On Saturday, January 21st, three times as many people attended a demonstration against Trump as showed up the day before for his inauguration. Solidarity marches across the nation drew hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million, more.
The turnout was impressive. It vexed the new president. But what did the Women’s March mean?
Despite what pundits said, the Women’s March was not a movement. Nor was it the beginning of a movement.
It was a moment: a show of hands: “I’m against Trump,” these women (and men) told the world. Question was, who/what do they want to replace him?
As Occupy Wall Street instigator Micah White pointed out, Women’s Marchers didn’t issue any demands, much less posit a desire to achieve political power. “Without a clear path from march to power, the protest is destined to be an ineffective feel-good spectacle adorned with pink pussy hats,” he warned. Like other protests of the last few decades, the Women’s March was a spasm, a spontaneous expression of disgust and outrage doomed to lead nowhere.
If you don’t demand anything, (or if you demand everything) how will you get it?
If you don’t pose a threat to the establishment, why should they feel scared?
At the risk of both mansplaining and leftsplaining, a show of hands does matter. Events like the Women’s March are significant because American politics is centered (pun intended) around the fiction that leftist political movements taken for granted in other nations — communism, socialism and left anarchism — have no presence at the ballot box or in the news media in the U.S. because American voters aren’t interested.
Moments like Saturday prove that’s a lie.
The New Left was the last organized left-wing mass movement in American history. Since the organized Left collapsed in the early 1970s, we’ve seen other moments like Saturday, indications that there are Americans, tens of millions of them, whose politics fall to the left of the fake-left Democratic party and the lockstep center-right corporate media apparatus that props up it and its “rival” Republican brand. Signs that this Left-in-waiting really exists belie the party line that there’s no market for hammers-and-sickles in the good ol’ U.S.A.
Even during the somnolent 1980s, hundreds of thousands showed up to protest Reagan at demonstrations like Solidarity Day. There were violent, effective eco-terrorist attacks and anti-globalization/WTO protests like the Battle of Seattle in the 1990s. Millions marched against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. This decade brought us Occupy Wall Street and Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly popular presidential primary challenge, and polls that find that 37% of Americans would get rid of capitalism — the economic system we’re constantly being told is more sacred and popular than Jesus, mom and apple frappuccino.
These political impulses — opposition to war and militarism, fighting job-exporting free-trade agreements and suspicion of unfettered capitalism — have no place in the Democratic or Republican parties. To the contrary: war, free trade and letting business run wild are nastily bipartisan.
So more than a third of Americans find nothing of interest to buy in the American marketplace of political ideas. That’s a vast untapped pool of potential “customers.” These people — I’d say voters, but many of them don’t bother to vote because they hate both parties — represent an inefficiency in the market. Moments like Occupy, Bernie and the Women’s March remind us of the existence of this Left-in-waiting. Someday, obviously, someone or someones will build an organization that attracts America’s long-ignored leftists and channels their energies into something powerful enough to achieve power and smart enough to govern.
Until then, the real left will be co-opted by the Democrats.
Which is what happened to the Women’s March.
To be sure, many Women’s Marchers were Hillary Clinton Democrats. The “Love Trumps Hate” signs, hand-lettered rather than printed by the DNC as they were during the fall campaign, and the Hillary buttons, evidenced that. Yet many more of the demonstrators were Bernie Sanders progressives, socialists and communists who want to see radical change in society and the economy — and these good leftists (a third of the country, most of the left overall) allowed themselves to go unrepresented.
A good indication that the Women’s March got co-opted into a Democratic boo-hoo Hillary/Cory Booker-in-2020 pep rally was that the speakers were limited to celebrity millionaire liberal Democrats like Michael Moore, Ashley Judd and Gloria Steinem and defanged ex-radicals like Angela Davis. Had this been a militant action (i.e., one that might frighten Trump and the GOP), or a coalition of liberals who welcomed and respected their leftist allies rather than merely wanting to vampirize their righteous anger and energy into midterm votes, the roster of speakers would have included people calling for revolutionary change and action outside of the existing system. There would also have been some radical activists you’d never heard of who do important work.
Celebrity liberalism and pleas to vote Democratic are where the Left goes to die.
No wonder the Women’s March was doomed to join the list of fruitless liberal marches! Because they’re Democrats, none of the speakers suggested scrapping the whole sick system of systemized poverty, industrialized prisons, war and slave labor altogether. Instead marchers got a washed-up documentary filmmaker urging them to memorize a phone number they could use to call Congress because, yeah, that’s going to do so much good, especially these days with Republicans in charge of everything.
Still, despite the Democratic BS, those huge crowds were glorious. They showed up, they were heard, they hint at the better country we could have.
May they soon get the radical, genuine political movement they and the world deserve.
(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
I reminds me of the anti-war protests I was marching at the front of in LA just before Dubya did his SHOCK-N-AWE bullshit on Iraq. During that time, much more than a million people around the country protested — both Dem and Repug — THAT undeclared war-crime, and its consequence continues to kill millions of innocent people. It opened the door for BarryHO and his war-crook doppleganger, Kankles, to destroy whole nations!
Then everybody went back home, continued drinking a surplus of Fluoride-infused water, and forgot about what the fuck they were doing.
While lesser-evil voting is shithole politics, Hillary Clinton as president would have been TPP economic debt-slave suicide for America … plus a whole collateral raft of One-World-Government slavery for anybody else not qualified as a 1%er.
Trump now has to start from scratch. Hillary would have been launching with a whole infrastructure already set in place by the half-breed.
“Failed” is too strong a word. (And indeed, Ted has cited the success story as well)
90% of life is just showing up. They showed up in record numbers – unlike the inauguration itself, this was the largest march ever on DC. How many communists and socialists showed up for their marches?
Okay, this was merely a show of hands – it was witnessed by many who can see that others are just as unhappy as they are. Of such things are populist movements born.
“There would also have been some radical activists you’d never [heard] of who do important work.”
Apologies. It was corrected before my post.
Yes, it was a failure. No, it was not hopeful. All these “protests” follow the same pattern. One great big burst of “outrage”–often accompanied by a festival-like setting (this time, pink hats and cute little signs about pussycats and images of Patrick Stewart face-palming and so forth). Also, the outrage is never directed toward a constructive action. The Wall St. protests, the events in Seattle, etc., had no plan. This is just the newest wave of people who are angry, but not angry enough to activate.
Which makes me think a lot of the “outrage” is simply manufactured tantrums by a lot of politically naive people who were so angry about St. Hillary not being crowned queen of the whole world that they can’t accept it. So they’ll be upset for a little while, then settle back down to their lattes and iPhones, griping on social media about how everything is terrible.
Trump won the election back in November, two months ago. And all I heard was how he’s the next Hitler, how he’s worse than Hitler, how he makes Hitler look like Shirley Temple after a couple of valiums.
Okay. This is one of those moments from Star Trek. Where’s the unitard-clad android with smoke pouring out of its ears because of the logical contradiction. Over a million women (and some men) show up to protest the Evil That Is Trump. So where the hell is the organized protest? I haven’t seen a thing. No one’s telling me to stop buying X or Y or Z. No one’s saying boycott this or that. If 1 million women can “organize” a “protest,” why can’t anyone put together an effective economic response to compel those in power to control Trump?
So far, two months since Queen Hillary was defeated, I have seen nothing in way of a coordinated reaction against Trump.
You don’t get it both ways. You don’t get Trump=Hitler but everyone who is crying and sobbing and shrieking about it isn’t doing anything.
This “movement” is doomed to fail. Why? Because it would require genuine effort and genuine sacrifice (not just wearing a pink hat), and out of those million people at the march. And they haven’t done anything. It’s simply a waste of time. Get back to me when they organize boycotts, voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote rallies.
Until then? It’s just a bunch of silly people who think walking down the street gets it done. And everything about my life has taught me that, no, walking with a sign doesn’t do shit.
> Get back to me when they organize boycotts,
When “they” organize boycotts. Why “they”? Are you organizing a boycott? It’s easy to point the finger at others – what are you doing?
Fair question. My response.
I am a man. Anything I say or contribute to this “protest” will be ignored or dismissed as mansplaining. But here goes.
The march was not effective. Oh, it worked on convincing the people who already agreed with the march organizers (a lot of HRCers in there, I suspect, which means there’s a lot of Cult of Personality going on, which means it will fail).
But did the march sway, for instance, Joe Lunchbucket in Flyoveria? No. Why? Here’s what he saw: women wearing silly hats talking and laughing and pushing baby carriages and walking with their daughters and carrying handmade signs that look like they were put together the night before after a quick run to Michaels down the outlet mall.
Presentation matters. Any “organized” protest that ignores that will fail.
Secondly, besides the externalized stupidity of colorful hats and protest signs with Patrick Stewart facepalming, there is the sub rosa stupidity of the organizers insofar as what they did NOT bring to the march.
Trump was elected in early November. The election was in mid January. Call it just under 10 weeks. In that 10 weeks, in the era of the Internet, an enormous organization of protest should have arisen with the specific goals of introducing boycotts and political agitation to demonstrate the power base’s reach.
See, that’s why I’m not organizing protests or boycotts. The people “involved” in this are either doing it as a fun bit of safe protesting–would you bring your kid with you if you thought the police were going to start setting the dogs on you?–or as a way to accrete power/money (I can go into further detail if required, but this post is already a little long).
I have no interest in being the one person in the room shouting, “Hey, we need to put in some hard work here and get organized” when all I’m going to get for my trouble is a bunch of people who don’t intend to sacrifice so much as a single dayspa treatment or iPhone upgrade.
Sorry, but I no longer take up hopeless causes. And this thing? Right now? It’s hopeless. Get rid of the HRCers, throw away the dumb hats, get some accounts going at Kinko’s for the signage to come, and then get back to me.
Hey, Alex – I’m seriously not trying to piss you off, but I might anyway. You still haven’t said what you are doing, only what you believe to be wrong with what others are doing.
If you believe that there are better actions to be taken: by all means, take them.
I would like to suggest that you not disparage the ladies who at least stood up and were counted.
So, what am *I* doing? Same as you, bitching on socialist media. 😉 An action which will probably have the same amount of influence as wearing a pink hat.
oops, lost a paragraph in editing:
> I have no interest in being the one person in the room shouting…
The crowds show that there are many like-minded individuals out there. I sincerely doubt you’d be a lone voice. You’ve obviously got a strong voice, and ideas as to what needs to be done.
No. You aren’t pissing me off. We’re having a reasonable discussion. I will point out that I did mention what I am doing.
I am doing nothing. The reasons for my inaction:
1. I still have no conclusive evidence (in my opinion) that Trump is the Gestapo Hitler Serial Killer Women Murderer that he is being described as by the media.
Trump is not a particularly palatable president, but none of them have been. Bush, Clinton, Obama? How many civilians have they killed with a shrug of their shoulders as they tee up their next shot?
Now, I could chalk all that up to me simply being naive, but, as I’ve said on many occasions before, if Trump IS Hitler 2.0, why are all these financially secure celebrities who CAN relocate not doing so? I ask that seriously. If you were rich and were actually as afraid of Trump as they claim to be, why are they staying in the U.S.?
So (for now) I stand by my conclusion that Trump is not going to be any worse (or better) than any of the recent batch of gladhanding liars who’ve held the office.
2. The protest base is not serious enough yet. Look back at the successful protests of the past. The union organizers of the 1920s? The civil rights movement. Those protesters went and broke the law. And the law broke their heads. No cute hats, no adorably ironic signs.
We’re still in the position where the majority thinks like the celebrities: Trump isn’t really that bad, but a loud noise has to be made.
And so far, that’s all it is, a lot of noise. When it gets too tough, quite a few will simply back down.
What do I base that back-down assumption on? It happened with Occupy Wall Street. It happened in Seattle. It happens all the time. We’ve lost, as a culture, the ability to protest correctly.
Give me a million protesters who’ll follow instructions? I could give you Universal Single Payer, a guaranteed minimum income, free college tuition and end the drug wars in two years.
But take a look at who’s organizing the protest. I can see the fracture lines already.
> Give me a million protesters who’ll follow instructions?
Heh. heh-heh. You’re on the wrong side of the aisle for that. The righties are much better at following instructions; organizing lefties is like herding cats.
Here’s a PERFECT example of what I mean.
The Dems are only now planning some sort of resistance. Even better? The resistance they ARE planning is in the mindset of a “100-Day Fight Club.”
Do they think the French Resistance fighters were “in it” for 100 days? They fought the Nazis for years and years.
This is the best example I can point to for why I’m not out there. The people “running” this thing are still thinking this is just a pesky little problem.
And that is the real weakness of the “liberal” movement. Even someone as politically unsophisticated as I am knows exactly how to snap them into line: threaten them with the possibility of a tax increase.
Trump understands one thing quite clearly: his opponents have no spines. When push comes to shove, they back down. I suspect that if Trump were to actually put police officers in Nazi uniforms and send them to arrest people in broad daylight, a whole lot of people would just look down into their lattes. And the louder the victims scream, the louder the liberals will sing their protest songs. …
Found a good article titled, “The four worst reactions to the women’s march” – food for thought.
Thanks for the link.
Exactly right. Was just having this discussion with a good friend, how it was wonderful that several million people were marching in various places, and how it was very very likely it would all get coopted by the Democratic Party, same as always. There is some hope, there was a post at the London Review of Book blog by a participant, which ended by asking the question of why they hadn’t just walked in and taken over the white house. Which is a good question. Happened in 1789. Happened in 1917. Needs to happen again.
This would be a bit early to tell.
This may have been the first protest experience of 2/3 of participants.
They have seen and felt the existence of this hidden block that Ted discusses.
They need to network among each other. First contact works so much better in person, then things can continue online.
Micah White has some good points but is a bit of a one-trick-pony and a bit too sure of himself. Remember that adbuster magazine expected occupiers to identify and rally around one big demand. Where would occupy be if they had had only one big demand? Or if they had created a political party right then and there and contested elections? Perhaps building structures on the ground, even transient ones, is the necessary first step creating the actual groundwork enabling later developments such as the “Sandernistas”.
Demands (and leaders) can be co-opted, compromised, “sat out”. Really, presenting a finished framework that may just be premature. Perhaps people right now need to connect with one another, share that they are concerned about the uncertain future, and start to think about what they want and compile and evaluate options themselves. People need to be in a position to evaluate options directly so that when the big campaign for the big demand comes around, they are motivated to participate for as long (but not longer) as makes sense to them.
To say that the women’s movement has failed is like saying that winter has failed because there has been only 0.4 inches of snow so far this January in Chicago.
One hot day does not prove climate change and one cold day does not disprove climate change, whether in reference to the heat of planetary climate change or to the heat of political climate change.
Ignorance of the political heat of those who would become Trump voters was as foolish then as it is to now ignore the political heat of those who will push back against Trump’s— and the duopoly’s— incursions on the liberty and rights that many people will continue to claim as human beings.
The foolish pride of Democrats came before their fall to Trump, and by Trump’s own foolish pride will he further delegitimize himself and join in bringing about his own fall.
The greatest foolishness will be the belief that after the fall of Trump the political heat will be gone and that there will not be further storms to come. Recognize that the difference between Democrats and Republicans are more matters of style than substance, the difference being one between a carnival barker compared to the gravitas of a banker, a priest, or an undertaker.
There is in ignorance an unjustified confidence, and an unjustified confidence in ignorance.
“There is in ignorance an unjustified confidence, and an unjustified confidence in ignorance.”
There is in repetition an echo of sorts, and an echo of sorts in repetition.
A repetition is what is suffered under the rule of the internally democratic and externally autocratic duopoly.
Throw the bums out, followed by Throw the bums out, followed by Throw the bums out; the style and faces change but the systematic exploitative capture of hearts and minds remains intact, while plebiscite after plebiscite selects the autocracy’s representatives to the people by means of leadership tested and proven simply by the ability to lead the plebs to choose the names of these representatives of autocracy on a ballot.
To quote Madison’s quote of Jefferson in Federalist 48:
“It will be no alleviation that these powers [of despotic government] will be exercised by a plurality of hands and not by a single one. One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as oppressive as one.”
Another failure of the writers of the Constitution is their failure to foresee the development of parties capable of undermining the effective division of the three branches of government.
That the three branches of government can be unified under the rule of one party is to diminish the desired effect (of so called checks and balances) that would limit the unaccountable power of what Jefferson calls despotic government.
Prez #1 warned us against the two party system in his farewell address. Interestingly enough, they don’t teach that in school.
The biggest thing the founders didn’t foresee was that a people freed would piss away that freedom in exchange for pretty lies and a false sense of security.
Actually, CH, I did learn that in school.
Was it actually in a textbook, or did your teacher tell you about it verbally? I’m gonna assume that my books were printed a little earlier than yours. 😉
My history teachers occasionally added some interesting bits that weren’t part of the official curriculum. Today I realize that some of them were from “A People’s History of the United States” while others were from Teh Holey Babble.
«May they soon get the radical, genuine political movement they and the world deserve.» No, Ted, that’s the very point : «they» are not going to «get», i e, received from on high, a «radical, genuine political movement» no matter how much they «deserve» it. Either «they» will create such a movement, or it will simply not happen ; It will not come as a gift from people like Mr Trump or Ms Clinton….
@ mhenriday –
Isn’t that what Ted was saying when he wrote “Because they’re Democrats, none of the speakers suggested scrapping the whole sick system of systemized poverty, industrialized prisons, war and slave labor altogether”? It takes actions, not just words. 🙂
Indeed, mein verehrter Lehrer. But my point is that waiting for words from leading Democrats – even those on the left-wing of that party – is not a sufficient action. Those attending these marches, which is of course an action, have to realise that other actions are necessary. As Joel Emmanuel Hägglund – better known as Joe Hill – put it (in the most common paraphrase) : «Don’t mourn – organise !»…