moonlit2011 / Flickr The Four Vs...
moonlit2011 / Flickr

A poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals a solitary silver lining shining through the darkness and disgrace Americans have had to endure under this malignant Administration: a strikingly resurgent level of vocal, civic engagement on the part of millions of Americans.

Described as the “most extensive study of rallygoers and protesters in more than a decade,” the poll found that:

[O]ne in five Americans has attended at least one protest or political rally since the beginning of 2016 — and that 19 percent of that group had never attended such an event before that year.

2017 was the Year of the Protest Rally, and so far it looks like 2018 is shaping up the same way. The March For Our Lives showed how quickly a single tragedy can spawn mass rallies given the right confluence of public outrage and social media. The fact that red state teachers felt emboldened enough to storm their state capitol this week also suggests that once people become accustomed to the idea of protest it becomes an almost reflexive act of self-defense.

As pointed out in the Hill, the fact that so many people who never before participated in political rallies are now doing so does not bode well for Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. Nearly 89% of those polled say they plan to vote in November and a third of those say they plan to work for a specific Congressional campaign.  But the major concern for Republicans should be that the impetus of this renewed spirit of protest and activism is self-evident and skewed heavily against Donald Trump, whose very existence resembles nothing so much as an anvil around their necks:

Out of the group of Americans who said they have attended a rally or protest since 2016, 70 percent are opposed to President Trump and say they do not support his agenda, compared with 30 percent who said they attended rallies while supporting the president.

And this should be quite worrying for the GOP:

Among the one-third who planned to work or volunteer for congressional races, 64 percent say they will do so for Democrats, and 26 percent plan to work for Republicans.

It has also become apparent that protests actually scare Republicans:

Recent demonstrations have been peaceful — often with music blaring from jumbo screens and donated water bottles being amiably passed among strangers. But while 1960s protests were marred with violent clashes with police, 69 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats said today’s attendees are “more violent” than those who protested 50 years ago.

Of course the reality is that there is virtually no violence at all at these protests, which are generally made up of middle-class “normal” Americans who don’t even self-identify as “activists” and for whom the idea of mass rallies is something quite new.

Some caution is warranted in considering these poll results, as those polled were a random sample of adults, not registered or likely voters. So the fact that they say  they will vote may not actually translate into action. Still, there is no doubt that unprecedented numbers of Americans this year and the last have been more energized about social protest than any time since the 1960’s. Many of these people, such as those who recently attended the March For Our Lives, are adults marching with their young children, demonstrating a level of concern and commitment that actually transcends the 60’s.  Those children, unlike previous generations, will grow up with social protest and rallies as something common and expected.

The poll also provides a window into who is doing most of the protesting:

The poll also suggests that anti-Trump activity is disproportionately concentrated among middle-aged, highly educated suburbanites: 44 percent of activists (broadly defined as Americans who’ve attended at least one protest or rally) were 50 or older; 46 percent earned more than $100,000 a year; and 50 percent were college graduates. These findings comport with previous sociological research from Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol, which suggested that the college-educated suburban women in Middle America represent the core of the anti-Trump resistance.

This is a fair cross-section of the most economically successful and most educated people in the country.

It’s also a fair cross-section of those who are most likely to vote.

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