Matthew Yglesias in Vox:
The Women’s Marches over-awed Donald Trump’s Inauguration. Protesters at airports checked the initial version of Trump’s travel bans. Ordinary Americans’ phone calls and door knocks defeated multiple attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act. It all sent a clear message during Trump’s first two years in office: Resistance works.
Engaged protesters were not able to block the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, but they did render both toxically unpopular. The resistance spurred an unprecedented level of interest in special elections, swinging seats across the country, and powered Democrats to sweeping wins in the 2018 midterms.
And then it stopped. There was no mass mobilization to call senators in advance of the resolution blocking Trump’s border emergency declaration. There were no crowds on Capitol Hill. There are no reports of Republican senators canceling town halls because they’re afraid to face angry crowds demanding a floor vote on the anti-corruption bill HR 1. There are no protesters demanding that Trump accede to Congress’s request for his tax returns in part because no request has been made.
The resistance has demobilized. And for Democrats, it’s probably a huge mistake.
It’s perhaps more a matter of how people look at life in general that has led to this. Conservatives not only see the glass half-empty, they’re on the lookout for someone, somewhere, to dash it from their lips. They live in a world of suspicion and hyped-up tension; every stranger is a danger; every person that doesn’t look or sound like them is up to no good, so no matter what the reality is, you can’t trust anybody. That explains why even after winning elections the right-wingers never stop complaining and campaigning.
Progressives see it the other way: everything has the potential for beauty and comity; we can just all get along if only we’d trust our inner goodness. Electing their people will turn everything right and we can all take a deep cleansing breath and relax.
But you cannot stop and rest on your laurels and think the defeated will retreat, having learned their lesson. They’ll be back with a vengeance because that is what they do. That’s why after the election of the first African-American president so many people pronounced racism was dead and believed we had at last grown past the original sin of slavery and institutional bigotry, only to have it made abundantly clear that not only was prejudice and paranoia still alive and well, it could elect the most dangerous threat to American democracy since Fort Sumter.
It’s easier to scare people with a siege mentality, and it’s a great control mechanism; keep the followers in line (and getting their money) with fear and loathing. (Organized religion figured that out thousands of years ago.) The Democrats cannot let their guard down, and they don’t have to make up fake news or gin up paranoia to show the world that they need to keep up the marching.