Liberal protesters disrupting Senate confirmation hearings. Sixty House Democrats boycotting the inauguration. Women’s rights marchers protesting the day after Donald Trump becomes president.
Is the political left getting ahead of itself in bashing and trashing the Trump White House?
Or are Democrats and left-wing groups gearing up for perpetual protest — a never-ending onslaught of dissent and criticism aimed at delegitimizing the Trump presidency, discrediting the Trump administration and demonizing all things Trump?
Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager and current presidential counselor, says it’s the latter.
“The professional political left is attempting to foment a permanent opposition that is corrosive to our constitutional democracy,” Mrs. Conway told The New York Times last month. “The left is trying to delegitimize his election. … They’re trying to deny him what he just earned.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich agrees.
“You’re going to have a permanent opposition, sort of a combination of the news media and the Elizabeth Warren hard left, and they’re going to attack every single day and they’re going to find something to attack all the time,” Mr. Gingrich said recently on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
“And Trump’s got to get used to the idea. ‘That’s OK, that’s just noise,’ ” Mr. Gingrich said.
Nobody expects the losing party to celebrate after a presidential race, but political analysts say the postelection frenzy of fundraising, war rooms, protests and social media hysteria represents an alarming departure from the traditional stoic acceptance of years past.
“This is dramatically different from what we’ve seen,” said conservative author David Horowitz, chronicler of left-wing movements and author of the 2012 book “The New Leviathan: How the Left-Wing Money Machine Shapes American Politics.”
“A democracy only works if the factions, the divisions are done peacefully and resolved peacefully, and compromises are made,” Mr. Horowitz said. “There’s a honeymoon after the election in which the losing party defends the legitimacy of the election result. That’s why we’ve had peace since the Civil War in this country.”
Democrats have countered that Mr. Trump’s campaign statements in favor of policies such as repealing Obamacare and building a wall to stop illegal immigration from Mexico have forced them to mobilize before the inauguration.
“While we don’t yet know the harmful proposals the next administration will put forward, thanks to Donald Trump’s campaign, Cabinet appointments and Twitter feed, we do have an idea of what we will be dealing with, and we must be prepared,” said California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
The Democrat-controlled California Legislature has taken the unprecedented step of hiring former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to fight Mr. Trump, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called his state a refuge for minorities who feel they are under attack by the Trump administration.
Democrats say Republicans didn’t make it easy for Barack Obama, who had barely got comfortable in the White House before the tea party announced its arrival with a march on Washington in September 2009.
On the other hand, conservatives never tried to upend the 2008 Electoral College result by urging electors to defect, or called for his impeachment before he took office, or organized dozens of demonstrations to coincide with his inauguration.
All of that and more have followed Mr. Trump since his Nov. 8 election victory against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“You don’t criticize it in advance of it happening,” Mr. Horowitz said. “I’m amused at all these attacks on Trump as an authoritarian. Well, an authoritarian is a form of ruler. He hasn’t ruled anything.”
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have stayed largely above the fray in public, encouraging the electorate to give Mr. Trump a chance, but their top supporters are moving in another direction entirely.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund, a millionaire and billionaire’s club of top Democratic donors, launched on Dec. 15 its Resist campaign, vowing to marshal its resources behind an effort to “push back rapidly and forcefully against the excesses of the Trump administration.”
“We will organize in our communities and congressional offices. We will march in the streets and apply pressure through social media,” says the Resist post. “And we will forge ahead. We will stand up for progressive values and lay the groundwork for a progressive resurgence in the years to come.”
The center isn’t exactly a fringe group. It was founded by John Podesta, who ran Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and served as a White House adviser to Mr. Obama.
For Democrats, the strategy clearly has benefits. In addition to juicing fundraising, vowing to fight Mr. Trump has helped unify supporters and patch up fractures that emerged during the primary campaign between Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
On the other hand, promoting a state of never-ending political battle may come back to haunt the party. Swing voters may grow weary and ultimately tune out the constant anti-Trump outcry, as many of them did during the election.
Liberal comedian Bill Maher said Democrats cried wolf so many times in past presidential races that nobody believed their warnings about Mr. Trump.
Democrats also risk being associated with some of the more extreme elements taking part in the massive resistance to Mr. Trump. One example is RefuseFascism.org, whose organizers include Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers and Carl Dix, a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
The group clearly has connections: It ran a full-page ad Wednesday in The Washington Post, signed by liberal celebrities such as Ed Asner, Debra Messing and Rosie O’Donnell, that urged millions to join a “month of resistance” with “protests that don’t stop” in which “people refuse to leave, occupying public space.”
On her personal Twitter feed, Miss O’Donnell told her 900,000 followers about her idea for resisting Mr. Trump — martial law. “I fully support imposing martial law — delaying the inauguration — until Trump is ‘cleared’ of all charges,” Miss O’Donnell tweeted.
Although the comedian failed to specify what official charges should prevent Mr. Trump from taking office, she did link to an image describing environments where military control of the civilian population “might be best.”
Dozens of groups were urging thousands to protest the inaugural ceremony in Washington, leading to concerns about violence and vandalism that could deliver a public relations hit to anti-Trump groups such as Occupy Inauguration.
Republican strategist Mike McKenna called the uproar “sad and pathological.”
“Politically, it is really a mistake,” he said.
“The longer they go without coming to grips about what has happened over the last eight years with respect to the dissolution of the Democrat Party as a national party,” Mr. McKenna said, “that’s not good for anyone.”
Fixating on Mr. Trump also prevents Democrats from promoting a positive message for voters, especially if he winds up scoring policy victories early on in his administration.
“His job is to produce for the American people,” Mr. Gingrich said, “and frankly, to the degree that the Democrats decay into just being the anti-Trump party, they will keep themselves in the minority a long time.”
• Douglas Ernst contributed to this report.