News & Politics

The Organized Resistance to Trump Needs to Do Better Than “District 13″

This isn't actually the Hunger Games. Photograph by Murray Close via Lionsgate Films.

In the last seven weeks the Republican Party has calcified around its new leader, President-elect Donald Trump. The organized opposition to what looks like the most far-right administration in recent memory is, well, not really that organized yet. Senate Democrats may be figuring how much of Trump’s agenda they’ll try to derail and California and New York are establishing themselves as liberal refuges, but any meaningful resistance to Trump’s wrecking-ball nominees and policies will need some kind of on-the-ground-in-Washington movement. And right now, that space is a void.

Enter a group calling itself Millennials for Revolution, which claims to have raised more than $30,000 over the past few weeks to rent a house on Capitol Hill from where it can launch demonstrations against the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the shredding of environmental regulations, massive tax cuts for the highest earners, and all the other deeply regressive policies liberals dread are coming. The fundraising and aims would be laudable if the group behind them wasn’t such a quick self-parody of left-wing activism. Just look at what Millennials for Revolution plans to call its DC house:

“We’re going to take the fight to Trump by building a base right in the heart of Capitol Hill,” the fundraising page reads. “You and Millennials for Revolution are going to open a house—code name ‘District 13’—for activists in residence to counter the Trump Administration’s every move.”

For the unaware, District 13 is the rebel faction in The Hunger Games that overthrew the evil Capitol. But for anyone looking to write off opposition to Trump as delusional, it’s a pre-written joke, and one that’s compounded by the description of the group renting the house.

Millennials for Revolution bills itself as a continuation of the youthful groundswell that powered Senator Bernie Sanders in his unsuccessful race for the Democratic nomination. “Millions of us took action this year to get Bernie Sanders into office—now we’re going to take the fight right to DC, up in Donald Trump’s orange face,” the group’s site reads.

Setting aside the fact that the mission statement overlooks Sanders’ loss in the primaries—and, please, spare me the commentary about superdelegates; you play by the rules of the league in which you compete—this new group looks to be a pretty solid coalition of environmental, pro-labor, pro-immigrant, pro-minority organizers. Any successful resistance movement needs an activist front, and after this year, no one can deny that people who begin on an ideological fringe can wind up prevailing. (For example, consider where the President-elect was five years ago.)

But that name. For one thing, it re-animates a tired trope that DC is like the Capitol of the Hunger Games series: an effete and obscenely wealthy city that rules its nation through a combination of martial law and state-sponsored teenage death matches. While it’s true the Washington area was more prosperous than nearly all other parts of the country in the Obama years, it’s a lazy analogy, to say nothing of the fact that nobody here dresses as immaculately as Donald Sutherland‘s President Snow.

The pop-culture nod to “District 13” just reinforces the stereotype that millennials are easily distracted by whatever science-fiction or fantasy series they grew up with. Why not call themselves Dumbledore’s Army or the Rebel Alliance? It’s one thing to look for solace in fiction after a traumatic event, but when right-wing websites are already making fun of those who do, naming your planned protest house after something from a series for young adults just makes you that much easier to dismiss.

So, go ahead and name your protest house after something from a dystopian franchise for teens. Just don’t be surprised when the death-knell cannons go off sooner than you’d like.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.