This past weekend millions of people around the world took to the streets to protest the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. Many on the Trump side called the protesters “sore losers” or for them to “get over it” as they had won. One called it a “hissy fit” and I saw a post that called it a “tantrum”. All of these people obviously were just born and forgot how Obama was considered by many to be an illegitimate President. The “not my President” was in full effect by conservatives, the same ones who say we should “get over it” cause we lost.
But snide comments by me aside, here’s the thing: All Presidents have protesters. All of them! The key here is that President Trump drew record crowds, just not where he wanted them. Do people really not remember all the protesters of the Affordable Care Act? Do people really not remember that the Tea Party was founded essentially in opposition to Obama. The Tea Party has moved the Republican Party further to the right, and they were just protesters (with significant backing from conservative groups, but still).
Protests are an important and integral part of our democracy. Here’s what I think protests in general, and specifically the Women’s March, accomplish:
They allow others to know they are not alone in their beliefs
More than anything the marches on Saturday were about letting women around the country know that all the effort and progress of the last 8 years was not going to be given up without a fight. If you think women’s rights are not under attack just remember that no one is voting on men’s reproductive choices and whether or not birth control can be covered by health insurance (especially since many are prescribed birth control to regulate other things than births). Protests let the LGBT community and Muslim Americans know that, “you are not alone”. It let the world know that America doesn’t stand lockstep with our president. That is an important message to send.
They give a visual to people in power
People in power or in office do not care what you tweet or post on Facebook. They don’t really care about your moveon.org petition. They care about votes. That’s why it is more effective to call or write an actual letter to your representative. Likewise, a politician who sees people mobilizing in their district, coming out in droves to speak on an issue (for example, at a town hall about health care), lets that representative know, these are voters and your constituents: you may want to listen.
The same goes for businesses. They don’t care about a boycott that’s announced on twitter, but if you flood their phones with calls, they will. If you flood networks with calls to stop showing their ads, they notice. If you gather thousands of people to march outside of their headquarters, they notice. One individual can rarely affect change, but thousands, millions, that is a voice that has trouble being silenced.
They can lead to more active participation in politics for regular people
Hopefully the people who marched will heed Obama’s message and get involved. It can’t end with marching it must be followed up with voting and activism. It must be followed up with new people running for office to unseat congressmen and senators. It must be followed up with calls to representative’s offices and floods of mail. It must be followed up with holding people to account and donating to good causes. The Tea Party started as an opposition to Obama and the Affordable Care Act, the women’s march should have the same goal: to move Democrats further to the left and hold those accountable who don’t. To run candidates in the primaries against those candidates who fail liberal values and elect those who will stand for liberal values. The march is merely the beginning, but it offers hope to those who see the next four years as a roll back of progress.
Protests can do more than this, but these three things are what many hope to accomplish. I hope to see many more protests, but more than that I hope to see a new wave of liberals running for every office from school board to Governor.