Froma Harrop: Liberals find community, and that could be big
During the presidential campaign, many Hillary Clinton voters in Atlanta’s suburbs thought they were alone. That was an easy conclusion to draw because few felt comfortable putting Clinton signs on their front lawns or expressing their political preference at parties. Their neighbors seemed overwhelmingly Republican.
It took the presidency of Donald Trump to shock them out of their quietude. They emerged from the bunkers, blinking and surprised to find they had so much company. Many are now harnessing their distress to their newly discovered numbers and going activist. They are thus giving a 30-year-old novice named Jon Ossoff a fighting chance to win the congressional seat recently vacated by Tom Price, Trump’s secretary of health.
This wouldn’t be happening without Trump. Today’s scenes of environmental degradation and Russian infiltration — under the tweeting fingers of a possibly mad emperor — would wake the political dead. They have electrified a left prone to battling itself over deviations in liberal scripture but also a center wanting nothing more than a day of normal news.
In other times, #resistance might come off as a bit melodramatic. Trump world has made it feel downright mainstream.
Trump has thus transformed the liberal ranks from stray cats to packs of dogs. Dogs act bolder when traveling in numbers. Dogs want community.
Participants in the women’s marches in January recall the events not so much for stoking anger but for providing comfort. The throngs of peaceful marchers overwhelmed the few radicals ready to rumble. Their sense of well-being came from communing with so many ordinary women — and men — who felt as they did.
Like the tea party right, liberals are flocking to their own media campfires for warmth, talking points and calls to action. On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow is now edging out the troubled king of right-wing palaver, Bill O’Reilly, in total audience. (She has long dominated him in the coveted 25- to 54-year-old demographic.)
On CBS, Stephen Colbert has become the go-to guy for smart and witty late-night commentary from a liberal perspective. As such, he is bringing younger audiences back to network TV.
And in a shoutout to “CBS Evening News,” let us praise anchor Scott Pelley. His willingness to tell what’s really happening with minimal dramatics and apparently little concern about being attacked by the right is refreshing.
The surprise hit podcast of 2017 — “Pod Save America” — stars three luminaries from the Obama administration. It offers lively and interesting political chat — but nothing that would have seemed earth-shattering before Nov. 8. Now it’s vacuuming up audiences and advertising.
Speaking of which, it was interesting to see how quickly major advertisers deserted O’Reilly’s show after reports of the host’s penchant for serial sexual harassment. In doing so, they must have considered the perils of displeasing his avid fan base. On the other hand, how many millions of women were marching?
The tea party’s membership was never huge in numbers, but the movement knew how to turn communal passions into political clout. Members jeered politicians and joined enthusiastic protests. But their real power came from marching as a group to party primaries and other elections that less engaged voters ignored.
Democrats hope to use that strategy in the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Ossoff is running against several Republicans. Should he get more than 50 percent of the vote, he’d take a storied seat once inhabited by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Political revolutions don’t happen on Twitter. They happen when like-minded citizens join to vote.
As jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron famously vocalized, “The revolution will not be televised. … The revolution will be live.”