Regarding the future of the Trump resistance movement, consider this:

Town Halls Gone Wild!

Members of Congress face angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior from citizens angry about health care reform.

Sounds familiar because it happened just a few days ago? Well, surprise. That particular shout fest took place in 2009.

My passage quoted above is modified from “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” by Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson (Oxford, 2010).

Then those harassed members of Congress were Democrats, and the angry troublemakers were tea party sympathizers.

In facts some Democratic strategists have advocated that the Trump resistance use the tea party as a model.

These elderly Tea Partiers are here to tell you it's no party. They angrily guard their little patch of the Midwest against change and progress they didn't sign up for. Created in Illustrator CS.

Plausible? Well, a little, but the resistance movement can learn more from the differences between the two then from the similarities.

Like the tea party, the resistance is a spontaneous movement driven by anger, fear, and disgust for the sitting president.

Tea party supporters hated Obama whom they found worse than wrong. He was, as one person put it at a local chapter meeting, “incomprehensible” and a sign that the world that they knew was falling apart.

That’s the same the way the Trump resisters feel.

The tea party was a grassroots movement, something that the Trump resistance is attempting to be.

And here is the most tempting reason to emulate the tea party: you can’t argue with success, especially if the success came about in circumstances so much like what the Democrats face right now.

In 2008 after Obama’s first presidential victory, the Republican Party was demoralized and in disarray. Just two years later in the 2010 mid-term elections, thanks in no small part to the tea party, the GOP scored a huge victory, gaining 63 House seats, and six Senate seats.

A grassroots movement leading the charge from near death to rejuvenation in a political nanosecond. What’s not to emulate?

A lot actually. The tea party movement had certain advantages and opportunities that the anti-Trump movement lacks. Its success highlights the challenges that Trump resistance faces.

Organizing-wise, the tea party had a demographic advantage because the members were relatively old. (An advantage of being old. One for my side.)

The typical tea party activist was older, white, certainly not rich but financially secure. Many were retired people or stay-at-home moms so they had time to devote. They typically had worked on civic and political activities in the past.

In short, time, resources and experience.

Many of the Trump resisters are new to political activities either because they are young or because Trump has frightened them enough to consider doing something.

As impressive as the Women’s March or town hall meeting have been, those were relatively easy jumps for people who don’t regularly participate in politics.

The tea party was a grassroots movement, something that the Trump resistance is attempting to be.

But it’s a big leap from this to showing up regularly for sustained activities like meetings, campaigning for congressional candidates (not to mention running for office yourself), or participating in more edgy kinds of protests like Black Lives Matter.

For example, young Bernie Sanders activists are an important resource. Will they maintain their willingness to stay involved?

There are some good signs, but countering that is the left’s recent grassroots failures.

Movement 2.0 was a plan to keep the millions of Obama campaign volunteers together after his elections, making him the first president in history to organize a grassroots movement that would continue beyond his years in office.

But despite great optimism and some encouraging research, it failed.

As President Obama wistfully put it in his exit interview with NPR, “And you know, one of the big suggestions that I have for Democrats as I leave … is: How do we do more of that ground-up building?”

The tea party movement had the luxury of unity. They were a homogenous group that had very rigid and uncompromising political views. They were interested in maintaining purity, not in compromise.

Ideological rigidity usually works against political movements in the U.S., but it was an asset for the tea party because compromise and openness take time.

The Trump resistance does not have this cohesiveness. There are fundamental and very disruptive divisions within the Democratic Party. Think Clinton/Sanders and its aftermath, or the divisions over the role of identity politics, or the lack of clarity about what a progressive economic plan should look like.

The Trump resistance movement is much more racially and ethnically diverse than the tea party. While that diversity is the lifeblood of the contemporary left, it makes unity much harder to achieve.

The tea party was a grassroots movement with performance enhancers.

It had a powerful media booster in Fox News, which was not merely sympathetic. Its news people, like Megyn Kelly who asked viewers to “join the TEA party action from your home,” actively promoted tea party events and activities, like having your own company newsletter.

The movement also tapped into powerful pre-existing networks of ultra-wealthy, savvy, politically experienced conservatives, the most important being the Koch brothers.

It was not simply the money. The Koch’s already had well developed state and local organizations that they called on to help give the tea party clout and prominence.

Certainly there are wealthy anti-Trump benefactors like the billionaire George Soros. But it’s not just about the money. When it comes to movement building, Soros is no Koch. There is no liberal network that matches what the tea party had at its disposal.

Because of these advantages the tea party activists could move from emotion to mobilization much more easily than the Trump resistance ever can.

So the reply to Obama’s how do we do more building from the ground up may very well be “slowly and deliberately.” Except that under the circumstances that’s a really dispiriting answer.

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