Election 2020

ACLU, Organized Labor, Billionaire Steyer Chart Paths for 2018 Resistance

Protesters demonstrate against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Portland, Ore., on Sept. 19, 2017, outside U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa via AP Images)

As soon as Donald Trump moved into the White House, the American Civil Liberties Union’s membership began growing to 1.6 million, four times bigger than during the Obama administration. Along with filling out ACLU membership cards, liberal/progressive voters also clicked in $93 million in online donations to the organization, an increase of $88 million from the year before.

“We have bodies the likes of which we’ve never had before,” said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero. “We actually have dollars the likes of which we’ve never seen before.”

With all that new membership and monetary might behind it, Romero told Politico there’s no reason that the ACLU can’t become the NRA of left-wing politics and the center of anti-Trump resistance.

“It’s clear that a larger portion of the American public is deeply engaged in politics in a way they’ve never been before,” said Romero.

If Tom Steyer’s NextGen America organization and the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka have anything to say about it, the ACLU won’t be storming the gates of the Trump administration alone. Both groups see the 2018 midterms as a turning point in American history and a not-to-be-missed opportunity to evict Donald Trump from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

And like Romero, Trumka and Steyer said their organizations’ members have a new fire in their bellies thanks to President Trump.

“The biggest influencer on giving in America is the news cycle,” Larry Lieberman, chief operating officer of Charity Navigator, a watchdog organization that tracks nonprofit giving and spending, told Politico.

“Disasters come, people give. Whatever triggers awareness makes people give. And the change in behavior especially in the weeks before and immediately after the inauguration were pretty extraordinary,” Lieberman added.

Beyond the presidency of Donald Trump, the ACLU highlighted the Senate campaign of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R) and the decision by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) to run for governor as two reasons the organization needed to take an unprecedented step into the 2018 elections.

And those are only two examples of why liberals and progressives, said ACLU National Political Director Faiz Shakir, need to turn anger into action through the primaries and finally in the general elections this year.

“Across the country, there are countless politicians of both parties who are standing for election in spite of terrible civil rights and civil liberties record,” wrote Shakir. “If you ever wondered whether elections really matter, the agenda of these candidates should remove any doubt.”

The ACLU has always seen itself as a nonpartisan organization that paid attention to civil rights and liberties rather than politics. Shakir vowed that would not change even though two of its primary targets, Arpaio and Kobach, are Republicans.

“Rather than judge politicians based on their party affiliation, we judge them on their records on civil liberties and civil rights. When we engage in a race, we do so to highlight the issues we care about,” Shakir wrote.

Trumka said during the opening session of the AFL-CIO’s Martin Luther King Conference on Jan. 12 the 2018 midterms were a “great place to start fixing an economy that doesn’t support a majority of its citizens.”

“The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our democracy is being tested, not just by Republican President Donald Trump but by a harder and more fundamental test,” Trumka said.

Other union leaders at the AFL-CIO King Conference in Houston spent their time organizing women to run for office.

“Ever since real estate mogul Trump entered the Oval Office, unionists, women and minorities – and sometimes people who are combinations of those – have been coming out of the woodwork,” wrote Mark Gruenberg, the head of People’s World’s D.C. office.

“They feel themselves, their rights and their very place in U.S. society threatened by Trump, his Republican allies, the 1 percent and corporate interests who control or manipulate those politicians,” Gruenberg added.

Billionaire Tom Steyer made no pretense of nonpartisanship as he announced NextGen America would spend $30 million this year to “register, engage and mobilize young voters ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.”

To Steyer, the November 2018 congressional elections will be all about impeaching Trump.

“Today, we’re putting Donald Trump and the entire GOP on notice. Young voters are energized like never before, and have the power to make the difference in 2018,” said Steyer.

The plan is to launch the “largest youth vote organizing campaign in history,” according to a NextGen America press release.

NextGen will concentrate on helping progressive candidates in at least 10 states and more than 30 congressional districts. The group’s strategy includes contacting over half-a-million young voters about voting in 2018 and registering more than a quarter-million new, young voters.

He’s tried before. Steyer threw $74 million behind Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections and $87 million to back liberals in the 2016 elections. And look who’s controlling Washington now.

In 2014 and 2016, Steyer focused on climate change as a motivational issue. That now seems to have been an error in judgment.

“It was a comedy disaster,” Mike Murphy, a GOP political strategist, told the Times. “The worst thing that happened to the environment this cycle is the bonfire from Tom Steyer burning $80 million on a wasted campaign.”

Learning from his mistake, Steyer said this time NextGen would concentrate on Trump instead of climate change.

“We’re really focused on removing this president,” Steyer told the New York Times. “I am willing to do whatever it takes to help save our country.”