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Democrats launch #RiseAndOrganize campaign to build on Charlottesville protests

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Hundreds of people march with lit candles across the University of Virginia campus on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in Charlottesville in a vigil for a woman who was killed Aug. 12 when a car rammed people protesting a white nationalist demonstration. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

The Democratic National Committee is jumping into the ongoing waves of protests that have followed Saturday’s events in Charlottesville, launching a #RiseAndOrganize campaign to direct activists toward electoral politics.

“In addition to calling on Republicans to denounce Trump, the next step is getting people to commit to vote,” explained DNC chief executive Jess O’Connell. “This is a galvanizing moment.”

The DNC has spent weeks on a “Resistance Summer” campaign, one of several simultaneous national efforts to galvanize protesters and get them working on achievable political wins. The #RiseAndOrganize campaign, explained O’Connell, would involve Democrats finding the best opportunities to grill their representatives in public, as well as talking to people on the sidelines about the need to get involved.

“Using the message #RiseAndOrganize Democrats will communicate with their family, friends, neighbors and community and send a message — Do not lose hope, Do not give in to fear,” the DNC explained in a memo announcing the campaign.

More than 100 events were already being planned for the weekend, with a goal of hitting all 50 states. All summer, the existing network of progressive groups has been organizing people to attend congressional town hall meetings, as well as vigils after major events. Scores of gatherings to condemn the violence in Charlottesville, in which a woman was killed, were put together within hours of the news breaking, with more vigils following on Sunday.

But the progressive groups that organized those vigils have wildly diverging views of political action. In Durham, N.C., where a Confederate statue was pulled down by a cheering mob, the city has arrested Maoist activists who had worked only in fringe politics. In Birmingham, Ala., the leading Democratic candidate for a special U.S. Senate election offered to speak at a vigil in the city’s Five Points district, but decided against adding a political tinge to it.

The #RiseAndOrganize push is the latest example of the Tom Perez-era DNC taking cues from political protests, in the hope that people will soon be ready to pivot from marches to voter canvasses. At the same time, in a series of interviews, White House political strategist Steve Bannon argued that Democrats would lose votes if they became the party of “identity politics” and protests.

“The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em,” Bannon told the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner. “I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

One focus of many of the vigils — and of a new resolution from some members of the Congressional Black Caucus — is whether Bannon should be fired from the White House.