An unprecedented flood of donations is pouring into many progressive and civil rights groups amid fears that a unified Republican government in Washington could block their agenda or turn back hard-won achievements, including expanded rights for gay and transgender people and a legal reprieve for some undocumented immigrants.
The American Civil Liberties Union said 120,000 donations totaling more than $7 million have poured in over the past week, the largest show of support in the organization’s nearly 100-year history. The Anti-Defamation League has seen contributions jump 50-fold, with the majority of the contributions coming from first-time donors.
The Southern Poverty Law Center saw its Twitter following jump by 9,000 as the organization racked up a list of more than 400 reported incidents it labeled hateful harassment or intimidation, such as swastikas scrawled on church walls and women in headscarves being accosted. And groups that advocate for Muslims, women, immigrants, racial minorities and gays say they have received a similar deluge of support.
The contributions are a silver lining for the groups, who say the election of businessman Donald Trump has inspired fear in the communities they were formed to protect.
People are flocking to the Human Rights Campaign website to learn what the outcome might mean for gay and lesbian couples seeking to adopt, or for transgender people who, feeling a sense of security because of executive orders issued under the Obama administration, came out about their gender identities at the workplace. What happens, they ask, if those executive orders are rescinded?
“These are devastating questions to be asking,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which had worked closely with the Obama administration over the years. “Folks are scared. They heard what Trump and others said time and time again and they don’t know what it might mean for them.”
Voto Latino, an advocacy group that typically focuses on issues such as climate change and immigration, found itself giving out suicide hotline numbers and anti-bullying literature. “We’ve become a de facto support group,” said the organization’s president, Maria-Teresa Kumar.
Similar fears gripped supporters of Planned Parenthood, the women’s health nonprofit whose political action arm vigorously campaigned for Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The organization will again be in the crosshairs as the Republican Congress seeks to cut off its federal funding, which Trump has said he would support.
However, the group received an “unprecedented” 128,000 donations in the wake of the election, President Cecile Richards said in a statement. She pledged to “stay open, no matter what.”
The Human Rights Campaign, Voto Latino and Planned Parenthood were among several groups, including organized labor and immigrant rights groups, that met this week in Washington to plot a strategy going forward.
Left-leaning organizations say they are being forced to regroup in the wake of an election that gave Republicans control of both the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade. Trump has pledged to step up deportations of undocumented immigrants in the country and roll back environmental regulations, and he has surrounded himself with advisers who oppose abortion and gay rights.
The consternation is intensified by the uniquely divisive nature of Trump’s candidacy. His rhetoric shook some more centrist groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, which slammed Trump’s campaign for its anti-Semitic echoes. His candidacy was embraced by avowed white supremacists and neo-Nazis, though in a recent interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” he asked any of his supporters who might be harassing minorities to “stop it.”
One positive for these groups is the outpouring of support from citizens who are using their wallets to do what their votes could not.
“I think it’s very reassuring that even though we’ve seen this surge in hate, if you will, we’ve seen a very compelling and countervailing surge of good,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, which opposes anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.
Greenblatt’s group is planning to take an approach of “optimistic engagement” with a Trump administration, he said. The ADL sometimes clashed with the Obama administration too; for example, it opposed the Iran nuclear deal.
Less optimistic is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that vociferously advocates for the rights of Muslims and has been a favorite target of conservatives. Prior to the election, the organization had hoped to push for stronger legislation banning racial profiling, but that seems off the table now, said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR.
The organization blames Trump and others for inflaming anti-Muslim sentiment; in a report this week, the FBI said anti-Muslim hate crimes reached levels last year not seen since 2001.
For many groups, Trump’s surprise victory at the polls has instantly changed their priorities.
Earlier this week, seven groups devoted to issues affecting racial minorities — including the NAACP and the National Urban League — held a conference call with reporters pledging to immediately make voter suppression a top issue. Strict new laws requiring voters to present identification and the shuttering of some polling places led to lower voter turnout among African Americans and young people, they alleged.
The ACLU this week announced that it was refocusing its efforts to protect protesters and analyzing the civil liberties records of potential appointees. In addition, it will seek to block efforts by Trump and a Republican Congress to defund Planned Parenthood; deport immigrants brought to this country by their parents, known as “Dreamers”; and ban Muslim refugees.
The ACLU was among the first organizations to adopt an adversarial tone in the immediate wake of the election, promising to be a thorn in Trump’s side if he executed all his campaign promises. “See you in court,” the organization said in news release.
Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the election results have hastened what has been a shift in recent years on the part of his organization, which tracks hate groups. Increasingly, he said, his center has watched fringe figures and ideas infiltrate mainstream politics — for example, conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace.
That particular conspiracy theory years ago got a boost from Trump, who then was not a candidate for president. Now that Trump has won, Potok said, his eyes will be trained on the highest office in the land.
“We’re increasingly looking at politicians because so much hatred was seeping into the mainstream,” Potok said. “Now, it’s the same phenomenon but worse.”
As of Tuesday night, the organization had collected 437 reports of “hateful intimidation and harassment,” though not all had been verified. The largest number of incidents were directed at immigrants, but about 90 targeted African Americans.