But as pretty much any Democrat will tell you (if mostly sotto voce), the party is nowhere near ready to take on Trump. And even some of this week’s more prominent protests illuminate the challenge that lies ahead.
Take the Women’s March on Washington, by far the buzziest of the gatherings. Set for Donald Trump’s first full day in office, the Saturday event is expected to draw upwards of 160,000 participants from across the country. An outgrowth of post-election Facebook venting by disappointed Hillary supporters, the march has garnered scads of attention. People are charmed by its organic, grassroots origins, and, following complaints that its initial organizers were all white chicks, the event has assumed an aggressively inclusive flavor. It is, in fact, not a rally for traditional women’s rights (reproductive freedom, equal pay, protection against sexual harassment, and so on) but rather a show of support for the rights of all potentially oppressed groups: racial minorities, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, the LGBTQ community, indigenous peoples, the disabled, and, yes, women. The march’s home page trumpets:
We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up.
The overarching goal: to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights.”
Does this soaring, all-encompassing mission give the march broad appeal? Absolutely. But in standing for everything—and thus nothing in particular—the gathering also lacks political focus. It isn’t a push for change so much as a cri de coeur by anti-Trumpers who want everyone to know that they reject the thuggish, bigoted demagoguery of their new president. Even people who cheer the event acknowledge that it’s basically a chance for those appalled by Trumpism to meet up for a big group hug.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. With a little luck and some targeted follow-up, the march could ultimately spur more women to get involved in the political process and even run for office. (This is clearly what EMILY’s List hopes. The women-focused PAC has joined with a handful of other progressive groups to conduct candidate-training sessions for 500 gals that weekend.) But as for the gathering itself, noted a long-time Democratic strategist who plans to attend: “If anyone thinks they're going to change or scare Trump and his people, they're dumb as a sack of jacks.”
If the women’s march is an exercise in group catharsis, the January 15th Day of Action, which was run out of Bernie Sanders’ office, had a sharper, more targeted aim: to cause Republicans political pain as they work to repeal Obamacare and tinker with Medicare and Medicaid. (This should not be confused with the Day of Action held by immigrant-rights group on January 14.)