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Photo illustration Greg Ruben / Axios

Establishment Democrats have been surprised by the longevity and ferocity of grassroots opposition to President Trump, which has been amplified in wave on wave since the women's marches that followed the inauguration. From the spontaneous airport rallies after his immigration order to the sustained opposition to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the left is growing stronger rather than retreating after the historic setback on Election Day.

Consider:

  • Cabinet-pick opposition didn't unfold as expected: Centrist Democrats were genuinely surprised by the intensity of the backlash against Trump's nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos. It happened organically. Democratic strategists like Anne Caprara of Priorities USA and Matt Bennett of Third Way guessed opposition would zero in on more obvious targets: Tom Price and ObamaCare, Steve Mnuchin and his Wall Street ties, Rex Tillerson because of Exxon and Russia ties, or Jeff Sessions on civil rights. That the hottest rage focused on DeVos taught Dem leaders in D.C. that they need to follow the organic resistance rather than try to over-engineer it themselves.
  • Thousands of people are suddenly engaged in a mass civics lesson. More than 100,000 people tuned into the livestream of the circuit court hearing on Trump's immigration order.
  • Social media is getting more ferocious. When DeVos stumbled in her Senate questioning went viral immediately. When Mitch McConnell shut down Elizabeth Warren's floor speech against Sessions she became an instant internet meme.
  • Supreme Court resistance is a direct response to the base. Nancy Pelosi laughed when we asked her if she was worried about political backlash due to Democratic obstructionism on Neil Gorsuch's nomination. Democrats saw what happened when Republicans obstructed Obama's pick, Merrick Garland: Nothing. Republicans now control all three houses, and Democrat leaders see only upside in picking fights they know they'll lose.

What's next: After eight years of Obama, Democrats are learning how to be in the opposition. And they've now got powerful new tools, lessons from the Tea Party movement, and authentic national rage to be tapped. "As the Tea Party learned in 2010, you need a call to action that's singular," said Matt Bennett, co-founder of the Third Way. "You can't go to town hall and say I demand the following 10 things..but if you go and say I demand you oppose Obamacare, it works." Bennett said the party is unified against Trump, and he believes they need to take him on, one fight at a time.

The risks: Folks we spoke to like Bennett are more worried about the protest energy dissipating than they are about the disfiguring effects these energies might have on the party. The reality, though, is that red state Dems up for re-election in 2018 have reasons to be nervous as some Republican incumbents didn't survive the chaos unleashed by the Tea Party.

Go deeper

In photos: Life slowly returning to normal as restrictions lift across U.S.

Fireworks near the Statue of Liberty in New York City marking the end of New York State's pandemic restrictions in New York State and honoring frontline workers. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New Yorkers and Californians celebrated most COVID-19 restrictions lifting on Tuesday, as the two states became the latest to move toward fully reopening their economies.

The big picture: The pandemic has now claimed over 600,000 lives in the U.S., but vaccines have helped drive down the seven-day average to roughly 14,000 new cases and fewer than 400 deaths per day, helping most states to ease restrictions.

2 hours ago - World

China's government issues warning after sending 28 planes over Taiwan

A J-11B fighter aircraft from China's air force flying over the Dafangshen airport in Changchun, China. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

China's government issued a warning to "foreign forces" after Taiwan reported a record 28 Chinese military planes flew over the self-governed island's airspace Tuesday, per Reuters.

Why it matters: The warning and deployment of aircraft including fighter jets and bombers comes after G7 leaders issued a statement Sunday urging the Chinese government to respect human rights and calling on peace and "stability across the Taiwan Strait."

Southern Baptists reject push from right to elect Ed Litton as president

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) rejected a push from the right in a divisive vote on Tuesday, electing a president who has prioritized racial reconciliation and approving a measure that rejects any view of racism as "anything other than sin," AP reports.

Why it matters: Ed Litton, as the new SBC president, will have the power to determine committee appointments, which can set the tone for the country's largest Protestant denomination. The SBC is comprised of 14 million members.