Editorial: Backlash is strengthening democracy

  • President Donald Trump speaks with reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Call it a collateral good. President Trump has yet to achieve a single legislative accomplishment of any consequence. His decision Tuesday to support the bipartisan effort to continue payments to insurers so they can subsidize the cost of insurance for low-income Americans doesn’t count. It’s just a short-term fix for a problem Trump created.

The Divider in Chief has, however, inadvertently brought people together and swelled support for organizations devoted to protecting civil rights, preserving the environment, ending racism, fostering equality, building community and opposing his destructive policies. That’s a very good thing indeed.

People come together during natural disasters. They are apparently doing so for the man-made disaster that is the Trump administration. The more people who get politically and socially involved, the stronger the nation will be.

Since the November election, membership in the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has tripled. It’s now nearly 9,000 and growing. Trump’s Muslim-focused travel ban, assault on free speech, acceptance of racist behavior, and attacks on gay and transgender Americans have been a great recruiting and fundraising tool.

The ACLU received more than $24 million in donations in a single weekend after the Muslim ban was announced.

The phenomenon is widespread with every chapter reporting membership gains and increased donations that have led to the hiring of hundreds more lawyers ready to challenge the excesses of an increasingly autocratic president.

Conservation groups and environmental organizations have also had big gains in membership and donation levels.

The Sierra Club experienced a 700 percent increase in contributions in just the first three months after the 2016 election. Funding for the League of Conservation Voters doubled. Charities like Meals on Wheels have seen support increase. Planned Parenthood, the target of nonstop attacks primarily by Republicans, has received a flood of donations. Membership in voting and immigrant rights organizations has climbed, as has support for groups devoted to expanding access to affordable health care.

More important than money, however, has been the increase in civic involvement that brings people together to work toward a shared goal, be it a more just society or fewer poor and hungry fellow human beings.

Once involved, people tend to stay involved – and even those who don’t are more likely to exercise their franchise and vote.

In Concord, the Kent Street Coalition, the subject of a Monitor article last spring, is an example of such a group. It owes its founding to Trump and the fear of what he might do as president.

The group’s website announces that the coalition was created to “engage in politics in a new and deeper way, as citizen activists vigilant in our defense of America’s founding principles of fairness, justice, equality, liberty and compassion.”

Similar groups have sprung up all over the nation.

The more people politically and civically engaged, the stronger the democracy.

We urge readers, whether your beliefs are on the right, left or middle, to get involved and, above all, look for goals shared with someone whose political views differ from your own.