Donald Trump and the Republicans won the White House and Congress, but they've also energized progressives and issue-oriented moderates who see a destructive national political agenda that they must fight. Or so the story goes.
Resisters have filled streets, parks, and public squares to protest Trump's Muslim ban, his administration's attacks on science, his directive ending certain anti-discrimination protections for transgender people, and his attempts to dismantle Obamacare. But change requires numbers. And realizing that, some resisters have sought out groups to work with and join.
In Monroe County's suburbs, that activism has translated to growth in some local Democratic committees – the smallest cogs in the massive Democratic Party machine, but arguably the most crucial. Some of the town committees have grown substantially, and a couple have come out of hibernation. Trump is the reason for the interest, local Democratic leaders say.
"He's been my best recruiter," says Tom Trapp, who led an effort to resurrect the Clarkson Democratic Committee and who now serves as its leader.
The Clarkson Democratic Committee was previously active enough that in 2007, it got Sheldon Meyers elected to the Town Board; this in a town with 1,067 registered Democrats and 1,765 registered Republicans. But a few years ago, it fell dormant.
Trapp, who was treasurer, just kept filing "no activity" statements with the State Board of Elections, a routine act that was enough to preserve the committee's technical existence. Last year, however, he started knocking on doors, looking for people to join the committee. And in September, it reactivated with eight members; it'll have 20 members soon, once they're officially added to the roster, Trapp says.
The committee plans to campaign for its own town justice and Town Board candidates this year, as well as the Monroe County Democratic Committee's endorsed county sheriff candidate, Todd Baxter, Trapp says. And it's working with the Sweden Democratic Committee – which has seen its own successes lately – to try to strengthen its operations, he says.
On the east side of the county, some Democrats are working to restart the Webster committee, which had gone dormant, says MCDC chair Jamie Romeo. As of May 1, Republicans outnumber Democrats 10,730 to 9,039 in Webster.
Republicans also have the edge in Pittsford – the count is 7,120 to 7,007 – but the town Democratic committee has doubled, if not tripled in size, Romeo says. Brighton, a Democratic stronghold, has also seen some growth, she says.
The Penfield Democratic Committee's membership has grown by about 10 percent, says leader Kate McArdle. The town has 9,389 Republicans and 8,342 Democrats.
And the Perinton Democratic Committee has boomed, though it's been an active group over the years. It had about 18 members when its new officers were elected in August, says leader Pat Domaratz. The count will rise to 75 next month, once some new members are officially added, he says. The committee also made some operational changes that helped make it more open to new members, which helped, he says.
The committee made use of its ranks around the recent school board elections. The elections are non-partisan, but support for public education is a core Democratic value, so committee members went door to door, urging their neighbors to support the Fairport School District's budget, Domaratz says. That effort enabled conversation, but Domaratz believes it also helped get more people to the polls; 700 more people voted than last year, and the budget passed.
One of the committee's members, Kevin Glover, also successfully ran for a seat on the school board.
"We want to make small-D democratic action habit forming," Domaratz says.