Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Political Activism Inspired by Trump Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Political Activism Inspired by Trump Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * After the 2016 election, Diane Redmond felt compelled to get involved in activism, but she wasn't sure how.

"I felt frustrated because I have a limited income and I didn't think I could help financially," said Redmond, a graphic designer who lives in St. Louis. "What I did have was time I could sacrifice and energy I could spare, despite working two jobs."

She eventually helped organize the Women's March on St. Louis in January and continues to encourage community advocacy through DefendHERS, a social justice organization in the city.

Redmond isn't alone. In the Show-Me state and nationwide, the unexpected election of President Donald Trump has inspired a new wave of political activism that doesn't seem to be letting up.

While most demonstrations have been held in opposition to Trump, his supporters in Missouri say they've also felt compelled to continue grass-roots organizing efforts, often led by people who don't have a history of being active in politics.

The controversial commander-in-chief has political newcomers turning out in droves, and experts say they haven't seen anything like it.

"Trump is just not a person you have moderate feelings about," said Ken Warren, a professor of political science at St. Louis University. "People are extremely for him or against him."

RECORD INVOLVEMENT

Protests against Trump in Missouri have mirrored national efforts. More than 10,000 people descended on St. Louis for the women's march in January, and similar events occurred across the country and internationally.

Thousands also protested Trump's executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, both outside of St. Louis Lambert International Airport and in downtown St. Louis.

Across Missouri, people are showing up, said Stephen Webber, who chairs the Missouri Democratic Party.

"I've been traveling the state speaking to groups almost every night. Everywhere, there's record turnout," Webber said. "There are people who say they've never come to a political meeting before."

Most recently, a failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act sparked rallies throughout Missouri.

Even in Missouri's deeply red rural areas, Webber said, he's met people fearful of losing coverage, which motivates them to get involved.

But more broadly, "I think people have been appalled by Trump's behavior and now they're appalled by his policies," Webber said.

Daniela Velazquez, a spokeswoman for the ACLU of Missouri, said the organization continues to see record interest and donations ; more than 700 people inquired about volunteering after the election.

"The election drove home that there's a lot of work to do here," Velazquez said. "We see continual interest as people realize they can do something, or their rights may be at stake."

NO BUYER'S REMORSE

Typically, when your candidate wins, there's no need to continue holding rallies. But Trump supporters say they plan to keep on meeting and marching in support of the president, who they feel hasn't been given a fair shake in the media.

"People who supported Trump have no form of buyer's remorse. They're very much behind him," said Diane Neff, a St. Louis resident who helped organize a march for Trump this month in Jefferson City.

Neff has worked on elections for more than a decade, both as a paid staffer and as a volunteer. But this year is different.

"Once the candidate has been elected, people usually feel their job has been done and step aside," she said. "Now people still want to know what we're doing, and how they can help."

Among those helpers are people in their 40s who have never before voted in a presidential election, and senior citizens willing to drive hours to get signs and literature to pass out, Neff said.

"I think you can chalk that up to populism," said Clarissa Rile Hayward, an associate professor of political science at Washington University. …

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