News & Politics

The Top 10 Resistance Victories in Trump's First 100 Days

New social movements are making their power felt in ways that would have been unimaginable before Trump took office.

Photo Credit: Ilana Novick

President Donald Trump’s first 100 days will be remembered for the horror of his reckless bombings overseas, his attacks on immigrants, the environment, the Standing Rock Sioux, women, and people of color, and his penchant for choosing billionaires and Wall Street bankers as top officials. But this period will also go down in history for the remarkable popular resistance that has undermined many of Trump’s stated goals for the start of his term.

The true magnitude of this resistance is just starting to become clear. A full 25 percent of Americans, according to a Washington Post poll, say they plan on being “more politically active” this year, and they're already making their collective power felt in ways that none of us could have imagined just 100 days ago.

Here are 10 big wins that can teach us volumes about how to resist and succeed past Trump's first 100 days. 

1. The Women’s March changed everything.

The 4-5 million people who took to the streets in over 600 cities on January 21 gave confidence to resistance efforts on multiple fronts, including on Capitol Hill.

“When we first got sworn in on January 3, a lot of the Democrats were saying that we had to give Trump's agenda a chance and confessed to being nervous about taking him on directly,” newly elected Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) told us. "After the inauguration and the Women's March, everyone was singing a completely different tune.” 

Anti-misogyny activism got its latest boost near the end of the 100 days as Color of Change, Ultraviolet and others hastened the ouster of Trump ally and longtime Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

2. Airport rallies (and brave judges) postponed the Muslim ban.

When Trump marked his first week in office with an executive order banning U.S. entry for immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries—and to all refugees from anywhere—national outrage quickly turned into spontaneous protests at airports across the country and at the White House.

The outpouring of support for refugees and immigrants provided the political backing for courageous federal judges in Hawaii, Washington, Maryland, and New York to stop both versions of the ban in their tracks. Beyond ensuring the ban's permanent elimination, the next step will require challenging the aggressive U.S. military policies that are creating the refugee crisis in the first place.

3. Town hall rallies helped defeat Trumpcare.

The Republican Freedom Caucus got most of the credit for bringing down the disastrous Trump-Ryan health care plan. But the tens of thousands of people who packed town hall meetings with their members of Congress in March strengthened the backbones of Democrats and kept moderate Republicans from going along with the Freedom Caucus' demands.

A key force behind the resistance was Indivisible, which mobilized its nearly 6,000 chapters to protest at town halls from coast to coast. 

4. Tax marches threw a wrench in Trump’s tax plan.

More than 100,000 people in 200-plus communities participated in tax marches on April 15. While rally speakers called for a broader fair tax agenda, the central demand of the events was the release of Trump’s tax returns. He is the first president in 40 years to refuse to make them public.

This big-tent message turned up the heat on politicians to join the demand for transparency, boosting the number of Republican lawmakers who have done so to at least 20. The New York Times has called the controversy over Trump's returns a “central hurdle” to the passage of Trump’s tax reform plan, which is a huge giveaway to wealthy individuals, big corporations and Wall Street banks.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who had earlier vowed to get a deal signed by August, admitted after the marches that this is no longer realistic. 

5. The sanctuary cities movement is stronger and more inclusive than ever.

Some of the most disturbing images of the first 100 days have been of Trump immigration agents rounding up immigrants for deportation. But there's a proud history of U.S. cities and towns providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, going back to the U.S. wars in Central America in the 1980s. While Trump has promised to remove federal funding for cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE, the sanctuary city movement is stronger and more inclusive than ever. Projects like Freedom Cities are working to expand protection to other vulnerable communities, like refugees and those facing Islamophobia. Hundreds of sanctuary cities have been joined by congregations, campuses, restaurants, and even some unions.

Trump's plan to shame these cities by producing a weekly list of undocumented immigrants charged with crimes was suspended after only three reports, after cities and states complained of their inaccuracy. And leaders of sanctuary cities across Southern California have doubled down on their commitment to protect everyone in their communities, promising legal challenges against Jeff Sessions' Department of Justice.

6. The longtime progressive fight against corporate trade agreements paid off with the death of the TPP.

For a quarter-century, a wide spectrum of social movements across the U.S. and the world have fought to defeat corporate-friendly trade deals and advance fair and responsible alternatives.

During the campaign, labor, environmental, family farm, food safety, and women’s groups united in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, pressing candidate Trump (along with his rival, Hillary Clinton) to oppose the deal and condemn its blueprint, NAFTA. While it's clear that Trump's billionaire advisers are attempting to walk back their criticism, Trump ended U.S. participation in the TPP early in his first 100 days, a credit to progressives that set an important precedent. 

7. States and cities are stepping up climate action.

In recent years, a number of cities and states have sped up the transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy, creating jobs while addressing climate change. Groups like People’s Action and their affiliates have brought poor people and communities of color into these plans, making sure that renewable energy doesn't remain an option for the privileged alone.

In the face of Trump’s attempts to kill Obama’s signature climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan, several cities and states, including California and New York, have committed to sticking to their transition goals, despite the lack of federal support.

And the momentum is growing. The Institute for Policy Studies just released a new report that serves as a blueprint for state legislation to expand solar access to low-income communities. The Science and People’s Climate marches will no doubt help keep up the pressure.

8. A massive popular mobilization defeated an anti-labor CEO as labor secretary.

With Republican control of the Senate, Trump’s cabinet picks sailed through the confirmation process—with one major exception. Labor nominee Andrew Puzder had to withdraw from the process on the eve of his hearing. The fast-food CEO favored robots over workers, bragged about his sexist ad campaigns, and was the target of numerous sexual harassment and wage theft claims.

A wide range of over 60 labor, women’s and food groups, including IPSJobs with Justice, the National Employment Law Project, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, turned Puzder toxic through creative direct action and a steady stream of harsh media coverage that included the voices of Puzder’s own workers.

9. Racial and criminal justice are gaining momentum.

Movements for black lives continue to spread and diversify their agendas in the face of Trump's condemnation of the Black Lives Matter movement, which raised powerful critiques of America's racist criminal justice system. As Yale Law professor James Forman Jr. wrote in the New York Times in March: “The movement to reduce the prison population and make our criminal justice system more humane is not in retreat. In fact, it is stronger than ever.”

While Trump and Attorney General Sessions have painted racist pictures of American "inner cities" ravaged by gangs and murders and promised to "send in the feds," Forman reminds us that most crime policy is set at the state and local levels. And at those levels, a de-carceration movement led by formerly incarcerated people helped spark successful November ballot initiatives on sentencing, bail, parole, and other reforms in states from New Mexico to Oklahoma to California.

Notably, Trump has been silent in his first 100 days on his promise to pursue a “Restoring Community Safety Act,” which would have ramped up federal resources to put more people in jail. Meanwhile, black-led organizations have successfully pressed companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi to drop their support of right-wing legislative groups.

10. New heroes and new action centers abound.

Who would have thought that lawyers and judges, starting with the first Muslim ban order, would stand up, often taking to the streets, and be counted? Many members of the media, vilified by Trump, have stood up to the bullying, and the public has responded, with subscriptions to news sources up substantially.

And don't forget scientists: the Science March may have been the first time they have protested in a mass fashion.

Dozens of new organizations from Indivisible to #grabyourwallet to Bernie’s Our Revolution, have pulled millions of people into action and empowered thousands of new people to run for office. The challenge for the next 100 days is to turn all this people power into a lasting progressive infrastructure that can propel new local and state victories while continuing to thwart Trump’s dangerous national and global agenda.

Click to enlarge:

John Cavanagh directs the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies and sits on the board of Progressive Congress

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is the author of the new report Off the Deep End: The Wall Street Bonus Pool and Low-Wage Workers.

Domenica Ghanem is the media manager for the Institute for Policy Studies. 

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