Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Protest Has Really Mattered In The Trump Era

When Trump sent Spicer to defend his crowd size on the first weekend of his presidency he was already playing defense

As I was waiting to board my commuter train this morning, a powerful thought struck me: as bad as things are with our authoritarian chimp of a president, they could be a lot worse. Folks keep attributing this to the Tangerine Terror's incompetence, but that's only half of the story.

The big, overlooked story of this presidency is the impact that protest has made. Think back to inauguration day. The white supremacists were openly strutting in the streets. For weeks supposed leftists like Sanders had been talking about how he could "work" with the sociopathic real estate developer as if he would do anything in good faith. Moderate voices urged "give him a chance." The media also started fawning, trying hard to find a way to legitimize this president, which was much easier than facing the awful reality.

On the night of the inauguration I sat in my recliner, sipped on some Old Grandad, and felt scared, depressed, and anxious. As I wrote on this blog, I knew that we were all headed into the fire. Some of us were going to get burned, some were going to be consumed, and no one was going to come out the same. I went to bed that night with a feeling of utter dread.

The next morning, my wife left with a friend to go to New York City for the Women's March. I did my bit by watching my kids. Playing and having fun with them was a nice distraction, but soon I got texts from my wife that the crowds were so immense that she was merely standing in place. I checked out Twitter and turned on the TV, and realized that something truly momentous was happening. 

After my wife and her friend came home, we had pizza and wine and they told us of what happened in excited voices. We also saw Sean Spicer come on the television and try to yell at the press about reports over the protest being bigger than the inaugural crowd. We laughed and cursed at the TV. Soon I was seeing updates from my friends on Facebook, showing photos of protests they attended in "red" places like Amarillo, Shreveport, Topeka, Omaha, and even Nacogdoches, Texas. I had never seen anything like it before.

I will admit I started to cry. For the first time in months I felt something like hope. Later, after we put the kids to bed, I hugged my wife as the protest played in the background. "We did it, we did it, we did it" was what we kept saying to each other. 

The Women's March is not discussed much in the media, but I feel that it was an absolutely crucial moment. Only one day after his inauguration, the president was put on the defensive. It was obvious to the world that there were many more people in this country against him than for him. It also goaded him into that infamous incident in the press briefing room, which helped push the media to be not quite so afraid to criticize him. (They tried to normalize him after the State of the Union and after he bombed Syria, but it never took.)

Following that momentous weekend, Trump tried to put his white nationalist agenda into action by releasing the travel ban. Despite doing so on a Friday night to minimize pushback, his order led to a wave of spontaneous protest, including lawyers rushing to airports to help immigrants and travelers. This was an act of pure people power of the sort so rarely seen in this country.. (I was able to participate in a large protest the next day in New York City in Battery Park.) It also worked. The courts were forced to do something, and they knocked down Trump's executive order. Soon after the Democrats showed a greater willingness to resist and less to equivocate. After those tumultuous weeks, it was obvious that Donald Trump would not be allowed to run roughshod over the Republic.

The Democratic politicians didn't do that. The media didn't do it. Trump's own self-destructive foibles didn't do that. No, we did that. And never forget it.


Terry said...

I keep reminding myself of that, too. After Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel, and I read up on his background, I started to have the feeling that we might just survive Trump. There'll be a hell of a lot of hell for ordinary innocent citizens but I can believe now that there are enough decent people working against him that eventually he'll fall. I just wish I thought everyone who supported him would disappear in a puff of smoke, too. I wake up every morning and within five minutes I remember what my country is right now. Not a good start to the day. But maybe there is hope.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Yes, I have that same moment every morning, too. I think about the pain on the faces of so many of my students the day after the election. This was not the pain of "losing," but the pain of knowing they lived in a country that has no regard for them. I want so badly for them to have a better world than this.