Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the St. Augustine Amphitheater on October 24, 2016 in St. Augustine, Florida.
Mark Wallheiser

Annoyed by pushback, Trump takes aim at progressive activism

At his White House press conference last week, Donald Trump acknowledged the progressive activists working to protect their health care benefits, but the president quickly added that these Americans don’t really count.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/17/17, 9:00 PM ET

Trump hits new low as war with press moves beyond just talk

Rachel Maddow looks at the ways in which Donald Trump is trying to delegitimize, manipulate, and even eliminate the free press in the United States.
Rachel Maddow looks at the ways in which Donald Trump is trying to delegitimize, manipulate, and even eliminate the free press in the United States.
“We’ve begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare,” he said. “Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It’s a disaster. You can say, ‘Oh, Obamacare.’ I mean, they fill up our rallies with people that you wonder how they get there, but they’re not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.”

It was a bizarre peek into the thinking of a president who doesn’t fully understand the basics of our democracy. Elected Republican officials, in Trump’s mind, should focus on representing “Republican people.” Others may speak up and petition the government for redress of grievances,  but as far as Trump is concerned, their voices are neither important nor relevant.

Republicans are elected to represent Republicans, the argument goes, not all of their constituents. It’s a zero-sum game: if your side of the political divide isn’t in a position of power, then you might as well sit down, shut up, and stop asking impertinent questions at town-hall forums in which GOP officials want to hear from “the Republican people” – as opposed to, say, the American people.

Trump made a similar comment on Twitter late yesterday:
“The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!”
Because the president doesn’t write well, it’s not entirely clear why he referred to “so-called” angry crowds. Perhaps he doesn’t believe people are genuinely upset? Maybe he’s convinced they aren’t actual crowds?

Either way, Trump evidently thinks  it’s “sad” when liberals get engaged, participate in the political system, and express their concerns to Republican lawmakers – as if organized activism is somehow less legitimate than spontaneous activism.

As for why he considers this “sad,” the president didn’t say, which is a shame. Perhaps, as far as Trump is concerned, it’s self-evident that rascally liberals shouldn’t treat the political system as if it were some kind of functioning democracy in which ordinary citizens can make a difference by taking a stand and using their voices.

I realize Trump is an amateur with little understanding of government and political institutions, but occasionally, the president seems to need a remedial Civics 101 course.

Regardless, the larger takeaway of Trump’s complaints is that progressive activism appears to be working quite effectively. As Rachel noted on last night’s show, the left clearly has Republicans’ attention.