On Tuesday, writing for The New York Times, journalist Ken Vogel documented how far-right groups aligned with the Republican Party have worked behind the scenes to support the anti-lockdown protests popping up all around the country.
"Groups in the loose coalition have tapped their networks to drive up turnout at recent rallies in state capitals, dispatched their lawyers to file lawsuits, and paid for polling and research to undercut the arguments behind restrictions that have closed businesses and limited the movement of most Americans," wrote Vogel. "Among those fighting the orders are populist groups that played pivotal roles in the beginning of Tea Party protests starting more than a decade ago, such as FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots. Also involved are a law firm led partly by former Trump White House officials, a network of state-based conservative policy groups, and an ad hoc coalition of conservative leaders known as Save Our Country that has advised the White House on strategies for a tiered reopening of the economy."
"Conditions are hardly ideal for a protest movement related to the virus," wrote Vogel. "In addition to the health risks, demonstrators potentially face legal exposure for violating the very measures they are protesting. Plus, some key Republican leaders have embraced the types of restrictions being targeted, while powerful grass-roots mobilizing groups, including those spearheaded by the billionaire activist Charles Koch, have so far not embraced the protests. Still, the fight has emerged as a galvanizing cause for a vocal element of Mr. Trump’s base and others on the political right."
"The protests mostly appear to have been organized by local residents, and are framed primarily as pushback against what they view as government overreach," wrote Vogel. "But some rallies have prominently featured iconography boosting Mr. Trump and Republicans and denouncing Democrats, as well the occasional Confederate flag and signs promoting conspiracy theories. As was the case with the Tea Party movement, established national groups that generally align with the Republican Party have sought to fuel the protests, harnessing their energy in a manner that can increase their profiles and build their membership base and donor rolls."
For example, "Most of FreedomWorks’s 40 employees are working remotely on the effort, helping to connect local protesters and set up websites for them. The group is considering paid digital advertising to further increase turnout, and has been conducting weekly tracking polls in swing suburban districts that it says show support for reopening parts of country. It is sharing the data with advisers on the president’s economic task force and other conservative allies on Capitol Hill."
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