Less Agonizing, More Organizing
Published: November 25th, 2016
By: Steven and Cokie Roberts

Where was all this passion during the campaign?

Now, opponents of Donald Trump are incensed and outraged. Students are walking out of classrooms and campuses. Two protest marches will descend on the capital in January. A meeting of liberal activists was "intense, angry and unforgiving," reports The New York Times.

"This is a crisis of unparalleled dimension," warned Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

His fears are certainly justified, but hey, folks -- elections have consequences. Clinton faced a persistent enthusiasm gap throughout the campaign. If all the emotion and energy now being poured into agonizing had gone into organizing, the outcome might have been different.

Check out these telling statistics. With some ballots still outstanding, Clinton has about 63.7 million votes compared to Barack Obama's 65.4 million in 2012 and almost 67 million in 2008. In the three states that decided the election -- Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan -- Clinton lost by a combined total of only 100,000 votes.

The stay-at-homers and never-minders were especially damaging in critical components of the Obama coalition. The president won 60 percent of young voters four years ago; Clinton's rate slumped to 56 percent. Clinton trailed Obama's performance by 5 points with African-Americans and by 6 points with Latinos.

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But as Sen. Elizabeth Warren puts it: "The time for whimpering, the time for whining, the time for crying is over. It is time to fight back." And if the whiners and whimperers want an issue to "fight back" on, here's a suggestion: the fate of the 11 million undocumented immigrants now in this county, especially the approximately 2 million young people who were brought here as children and who have grown up as Americans.

About 800,000 of these "Dreamers" qualified for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an Obama program that shielded the youngsters from deportation and allowed them to obtain work permits, driver's licenses and a sense of hope and safety.

All that is now in jeopardy. Donald Trump's choice for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, boasts on his website that he's a "leading opponent" of President Obama's immigration policies. Dreamers are now petrified that Sessions and Trump could use the information provided on their DACA applications to track them down and toss them out.

That should not happen. These Dreamers, and their whole families, are an enormous asset to this country. They should be welcomed with a handshake, not threatened with a fist.

Fortunately, the campaign to defend them is already in gear.

Obama said he would tell Trump to "think long and hard" about "endangering that status of what, for all practical purposes, are American kids." Democrats on Capitol Hill are preparing legislation to preserve the program, and they have public opinion behind them. In exit polls, 70 percent of voters said undocumented immigrants should be offered some form of "legal status." Only 25 percent said they should be deported.

About 200 college presidents have signed a statement backing DACA that says, "We have seen the critical benefits of this program for our students, and the highly positive impacts on our institutions and communities. DACA beneficiaries on our campuses have been exemplary student scholars and student leaders, working across campus and in the community."

One prime opportunity for leverage will be the Senate hearings on Sessions' nomination. If he cannot be defeated -- a small possibility -- he should be pressed hard on DACA and presented with the real-world, real-life implications of his wrong-headed impulses.

Sessions should hear from people like 29-year-old Eli Oh, who emigrated from South Korea at age 11 and worked as a waiter until DACA gave him the chance to pursue a nursing career. Today he's a critical-care nurse at Stanford University Medical Center.

Oh told The Wall Street Journal he feels "betrayed" by the threat to the program: "I thought that with DACA, I was finally safe."

Sessions should hear from Lili, a Mexican immigrant with five U.S.-born children ages 2 to 17, who lives in Oklahoma City. If DACA ends and she's forced to leave the country, her family would be ripped apart.

"I wish Donald (Trump) would see what we have to go through," she told CNN, withholding her last name out of fear. "He has kids. Would he like for his kids to be taken away from him?"

If all those post-election protesters really want to make a contribution, preserving DACA and protecting the Dreamers is a winning and worthy cause.

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– By Steve and Cokie Roberts, NEA Columnists