Hours after Senate Democrats failed to block Betsy DeVos’ nomination for education secretary, they shifted to trying to stop Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., from becoming attorney general.

Democrats plan to use the same tactics they employed unsuccessfully in the DeVos fight: late night speeches in the Senate, petitions from the many progressive organizations and voters who oppose President Trump’s nominees, telephone calls, and social media posts urging senators to vote “no.”

In doing so, the Senate minority is heeding the call from Democratic voters to stand up to Trump, despite the risk of promising the progressive base things they can’t deliver with their current numbers.

But progressives are making it clear they aren’t yet happy with the aggressive Democratic effort. Green Party 2016 presidential nominee Jill Stein, who won over a million votes by arguing Democrats weren’t sufficiently progressive, actually blamed Democrats for DeVos’ confirmation.

“Why would we have a tie on such an egregious nominee?” Stein asked on Twitter. “Because Democrats serve corporate interests.”

That criticism ignored the fact that there are only 48 Democratic senators, and all of them voted against DeVos. The education secretary pick was confirmed because 50 Republicans supported her and Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in his constitutional capacity as president of the Senate.

Yet Democrats still faced criticism for not doing enough to make wobbly Republicans fear supporting DeVos.

“Democrats blew what was arguably their best shot to take down one of President Donald Trump’s nominees when secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos won confirmation in the Senate on Tuesday,” wrote VICE News’ Alexandra Jaffe. “Democrats were spinning it as a win, but it’s hard to read DeVos’ confirmation as anything other than a fumble for Democratic lawmakers and grassroots groups, who were given a near-perfect set of circumstances to derail her nomination and still fell short.”

DeVos received poor reviews for her performance at her confirmation hearings. She had two Republican defectors and no Democratic supporters. She was opposed by Native American groups in states with GOP senators. Suburban Republican voters haven’t always been much more enthusiastic about school choice for low-income children than the teachers unions railing against DeVos.

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By contrast, Sessions’ confirmation hearings went better. He has at least one Democratic supporter and no Republican opponents. Democrats changed the filibuster rule to get rid of the 60-vote threshold for ending debate on executive branch nominees and most federal judges. Under the old rules, Democrats could have blocked most of Trump’s nominees.

Having failed at stopping DeVos, the prospects for derailing Sessions are even worse. Nevertheless, many Democrats believe this is a necessary battle in a larger war against the Trump administration.

“These fights are energizing our communities and reminding them of the power of their voice,” said Scott Simpson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the organization that delivered 1 million signatures on an anti-Sessions petition.

“Every fight prepares constituents to be more strategic, more organized, and more engaged than the last,” Simpson said. “These nominees and executive orders are very out of step with the country and we expect that this is only the beginning of the pushback from constituents.”

Progressives are spoiling for a fight. Many of Trump’s moves have triggered a massive backlash among rank-and-file Democrats, and progressives were demanding a more combative Democratic Party even before Trump won, as evidenced by Bernie Sanders’ stronger than expected campaign against Hillary Clinton.

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Clinton’s loss to Trump confirmed to many of these voters that confrontation is more politically effective right now than “New Democrat” triangulation and compromise.

Trump’s election has galvanized many black and Hispanic Democrats who were not supportive of Sanders in the presidential primaries, potentially creating a more diverse progressive electoral coalition.

“Senate Dems may not be able to block [Trump’s nominees] but they should continue to use hearings as an opportunity to cement the narrative that Trump and his administration is one run by a dictator who is being influenced by a bunch of billionaire Wall Street people,” said Democratic strategist Bud Jackson. “The anger and fear among the Democratic grassroots base is real. They must continue the resistance on their own track.”

Even some Democrats who are more conciliatory by nature have responded to this fear and anger.

“[Sessions] would be wrong at any time because of his record on immigration, civil rights and voting rights, but particularly wrong now because we need someone who has some degree of independence from the president,” declared Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Some Democrats fear replicating the climate within the GOP where activists demanded congressional Republicans do things to stop President Obama that they didn’t have the numbers on Capitol Hill to do, and then mounted primary challenges against party members who failed to go along. But others note that the Tea Party helped Republicans win some elections.

“With a low turnout in an off-year congressional election, Dems must keep pushing to please the activists who will vote in 2018,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “The Berniecrats could do for the Dems what the Tea Party did for the GOP in 2010.”

Republicans re-took the House that year, ending a nearly three-fifths Democratic majority. Four years later, they captured the Senate.

“Our goal must to sustain the different communication channels now being used to ensure Americans are aware of Trump’s behavior and overreach,” Jackson said. “On the legislative front, I firmly believe an important and achievable goal is keeping the fire so hot that Republicans will feel forced to split from Trump. It’s not a question of when, but how long.”

Sessions just hours away from helming Justice Department

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Sen. Jeff Sessions is on the verge of achieving the ultimate personal vindication.

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