Saturday morning I drove forty minutes out to rural western New Jersey to meet a group of people participating in the "People's Motorcade." This is a protest where protestors get around the lack of a nearby protest space by driving very slowly past the gates of Trump's golf course, their cars festooned with signs and noise blaring.
I had done it once before, back weeks before during the president's first visit. This time there were fewer cars, about twenty of them. Those participating were almost all from the immediate area, except for a family that, like me, had trekked from Essex County. This is a part of New Jersey that's rather conservative in its politics, especially compared to the rest of the state, so the locals really seemed to relish their event. It was begun by a single person, and is completely and totally grassroots.
In many ways this is a great thing. This kind of grassroots action is the necessary ingredient for successful political movements. However, I found it disheartening as well. Where was the institutional support? Why weren't larger groups coming in to bolster and support this? Since Trump has taken office there has been a massive tide of engagement by liberals and progressives, but the lack of institutional support and organization has made it difficult to sustain.
Our opponents do not make this mistake. Remember the Tea Party? It was astroturfed into relevance with massive infusions of conservative cash. It had a champion, Glenn Beck, on cable news spouting its talking points every day. We, on the other hand, are on our own.
This is why I am taking part in protests like the one I did yesterday. It's not only important as a political act, it is a reminder that I am not alone in this. Just standing there and chatting before we drove to the course was a kind of therapy. In a time when everything seems to be out of my hands, it felt like taking back some power. As I went past the entrance of Trump's golf course the first time I blared the Isley Brothers' "Fight The Power," on the second run it was Public Enemy. It felt good. Did it do anything? Not in the bigger picture, but it mattered for those of us who were there.
My good feeling died pretty quickly since right after I got home I started seeing the news out of Charlottesville. I'm still kind of reeling, to be honest. I only know that we have to get out there. We have to fight. If you ever wanted to know how you would have acted in in other times of moral crisis, now's the time to find out.