The New York Times declared it a “ringing success”, a not surprising conclusion from their politically liberal viewpoint. And after all, a street event by a couple of hundred thousand angry women who didn’t break any windows or torch any cars is a success of sorts. But if it was a political rally or protest, what was it a success at?
Successful political protests have a political objective which brings about political change. The civil rights protests of the 1960's targeted unconstitutional racial segregation and resulted in the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent Civil Rights Act of 1965 dealing with voting rights. The anti-Vietnam war protests of the 1960's over time succeeded in turning public opinion against continuation of the war, led to President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to not seek reelection in 1968, and eventually led President Nixon to begin the “Vietnamization” of the conflict and the eventual withdrawal of American forces.
But what was the political goal of the Women’s March on Washington? In actual fact, it was a fragmented event as smaller groups and individuals with specific grievances showed up to take advantage of the numbers participating and the media coverage. In fact the organizers internet site explained that the March was about “women's rights, immigration reform, and health care reform; to counter Islamophobia, rape culture, and LGBTQ abuse; and to address racial inequities (e.g., Black Lives Matter), workers' issues, and environmental issues.”
That’s a lot to “raise awareness” about without saying anything specific and just about covers all the left wing grievance groups and issues. But over inclusiveness has its problems as a kind of competition among groups to influence the identity of the protest takes place. Black Lives Matter advocate and feminist Ijeoma Oluo complained that the March was “too white” and that is the reason no protesters were arrested. And then in an example of the alternate universe of liberal unreality, a trans-gender “woman” complained that the March was not inclusive of trans-gender "women" citing the use of the pink “pussy hats” as a symbol of feminism while “she”, and other trans-gender “women” didn’t have one; uh, not the hat that is.
Black Lives Matter was actually there in small numbers, as were a few rainbow signs for the alphabet soup label which describes the non-heterosexual movement, and a few climate change advocates held forth. But it was clear from the majority of the signs and the pink hat uniform of the day that this was a protest by aggravated females about a general feeling of alienation, grief and anger over the outcome of the presidential election and of course Trump’s highly publicized crotch grabbing confession which inspired the comical sight of women in their 70's holding laughably obvious signs declaring “My body is not up for grabs”.
The high level of emotional investment in the prospect of “the first woman president” which was cultivated and enhanced over an 18 month period creating an air of certainty with respect to that outcome, was blown up over a few late night hours on November 9th. It was like suddenly waking up from a fanciful dream only to discover that nothing has changed and you are still in bed with a bad cold and an overdrawn bank account.
This was a liberal feminist nightmare which overwhelmed the “five stages of grief” so that the afflicted quickly jumped over the first stage of “denial” and went directly to the fourth stage, “depression”. There was no “bargaining” and no final “acceptance”. Finally, a group therapy idea in the form of a March on Washington blossomed and the group reverted to the second stage of “anger” where it remains.
Of course, one of the protest organizers seeking broader legitimacy said that the “march” wasn’t an anti-Trump exercise but this apparently was before the celebrity Madonna took to the microphone and in an expletive laced rant said that she had thought about “blowing up the White House”. And of course, if an estimated 470,000 females are angry they need a target, which the signs and speeches confirmed. A sign that claims “Trump is a Fascist” or demands that non-Trump voters “Resist Hate and Fear” leaves little doubt about the emotional underpinning of the exercise. Essentially, the whole event had the feel of a giant pep rally.
So what happens now? Is this the birth of a “movement” which will take back control of the Congress in 2018 and the White House in 2020, as some opinion gurus have declared?
Probably not. Once the marchers went home the organizational aspect disappeared and the participants became the same liberal diaspora that existed during the failed election. It was fun for a day or two and protests are always fun. The anonymity afforded by the mob; the rare opportunity to engage in hateful speech and make “demands”is emotionally empowering. On college campuses where students have few daily responsibilities, protests are an intramural sport. Who can think up the most provocative slogans and chants? Who can conjure up another politically correct grievance and defy authority?
A mass protest serves lots of psychological needs but the intensity is gone when the participants resume their individual lives. In this case the potential “movement” already existed in the form of the organizations that make up the liberal political spectrum and which were the sponsors of the March. This version of the movement, the pro-choice NARAL and Planned Parenthood; the far Left MoveOn.org; the feminist political candidate promoter, Emily’s List; the extreme environmental advocacy group the Sierra Club and others, obviously failed in November.
There is nothing new; same membership, same angry voices, no outreach to penetrate the progressive bubble and attract politically moderate or independent voters that are needed for growth and political efficacy to join up. The March participants were just a small percentage of Hillary’s voters primarily energized by the presidential “glass ceiling” myth and by the thought of being symbolically empowered by its shattering. Will that potential energy even last for two years to effect the mid-term congressional election or for four years especially if there is no female presidential candidate?
A few sound thinkers in the Democratic fold do not think so. They have looked at the 2016 election and discovered that voters, including many of their previous supporters, are divided more by socio-economic class than by social issues and identity politics, which these voters perceive as being the realm of the “morally and intellectually superior” elite. The plight of trans-genders and spotted owls is far down their lists of political priorities. They are tolerant of legal immigration but want the borders secured. But primarily they want policies that address economic relief and security. Abortion rights and global warming don’t fit the bill.
If the Democratic Party wants a new Progressive movement it will have to be more inclusive and less intolerant and condescending of the “outsiders” and less centered around the daily vilification of their choice for President. Given the near hysterical hate being promoted by the mainstream liberal media, this seems highly improbable.
Of course much depends on the governance of the Trump Administration and the Republican controlled Congress which is the other side of the coin of future Democratic Party success. It is far to early to render confident judgments about the political acceptance of Republican policies. However, it will not be sufficient for Democrats rebuilding efforts to rely on President Trump’s personality traits as a basis for change.
Admittedly Trump has an aggressive, sometimes graceless and undignified tendency to overstate, and impetuously criticize, exaggerate both the good and the bad, and uncareingly open the door for criticism. But so far his policies have been executive initiatives which have been consistent with his campaign promises which won him the election.
Putting a freeze on federal bureaucratic hiring conforms to the general belief that government is bloated and inefficient. Reactivating the 3.5 billion dollar Keystone XL pipeline from Canadian oil fields is a jobs producer and as David L. Goldwyn, President Obama’s head of the State Department’s Energy Bureau has recently said: “Keystone has never been a significant issue from an environmental point of view in substance, only in symbol,”.
Commencing the process for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, if done correctly, will address the unhappiness with the rapidly rising premium costs and the false claims of President Obama himself with regard to health provider choice. While these initiatives will of course stimulate howls of liberal anguish, they have been well vetted by the successful Republican election campaign.
The more difficult work will come for his proposals which require legislative approval. The Congress is divided and Democrats are seemingly committed to a program of blind “resistance”. Even the Republican majorities in both houses are divided in terms of parochial interests and Trump’s trade agreement modifications, funding for his border wall with Mexico and repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) will not be as easy as simply signing an executive order.
If Trump’s domestic policies fail to approximate his campaign promises and his foreign policies have serious unintended negative consequences over the next two to four years, he will be a one term president as would any new president of either party. But unfocused marches and protests simply expressing anger and accusations are likely to go the way of the much ballyhooed but failed Left wing Occupy Movement which was exposed both for its excesses and its pointless confrontations.