The Quiet Hand of Conservative Groups in the Anti-Lockdown ProtestsBreaking News
tags: Tea Party, quarantine, Protest, coronavirus
Those helping orchestrate the fight against restrictions predict the effort could energize the right in the same way the Tea Party movement did in 2009 and 2010, and potentially be helpful to President Trump as he campaigns for re-election. But the cause has yet to demonstrate that kind of traction.
Polls show a majority of Americans are more concerned about reopening the country too quickly than they are about the damage to the economy. And coronavirus protests have drawn smaller crowds ranging from a few dozen to several thousand at a rally in Michigan last week.
Conditions are hardly ideal for a protest movement related to the virus. In addition to the health risks, demonstrators potentially face legal exposure for violating the very measures they are protesting. Plus, some key Republican leaders have embraced the types of restrictions being targeted, while powerful grass-roots mobilizing groups, including those spearheaded by the billionaire activist Charles Koch, have so far not embraced the protests.
Still, the fight has emerged as a galvanizing cause for a vocal element of Mr. Trump’s base and others on the political right. Organizers see it as unifying social conservatives, who view the orders as targeting religious groups; fiscal conservatives who chafe at the economic devastation wrought by the restrictions on businesses; and civil libertarians who contend that the restrictions infringe on constitutional rights.
“Groups are united in purpose on this,” said Noah Wall, advocacy director for FreedomWorks, which in 2009 organized a Tea Party protest that drew tens of thousands of people or more to Washington. He described the current efforts as appealing to a “much broader” group. “This is about people who want to get back to work and leave their homes,” he said.
More than 10 protests are planned for this week, Mr. Wall said, adding that elected officials “are going to see a lot of angry activists, and I think that could change minds.”
The protests mostly appear to have been organized by local residents, and are framed primarily as pushback against what they view as government overreach. But some rallies have prominently featured iconography boosting Mr. Trump and Republicans and denouncing Democrats, as well the occasional Confederate flag and signs promoting conspiracy theories.
As was the case with the Tea Party movement, established national groups that generally align with the Republican Party have sought to fuel the protests, harnessing their energy in a manner that can increase their profiles and build their membership base and donor rolls.