It was definitely bigger than the other large gathering last week
by Adam Hamilton
The 2017 Women’s March on Washington represented the largest protest in American history, surpassing the protests of the Iraq War in 2003. The protests were organized for January 21st, the day after the swearing in of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States. The March is not in response to a specific remark or policy of Mr. Trump, but instead a general reaction to the new President. Throughout the campaign, Trump has made remarks and advocated policies deemed sexist and discriminatory. Over the course of the campaign he called out Rosie O’Donnell for her weight, dismissed a question from Megyn Kelly because he believed she was on her period, dismissed the candidacy of Carly Fiorina because of her ‘face’, threatened to criminalize abortion, and it came to light that he used to “Grab them by the pussy”- a comment taken to mean sexual assault. His victory over Hillary Clinton, the first women ever nominated by a major party for President, underscored an early gender divide in this election.
Trumps victory in the Electoral College was dependent on the largest gender gap in presidential history. Trump won with a 24 point difference among the genders as men rallied to the Republican party at a greater rate than in both 2012 and 2008. Hillary won among women overall, but lost white women, crucially in the states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Overall Clinton won the popular vote by over two and a half million votes. Trump’s loss in the popular vote, along with his controversial and alienating style, left many supporters and opponents confused as to what he will actually do once entrusted with one of the most powerful jobs in human history.
The marches themselves represented a peaceful rebuke of the President as a man and as a position. There was no stated goal or particular policy or project that was targeted; rather, it was a general demonstration of support for women’s causes and women’s issues. The President has been ambiguous on what his many opinions on women’s issues actually mean, and with the power he has been entrusted he will decide healthcare and other policy that will directly affect millions in the United States and around the world.
The March served as an umbrella protest, and was joined by advocates of other progressive causes. Environmentalist signs were seen, as were immigration and Black Lives Matter advocates. Signs ranged from Star Wars based feminism puns to pictures of Putin breast feeding Trump. The intersectional nature of the protest brought out a diverse coalition opposed to the President. Proponents of the coverage granted by the Affordable Care Act also made their presence known in response to Trump’s public condemnation of the law and the lack of a proposed alternative. Protesters each came with their own particular reason why they did not like the new direction they felt Trump will take the country.
State governments have been quick to reinforce their progressive policies in the wake of Mr. Trump’s inauguration. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that the state’s law will be strengthened to guarantee the protections the ACA has granted for women’s health in the event that former-President Obama’s signature health care law is repealed. California Governor Jerry Brown vows to continue his state’s groundbreaking environmental and climate reforms. But these efforts are stopgap and patchy. Many states will not implement change do to their size, debt, or politics.
In New York this intrepid reporter saw a massive crowd blocks deep showing their opinion on the new President. The crowd circled around Fifth Avenue so that people could each get their chance to protest in front of Trump Tower. In Washington the crowds of protesters significantly outnumbered the crowd gathered for the inauguration. Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, “offered alternative facts” in the words of White House Council and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway about the crowd size. Trump’s crowd was dwarfed by the 2009 Obama crowd, as evidenced by number of DC metro riders, TV viewership numbers, and aerial footage of the crowd. The Women’s March was larger than that. In DC, it attracted celebrity and political leaders. New York also had enthusiastic support. Fordham participated in both marches, whether organized through the College Democrats or independently with family and friends.
Unfortunately it seems the march has done little to sway the new President. Mass calling to elected officials did scrap a frankly ridiculous plan to defund Federal Ethics Offices this January, but it looks like Trump is barreling on with his other controversial policies. Trump has spent his limited time as President continuing with his divisive policies. His commitment to build the wall with Mexico was made official, prompting a minor diplomatic spat with Mexico. The plan to ban Muslim immigration will begin with the refusal to accept refugees from seven Muslim majority nations in the Middle East and Africa.
It is still very early in the Trump presidency to see exactly which policies he will pursue. In his first week he reinstated the Mexico City Policy which prevents NGOs from receiving any federal funding if they provide abortion services. This policy is the most concrete statement he has implemented when it comes to women’s health. The largest hurdles will be in Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, expected to be announced sometime this week. With the nomination of Merrick Garland effectively derailed, Trump now has the ability to appoint a new conservative Justice in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia. Lawmakers in Indiana have already drafted test legislation on abortion that could reach the Supreme Court.
The Women’s March marks an optimistic take on the direction we as Americans are going in. Trump may be our president, but that does not mean we must support who he is or what he stands for. It does mean that we must speak out if we do not like what is being said in our name.