Commentary Magazine

The Resistance Is Unwell

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

It’s a fine line separating resolve and zealotry, and there is no such thing as a potent political movement that is immune to fanaticism. Effective political organizing is pretty mundane and, more often than not, fruitless. Crusades have no use for boring circumspection, though, and Crusaders are often tempted by the promise of a quick deliverance from their interminable conditions. “The Resistance” has succumbed entirely to these temptations.

What began as a broad-based and occasionally sympathetic conduit for anti-Trump activists has evolved into a platform for the maladjusted to receive unhealthy levels of public scrutiny. The cycle has become a depressingly familiar. A relatively obscure member of the political class achieves viral notoriety and becomes a figure of cult-like popularity with some uncompromising display of opposition toward the president only to humiliate themselves and their followers in short order.

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters is not the first to be feted by liberals as the embodiment of noble opposition to authoritarianism. In May, the Center for American Progress’ blog dubbed her the “patron saint of resistance politics.” “Left-leaning viral-politics websites now routinely praise Waters as a Trump-bashing ‘resistance leader,’ the Democratic ‘rock star’ of 2017, and an all-around ‘badass’ for her unflagging commitment to trashing the president as a crooked and racist liar,” the Daily Beast observed. Waters was even honored by an audience of tweens and entertainers at this year’s MTV Movie Awards. Even a modestly curious review of Waters’ record would have led more cautious political actors to keep their distance. Time bombs have a habit of going off.

Zero hour arrived late Friday evening when Waters broke the news of a forthcoming putsch. “Mike Pence is somewhere planning an inauguration,” the congresswoman from California wrote. “Priebus and Spicer will lead the transition.” That sounds crazy, but it’s a familiar kind of crazy.

Anyone who has followed the congresswoman’s career knows she has a history of making inflammatory assertions for the benefit of her audience. It only takes a cursory google search to discover that, in her decade in politics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has named her the most corrupt member of Congress four times and the misconduct of her chief of staff ensnared her in a House Ethics Committee probe. “The Resistance” is willing to overlook a plethora of flaws and misdeeds as long as their prior assumptions are validated.

This is not the first time its own heroes have undercut “The Resistance”.

National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke recently demonstrated why Louise Mensch, formerly a prominent poster child for “The Resistance,” has a habit of seeing Russians behind every darkened corner. They are responsible for riots in Missouri, Democratic losses at the polls, and Anthony Weiner’s libido. In Mensch’s imagination, a secret Republican Guard is mere moments away from dispatching this administration amid some species of constitutional coup. Cooke also noted that Mensch was elevated to unearned status as a celebrity of the Resistance by the anti-Trump commentary class desperate for what she was selling.

Mensch’s star has faded, but not before she managed to embarrass those who invested confidence in her “sources.” Those who embraced her should have been more cautious in the process. Mensch’s British compatriots long ago caught onto her habit of lashing out at phantoms. A prudent political class would have given her a wide berth.

25-year-old Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca became a sensation last December when her article accusing the president of “gas lighting the nation” went viral. She was festooned with praise for her work from forlorn Democrats—culminating in a letter of praise from Hillary Clinton—and soon found herself the subject of fawning New York Times profiles and delivering college commencement addresses without any apparent effort to vet her work.

Duca, too, became a source of bias-confirming misinformation for the left. “Cute pic of Trump getting tired of winning,” she tweeted with the image of an airplane going down in flames. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before it provided a means by which the pro-Trump right could credibly undermine her integrity.

Attributable only to a plague mass hysteria, liberal Trump opponents collectively determined last December that a paranoid, 127-tweet rant was a work of unpatrolled genius. That diatribe was the work of Eric Garland, a self-described “D.C. technocrat” based in Missouri who’s now infamous “game theory” polemic was an example of what he calls his “spastic” historical and political narratives.

Journalists and political activists who surveyed his work declared it not just compelling anti-Trump prose but near historic in its brilliance. It was anything but. Laced with profanity, exaggerated misspellings to caricature his political opponents, and an offensively indiscreet application of the caps lock, Garland threaded 9/11, Al Gore, Hurricane Katrina, Edward Snowden, and Fox News to tell the tale of how America’s sovereignty was repeatedly violated. “The Resistance” abandoned its better judgment.

It wasn’t long before Garland had humiliated anyone who ever treated him as a credible political observer. “Rupert Murdoch is a threat to Western Civilization and a Russian operative,” he wrote. “I WON’T BE THE FIRST GARLAND OF MY LINE TO SPILL BLOOD FOR AMERICA AND THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY AND NEVER THE LAST, YOU F***ERS.” This kind of hyperventilating excess came as no surprise to anyone who didn’t read his manic thread through tears as they struggled to come to terms with the age of Trump.

If Democrats hope to strike a favorable contrast with a lackadaisical White House, they’re not well served by surrounding themselves with reckless people. Too often, the faces of “The Resistance” wither in the spotlight. A serious movement attracts serious opposition. A frivolous, self-gratifying movement, well, doesn’t.

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