Testing the possibilities of liberal activism

Two districts, one story: Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado, one of the few GOP legislators in a district won by Hillary Clinton, assailed by moderates for not vehemently opposing the Trump-Ryan agenda; and Ted Yolo of Florida, assailed by constituents for not supporting the Trump-Ryan destruction of the Affordable Care Act.

Many members of the moderate Tuesday Group to which Coffman belongs opposed the House GOP plan. But Coffman said he supported it because every major policy move has to start somewhere. He was quick to blame the Freedom Caucus for the bill’s failure.

“I think the Freedom Caucus was completely unrealistic in terms of their expectations,” Coffman said. “If you’re going to be a legislator, you’ve got to legislate and compromise is not a pejorative.”

Most of the roughly 200 people who showed up at the University of Colorado Anschutz Campus in Aurora on Wednesday were Democrats who angrily demanded that Coffman make good on his pledge to confront Trump.

But they weren’t alone. Steven Haas, 68, stood up to say he was a lifelong Republican upset that Coffman and his fellow Republicans failed to listen when voters made clear that their plan was unsound.

“I’m sorry to say I was shocked that you declared your intention to vote for so-called Trumpcare,” Haas said. “That’s not the way we do things in Colorado. The ACA is the law of the land now.”

Haas later said he usually votes for Republicans but doesn’t plan to back Coffman next year, because he doesn’t trust him to live up to his moderate reputation in the face of Trump’s agenda.

These town halls matter insofar as they reflect and encourage the tumult in liberal activism, which at this moment in American politics is concentrated on Georgia’s Sixth District. Thanks to a formidable war chest largely composed of small donations (augmented in the last few days by out of state funds) and several phalanxes of GOP contenders, Jon Ossoff has a chance of winning Tom Price’s seat. I don’t underestimate the Democratic National Committee’s talent for bungling opportunities, so even if the seat doesn’t flip (and a chance exists that the race might go into a run-off, during which the RNC can concentrate its resources on the survivor) I won’t define the race on win/lose or zero-sum terms. Activism on the left is a new, barely flexed muscle, gaining definition with losses too.

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