In the wake of the public shaming of multiple Trump administration officials and the call for more of it from Maxine Waters, many establishment politicos are wringing their hands over civility. While they fret the possibility that impolite behavior will harm Democrats in the midterms, progressive activists and 2020 contenders know better. Nearly 600 women were arrested last Thursday as part of the #WomenDisobey sit-in against the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Jeff Merkley, and Elizabeth Warren all showed up in support of the protest, which was organized by the Women's March, the Center for Popular Democracy, and CASA in Action.
We should expect an escalation of a variety of public confrontation tactics -- however inconvenient to the civility police -- in the run up to November, especially with the impending battle to protect women's reproductive freedom from religious zealots salivating to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"The Women's March and our allies in the progressive movement will lead the country by organizing massive resistance blockades of civil disobedience actions to prevent Roe V Wade from being overturned," Winnie Wong, an adviser to the National Women's March and a founder of the People for Bernie Sanders, told me. "We will not allow Senator Mitch McConnell to fast track a SCOTUS appointment through this Congress. The people united will NOT be defeated."
The progressive grassroots hungers for Democrats to fight like hell against the cruelty of the Trump administration, from ripping children from their parents' arms, to stripping health care from the poor, to crippling women's reproductive freedom. Impassioned words are not enough, and even if there are not procedural means to gum up the SCOTUS nomination process until after the midterms, Democrats must not concede defeat. The party must employ hardball tactics to show its base that it has a spine.
What do I mean by hardball tactics? For starters, Democrats should do everything in their power to delay the vote until after the election. Boycott the Judiciary Committee hearing for the nominee as Senate Dems did for Steve Mnuchin and Republicans did early and often during Obama's presidency. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer should commit to whipping the vote, and punishing anyone who falls out of line, vulnerable red-state incumbents or not.
Once procedural avenues have been exhausted, Democrats should follow the lead of their base and put their bodies on the line -- engage in civil disobedience. Case in point, in June of 2016 after the nightclub massacre in Orlando, House Democrats had no leverage whatsoever to force a vote on gun reform, but they launched a 24-hour sit-in anyway, electrifying the grassroots. Had Dems shown more of that courage, they might have notched more wins that November.
Now, I'm not suggesting that a sit-in will win SCOTUS for Democrats - to do that, the party must keep its caucus unified and pick off a Republican, a highly unlikely scenario. But by leaving it all on the field, Senate Democrats may win their party a more consequential prize: control of both houses of Congress.
The most likely scenario is that Senate Dems will hew to their risk-averse nature, and act in ways to minimize the harm to their vulnerable, Trump-appeasing, red-state incumbents. Which is to say, not give too much shit to Heidi Heitkamp or Joe Manchin when they vote for Trump's nominee. Leadership should remember, though, that sometimes, the greatest political risk is taking no risk at all. Just ask Hillary Clinton.