Still sour over the way Republicans treated President Obama, the Democratic minority has one word to describe its strategy toward President Trump: resistance.
“There is a difference between obstruction, which is what congressional Republicans engaged in in the early days of the Obama administration, and resistance, where Democrats have been opposed to policies that would be detrimental to the American people,” said Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries of New York, a newly minted member of the House Democratic leadership team.
“Resistance is anchored in defending your policy priorities that are consistent with your perspective, but being willing to work with the other side of the aisle when policies are proposed, that would be good for America,” he said.
Mr. Trump marks his 100th day in office on Saturday having faced unwavering opposition to his agenda from Democrats. They have erected the worst delay of Cabinet picks in U.S. history, mounted a filibuster of his universally acclaimed Supreme Court nominee, fought his efforts to rewrite Obamacare and prompted investigations into his administration’s dealings with Russia.
They also have cheered from the outside — and occasionally assisted with legal briefs — as the federal courts have blocked Mr. Trump’s immigration plans.
The anti-Trump sentiment has become so ingrained in the Democratic mindset that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi struggled to come up with an answer Thursday when asked if she had something positive to say about the president’s first 100 days.
The California Democrat instead talked about Mr. Trump’s use of Twitter.
“I was thinking he was more of a creature that stalked the night, that these things just came out at night like a vampire, that he tweeted these things,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “But now it’s spread to the morning. So let me think for a while.”
Democrats came out on the losing end of the November elections, ceding control of the White House and failing to win the House or the Senate — the latter of which had seemed within reach in the waning days of the campaign.
As they pick up the pieces, Democrats have concluded that their path back to power relies not on finding common ground but rather on fighting Mr. Trump at every turn, save for the few issues where he agrees with them.
“I think our caucus and the party as a whole after the election and the loss to Trump went through a whole defining period: Who are we?” said Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona Democrat and co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “I think what has occurred now is that at least in this caucus now in the House, I see more unity than I have ever seen before. There is some common purpose.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York set the tone before Mr. Trump was sworn in.
“If the president-elect proposes legislation on issues like infrastructure and trade and closing the carried interest loophole, we will work in good faith to perfect and potentially enact it, but when he doesn’t, we will resist,” Mr. Schumer said in his first address to the chamber as the Democratic leader.
Mr. Schumer’s stance marks a stunning reversal. He used to criticize House Republicans for being beholden to the right-wing tea party movement, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, says it’s now Mr. Schumer who is beholden to his left flank.
Mr. McConnell said that has led to “just delay for delay’s sake.”
Progressives, though, say they want to see still more obstruction. They forced Democrats to filibuster Justice Neil Gorsuch, which Senate Republicans countered with the “nuclear option,” altering the rules and making it easier for Mr. Trump to get more nominees to the high court.
Unbowed, liberal activists say the energy of the fight was worth it. They say Democrats can win by channeling the anti-Trump energy, sending a clear message that the Democratic Party is united after a nasty presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders.
“I’m telling right now, the Democratic Party, there is a new spirit y’all,” Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the vice deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told progressive activists this week. “It is not the same old thing.”
Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, a progressive group, said the public is behind the resistance.
“I think it is pretty significant that the first 100 days of his presidency there has not been a significant bill passed,” said Mr. Chamberlain, adding that Democrats will have little incentive to change their tactics unless Mr. Trump starts to deliver on the promises he made to working-class voters.
“It seems like it is just a fantasy to discuss a situation where Democrats should be willing to work with him,” he said. “When you think about the future, the future is continued opposition. It is strong opposition.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, said its candidate recruitment for the midterm elections next year is off to a good start.
“The amount of top-tier candidates already stepping forward to run for Congress this early in the cycle is very encouraging,” said Tyler Law, DCCC spokesman. “There’s no question that we’re seeing a huge uptick in energy at a time when Democrats are on offense across an expanded battlefield.”
For now, Democrats have had to take solace in moral victories.
They touted the 7 percentage point loss they suffered in a special election race in a deep-red congressional district in Kansas as a win and are playing up Democrat Jon Ossoff’s chances of winning a June runoff race in Georgia — though many political observers say Republican Karen Handle is the favorite.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats celebrated this week after Mr. Trump backed off his demand for funding for a border wall in a short-term spending bill that lawmakers are trying to hash out to avoid a government shutdown.
That concession still wasn’t enough for Mr. Schumer. He said Thursday that he would block the stopgap bill.
Democrats also cheered on the more conservative elements of the Republican caucus that sunk the White House’s opening bid to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Asked about the performance of his party over first 100 days of the Trump administration, Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said, “It is still a work in progress.”
“We are in a special position here as the minority — not only a minority, but a superminority with the House and the Senate, and obviously with the presidency [in Republican control],” he said. “So our ability to initiate, to actually demand things on the floor is more than limited — it doesn’t exist.
“So I think the standard of success is completely different from that of the majority,” he said.