The “corrupt media” is at it again. There were multiple accounts of large marches on Saturday across the United States and in many other countries. Most media, though not Fox News, reported that turnout greatly exceeded organizers’ expectations, that all proceeded peacefully and that the marchers promised that they would continue to press not only for equality for women but for a whole range of issues that they see as threatened by the administration of the new president.
As an old friend used to enjoy saying, who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? Donald Trump and his pit bull press secretary, Sean Spicer, went berserk on Saturday about coverage that described attendance at his inaugural on Friday as less than that at Barack Obama’s in 2009. The reports included aerial photos, which were “obviously” photoshopped. Trump and Spicer insisted that it had been the largest turnout ever, a bit like Trump’s fingers.
If Friday’s coverage infuriated them, just imagine how they must be reacting to the reports of Saturday’s huge gatherings. According to that “lying” New York Times columnist, Nick Kristof, the national total of demonstrators was at least 3.6 million and probably more. I participated in the march in Philadelphia and am pretty sure most of those alleged 50,000 people were really holograms.
Trump and his crowd deniers notwithstanding, Saturday was an inspiring and hopeful day. The crowds were so large that there was really very little marching. I suspect that Trump’s dark and ominous inaugural address helped build attendance. If you were present at any of the marches or even if you only saw the pictures, you were witness to an amazing celebration of hope. It was a Women’s March, but there were also significant numbers of men and children. One particularly poignant sign expressed the wish that “our daughters won’t have to do this.”
The decision to focus the march on women’s issues was a brilliant choice. It allowed a positive focus rather than one that was just a reaction to the election of Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of anti-Trump signs, but there were even more that focused on the importance of women’s rights. The mix of young and older marchers was also really encouraging. And, as many marchers pointed out, it’s past time for women to get much more involved in running for and holding political office.
One of the fun parts of being at the march–although you could have seen many of the same images on Facebook and other social media–was the clever and creative signs that people made for the occasion. One that I didn’t see personally, but read about, borrowed from Carly Simon: “You’re so vain, you probably think this march is about you.” There were numerous riffs on Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” lyrics as well as reference to Helen Reddy’s “I am woman.”
The most frequently seen theme of the march was probably the reaction to Donald Trump’s infamous “Hollywood Access” tape. Thousands of women–actually it was many more than that–wore “pussy hats” and apparently a good many knitted them personally for the event. Signs with warning about the dangers of grabbing were also frequent and carried by women of all ages.
The march on January 21 was unquestionably therapeutic for many. Those still reeling from Trump’s election had any hopes of him becoming more presidential dashed by his apocalyptic inaugural address. But instead of pulling the covers over their heads, millions of people came out to demonstrate that they would not go quietly into the political darkness.
As positive as Saturday was, the real challenge is to maintain the energy, spirit and involvement that the day produced. There are lots of ideas for how to resist the most damaging parts of the Trump and Republican agenda. The source that has gotten the most attention is “Indivisible” but there are many others. Of particular significance, it seems to me, is paying much more attention to state and local elections. The time to begin organizing for the 2018 contests is today.
Whether the Democratic Party leads the charge or whether it is much more grassroots driven remains to be seen. While we wait for the party to pick a new leader and see if it can provide direction, there’s every reason to focus on local efforts that bring a new generation of activists into political life.
There is, in the midst of a lot of uncertainly and even confusion, one relatively simple and straightforward solution to winning back political power from a populism that emphasizes division and hatred. Increasing participation, particularly in voting, could transform the political landscape overnight.
This approach doesn’t require converting hardcore Trump supporters. Instead, it entails convincing people who didn’t vote for all manner of reasons that their future depends on getting involved. I’m pretty sure that Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will provide lots of proof of the truth of that statement.
The Women’s March offered clear evidence that the will is there to fight for our better angels. Maintaining the momentum of that day of hope is the challenge to which all of us must respond.