Monday, November 19, 2018
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Progressive Movements Drive Democratic Election Victory in House

Interview with Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, conducted by Scott Harris

In what many commentators and political observers have declared the most important midterm election in recent U.S. history, Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, and broke the Republican Party’s monopoly on federal political power.  
The campaign, unlike any other in decades, was characterized by President Trump’s naked appeal for support for his Republican Party based on white identity politics, the demonization and denigration of immigrants, Muslims and people of color. While that appeal helped Trump win the presidency in 2016 through the Electoral College – he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by some 3 million votes.  In their victory on Nov. 6, voters supporting Democratic candidates had to overcome GOP-engineered voter suppression tactics, massive voter purges and partisan gerrymandering of congressional district maps. 
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Matthew Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and former editor and publisher of the Progressive magazine.  Here, he assesses how the outcome of the 2018 midterm election can change the direction of the nation, prospects for progressive movements challenging Trump’s extremist agenda, and concerns about the next two years under a Trump presidency.
[Producer’s note: This interview was recorded prior to the final election results.]

MATT ROTHSCHILD: The Democrats can act as a check against any reactionary laws that Trump is trying to pass. So that’s essentially the House would have veto power and equally important, the Democrats in the House can have their own investigations. They can have subpoena power, they can start impeachment hearings, which they ought to. They have an obligation to because of the terrible violations of the Constitution on our very democracy that Trump has committed.

And so that’s what they should do. They should start hearings right away, send out hundreds of subpoenas, and use the power that they have. I fear that some of the moderate leadership in the party is going to be squeamish and say, “Well, we’ve got to play to the middle here. We don’t want to seem like obstructionists or whatever.” They have an obligation if they win, to pursue these Trump scandals and to start impeachment hearings pronto. So I hope they do that.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Matthew, what can you say about some of the new crop of candidates we’ve seen emerge? Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez is kind of the poster child for this year’s progressive candidates with different backgrounds than the usual suspects who step up, who run for office, who have deep pockets, and a lot of links to wealthy folks. You find some hope in some of the new candidates that have stepped up, including a record number of women, who for the first time are running for office?

MATT ROTHSCHILD: Yes, young people, women, people of color, LGBT folks. It’s very exciting to see this new generation and new stripe of leader among the Democrats. And that does indeed give me hope. And also the fact that we have openly socialists running. I mean Bernie is inspired so many people to use the “s” word, and says that they’re socialists and that’s comforting, too. So I think, you know, the demographics are with the progressive movement in this country if we can get through this Trump era and still have a democracy to call our own. That’s the real cutting question right now.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What’s your assessment of progressive movements that have emerged since the Trump inauguration in 2017? The resistance movements?

MATT ROTHSCHILD: This is the most hope because the resistance to Trump started on Day One or Day Two, if you want, with the Women’s March and it’s continued all the way through with the great rallies for immigration rights, for immigrant rights, the rallies against climate change, the scientists marching, the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter movement, there is a lot going on at the grassroots. People are growing in ways that they haven’t stirred before. They’re stirring on campuses, too. So civil society is standing up, that’s the good news. It’s standing up with the people and it’s actually standing up with some of the media, which is good. And our institutions are standing up by and large, except for the Republican Party, which is collapsing on its knees in front of Donald Trump, which is a disgusting sight to see.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What are the major threats you see from the Trump White House over the next couple of years?

MATT ROTHSCHILD: Well, let me go to the direst one. And the direst one is that he declares martial law. And don’t think I’m just being hyperbolic here. It’s possible if the United States is ever attacked again, not even at the scale of 9/11, maybe one- tenth of 9/11, that he could declare martial law. Or, he could, if he decides to fire Mueller and pardon all his friends, then there would be a lot of protests in the street, I hope, but also then the Trump supporters and the white supremacists might incite some violence.

 
For more information on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, visit wisdc.org. For more information on the Progressive magazine, visit progressive.org.

 

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