By Chris Pickett
Looking at the coming week, the Senate is likely to hold votes on the nominations of Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions. And despite all of our efforts, Ms. DeVos and Mr. Sessions are likely to be confirmed.
What does this mean for us given all the effort we’ve put into calling about why the Senate must reject these nominees? We know our message was received—Democrats dramatically slowed down the confirmation process and the Maryland senators oppose these picks. So what are we to do when we pour so much work into getting our message across only to lose when it comes time to vote?
I ask myself these questions all the time. But I always end up coming back to the lesson of the Tea Party in 2010. Tea Party activists made waves and headlines all year long with their vocal and provocative pushback against the Affordable Care Act: Death panels. Government takeover of healthcare. Hostile constituents. And as the ACA made its way through Congress, and the process of getting the bill through committees and hearings became torturously slow, the Tea Party grew louder and more visible.
And when it came time for Congress to vote, the Tea Party lost.
They lost. The ACA became law.
So then why did the Tea Party persist? If they lost their signature fight, then why didn’t they fade into the background?
It’s because their goal never was to defeat the ACA in Congress. Sure, they would’ve loved that outcome. But the real goal was to take control of the political narrative. The Tea Party changed the story of a wildly popular president with a majority in Congress delivering healthcare to millions of people in need into one where the government was being led by an out-of-touch elitist bent on imposing a massively intrusive, secretive and wasteful program on the American people. And it worked.
And as much as I love and support the ACA, this story of the Tea Party lifts my spirits.
The Tea Party showed that, even in the minority, railing hard against the workings of the government can have a payoff. And like the Tea Party, that payoff can’t be in the ultimate outcome of votes in Congress because, given the makeup of Congress, the deck is stacked against us on almost every issue. Rather, the payoff is in wresting control of the narrative from the GOP Congress and the Trump administration.
Our work and the work of activists across the country slowed the work of the Senate, giving the press ample time to show the country that Ms. DeVos is woefully unprepared for taking over the Education Department. And we had time to show that Mr. Sessions’ views on race and immigration are vile and counter to that of most Americans. We will likely still need to fight the policies of Ms. DeVos, Mr. Sessions and the rest of the Cabinet. But we have demonstrated that we have a powerful voice that must be reckoned with.
Our mission has always been to demonstrate that the people at the highest levels of the Trump administration are incompetent, ineffective and corrupt and that their policies will harm Americans. And we have accomplished this. This win is absolutely necessary if we’re going to launch a tidal wave that takes back the Congress in 2018.
So the votes didn’t go our way. Don’t despair. We’re on track, and we still have work to do.