This Memo Reveals How Republicans are Framing the Protests Against President Trump

February 10th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

Republican lawmakers are downplaying the scope and significance of protest movements that have erupted throughout the U.S. in the weeks since President Donald Trump's inauguration, an internal memo obtained by Politico reveals.

womens march

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the vice chair of House Republican Conference, sent a letter to his colleagues Thursday that characterized protestors as a "vocal minority" who are trying to "appropriate" a popular, progressive sentiment and are "grasping for relevance in communities across the nation."

"Conservatives are today’s thought leaders because we are the careful listeners, and people have placed their confidence in us for this reason," Collins wrote. "We allow debate to educate us, but we must not allow it to shake our confidence in the path we’re walking with our neighbors: As we embark on the 115th Congress, we are on the right side of the issues and the right side of history."

This attitude toward recent protest movements has been echoed in the White House.

The magnitude of the Women's March in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21 reportedly got under Trump's skin, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to a question about the protests on Jan. 23 by simply stating: "There were people that came to the Mall as they do all the time — sometimes in smaller numbers."

Trump offered a different interpretation on Feb. 3 about the protest movements, accusing demonstrators who opposed his executive order on immigration of being "[p]rofessional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters" in a tweet.

Trump also told reporters Tuesday that he hadn't received "one call from anybody" concerning his executive actions authorizing easements for the construction of two controversial oil pipelines, the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protests at the construction site have been ongoing since April, garnering significant media attention.

But organizers have emphasized that these protests are meant to be about more than just optics. Numerous calls-to-action have encouraged constituents to express their disapproval of Trump's policies and cabinet picks — by calling their representatives' offices, sending them letters and postcards, and showing up at town hall events.

Keystone XL Protest

However, these protests shouldn't discourage Republican lawmakers, Collins wrote in the memo:

"As Americans, freedom is the desire of our hearts. It is the key to our dreams. And so, as Republicans, it is the cornerstone of our promise to every American. We can deliver on this promise because conservativism describes a set of ideals that are borne out by reality. As we listen to the spectrum of today’s voices, including the chorus that has entrusted us with two houses on Capitol Hill and one on Pennsylvania Avenue, we only become more able to lead in and through today’s challenges."

But for organizers and protestors, the notion that demonstrations against Trump are staged or inconsequential runs counter to a growing sentiment among progressives in the United States.