation to win seats. 2018 will be a real litmus test. Historically, the party out of power does well in the mid-terms. On the flip side, Democratic turnout has been lacking in non Presidential election years. To make matters worse, there are more Democratic Senate seats up for grabs than Republican ones with many in states Trump won. The Democrats have their work cut out for them. If they are to make sizeable gains, they need to channel the passion and turnout of this past weekend into "a boots on the ground" "get out the vote" "send a clear and convincing message" "raise money" political operation that can win them elections. With no clear leadership nor a singular voice, it is a real inflection point for the Democratic party.