George W. Bush campaigned as a uniter, not a divider, then presided for eight polarizing years, provoking protests like the one against the Iraq War on February 15, 2003, that sent hundreds of thousands of Americans into the streets of major cities. Those protests stopped neither the Iraq War nor the reelection of the president.
Months after Barack Obama was sworn in, on April 15, 2009, protesters associated with the Tea Party held rallies in 350 cities, attracting more than 300,000 Americans. They were angry about the financial crisis, the Bush administration’s response to it, and the progressive agenda of the polarizing new president and Congress. The following year, 84 Republican freshmen joined the House during the 2010 midterms. By 2012, the Tea Party had fueled victories for politicians including Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Scott Brown, and Nikki Haley. President Obama’s ability to advance a domestic agenda was all but finished, though he retained enough popularity to be reelected easily in the 2012 campaign.
President Donald Trump was inaugurated on Friday. On Saturday, perhaps 3 million Americans turned out for street protests, united mostly by opposition to him.
That is unprecedented.
The crowd estimate is drawn from the work of Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver and Jeremy Pressman at the University of Connecticut, who tracked down figures from newspapers and other sources around the United States, put them in a spread sheet, cross-checked multiple sources when available, and linked to them all. Adding up their “low” estimates suggests 3.33 million protesters took to the streets. Add up their high estimates and you arrive at a total of 4.63 million protesters. Knock one million people off the low estimate just for kicks and you’ve still got one of the most massive single-day protests in American history. And they’re still adding data from smaller towns that were late to report turnout.