(AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI)

For at least the next two years, this much is true: Democrats are in the minority at virtually every level of government. They could stay in the minority for years to come.

That means the party's ability to fight back against a Republican-controlled Washington is limited. But they can offer some strategic blows, and in some cases already have.

Much of the nation's attention has been focused on Washington, where Senate Democrats are trying to delay Trump's Cabinet nominees in dramatic fashion. But outside Washington, Democrats across the country are mustering a less-flashier resistance that has the potential to coalesce into a formidable roadblock to a Republican-controlled Washington.

As the second week of Trump's presidency wraps up, Democratic attorneys general across the nation filed a flurry of lawsuits to try to stop his controversial travel ban in its tracks. It worked, at least temporarily. Democratic-controlled legislatures are readying legislation to expand health care if Congress trims it. Progressive groups are organizing to replicate success they've had recently with ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage. Big-city mayors are opening their doors and -- in at least one case -- their city halls to illegal immigrants Trump may want to deport.

In all of this, there is potential for big flash points with the Trump administration. Let's break down the cells of state and local Democratic resistance.

1) Democratic legislatures


The Oregon State Capitol. (Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)

Nowhere is the Democratic Party's decimation over the Obama years more evident than at the state legislative level. Democrats control state legislatures in 14 states; in just six of those do they also have the governor's mansion.

One of those all-blue states is Oregon, where Democrats are keenly aware of their status as a legislative and political counterweight to Trump. Lawmakers there are prioritizing bills to increase women's access to abortion, contraception and pre-natal care in anticipation of Congress defunding Planned Parenthood. They will also prioritize a bill to ban racial profiling by law enforcement and try to expand state-funded children's health care.

It's a lot of work; progressives are playing defense on a lot of fronts, acknowledged Oregon House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D).

"Everything that makes me a progressive feels like it's under attack," Williamson said. "What lets me sleep at night is we can move policy forward on every issue that makes me a progressive."


In Nevada, Democrats are back in control of the legislature in one of the only states to flip both chambers from red to blue last year.  Like Oregon, they're prioritizing unabashedly progressive legislation, like ensuring same-sex marriage stays the law of the land as well as working to ban or limit fracking and expand voting rights if the Trump administration tries to limit them.

But some of that legislation is destined to remain a talking point. Nevada, along with seven other Democratic-controlled legislatures, must work with a Republican governor. Still, the chance to be any kind of counterweight to a conservative Washington is a chance Democrats are eager to seize, said Aaron Ford, the new Senate majority leader in Nevada

"I get giddy every time I think about the fact we have such a great opportunity in this state," Ford said. "We are not afraid to stand up for what our constituents want."

In perpetually blue California, Democratic lawmakers are expecting to have so many confrontations with Trump that the legislature has hired former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to counsel them on any impending legal battles with Washington.

2) Democratic attorneys general

Legislation can only take Democrats so far, given half of states are controlled entirely by Republicans. That's where Democratic attorneys general say they come in: To sue the heck outta the Trump administration, much like Republican attorneys general did under Obama.

They've already started: Democratic attorneys general across the country have filed lawsuits against Trump's temporary ban of travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries and indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. On Friday a federal judge responded to the lawsuit filed by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and temporarily blocked the ban from going into effect nationwide.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association Democratic, said Democratic attorneys general will also be examining "really carefully" any legal action they can take with regard to repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood. They're also looking into ways to provide legal counsel for advocacy groups like the ACLU.

Like Democratic legislatures, these lawyers know they're going to have to be in fight stance, especially early on in the Trump days.

"I figure every day there's going to be a new executive order," Rosenblum said, "so the state attorneys general really need to coalesce around what we can do."

3) Mayors


Protestors march in Austin in 2015. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Mayors are one of the few offices in politics where Democrats dominate; 22 of America's 25 largest cities are run by Democrats.

These mayors have the ability to carry out one of the most high-profile acts of defiance to a Trump presidency: Setting up sanctuary cities -- and, in the case of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D), literally promising to open city hall to illegal immigrants.

The first sanctuary city battleground is in Austin, where GOP governor Greg Abbott is threatening a Democratic sheriff's job if she doesn't obey federal deportation orders for illegal immigrants. Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) has vowed to back the sheriff.

As flashy as mayoral resistance can be, it can also be politically dangerous. As Governing Magazine details, mayors also risk biting the hand that feeds him, since cities rely so heavily on federal grants.

4) Ballot initiatives


Supporters of a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers rally in front of a McDonald's in 2015 in New York. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Perhaps the best bang for Democrats' buck could come not from lawmakers or lawyers but from the voters themselves.

Progressive ballot initiatives have had fantastic success over the years, even in Republican states. Over the past two decades, initiatives to raise the minimum wage has rarely lost when put to the voter. This past November was no exception; minimum wage ballot measures in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington passed by a larger margin than the winning presidential candidate, according to The Fairness Project, which advocates for higher minimum wage laws.

What's more, voters in eight of nine states voted to ease restrictions on marijuana and three of four states voted to put in place gun restrictions.

Organizations that support progressive initiatives are looking to build on that momentum for 2018. And they're starting now by convincing big-money donors to get on board, since ballot initiatives is quickly becoming a big-money fight. In 2016, almost $1 billion was spent by outside groups on hundreds of initiatives in 39 states.

 "We know that ballot measures won't solve all of our problems," said Justine Sarver, director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, said in a statement. "But they will be an important tool in policy, protest and platform setting in the during the Trump administration."