Ignoring the Voice of the People

The massive protests that followed the inauguration should have reminded Donald Trump that he is a minority president with a slim-to-none popular mandate, as Michael Winship describes.

By Michael Winship

“Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.” On Sunday morning, that came flying out from the Twitter account of @realDonaldTrump, raising the question, “What have you done with the real, @realDonaldTrump?”

A sign at the Women’s March on Washington points out that the demonstration attracted a larger crowd than Donald Trump’s inauguration. Jan. 21, 2017. (Photo: Chelsea Gilmour)

It sure didn’t sound like the troll we’ve come to know. A couple of days in, maybe the awesomeness of becoming the leader of the free world had penetrated his roiling psyche and settled him down. Nah. Clearly, he hadn’t written it. Because just two hours before, in a tone far more like the narcissistic whine we’re used to, the Trump account tweeted, “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.”

Not voting? Celebs? That sound you heard was my cognitive dissonance alarm hitting DEFCON 1. In both instances, the bad and not-quite-as-bad Trump personas were writing about Saturday’s worldwide protests, women’s marches in more than 500 cities in the United States — at least 3.7 million Americans — and more than another hundred demonstrations internationally, from London and Paris to that handful of hearty souls who displayed their protest signs in Antarctica.

There were half a million people in Washington, DC, just the day after the less-than-superb turnout for Donald Trump’s inauguration and some 400,000 here in New York City, if not more. According to Sarah Frostenson at Vox, “Political scientists say they think we may have witnessed the largest day of demonstrations in American history.”

I have been at many, many protest marches in my life, going back to the big anti-Vietnam demonstrations of the late ’60s and ’70s, and I have never experienced anything like what happened this weekend. We arrived at our designated stepping off point on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., right on time, but the block was so packed it already had been penned off.

A marshal suggested we move up to the next street above and work our way back down to where we were supposed to be but it was impossible and in the process I managed to get separated from my girlfriend Pat and another friend — too much of a crowd between us to get back to one another; a situation complicated by a dying cellphone.

A demonstrator at the Women’s March on Washington dressed as the Statue of Liberty shrouded in black. January 21, 2017. (Photo: Chelsea Gilmour)

And so there I stood, alone in the crowd, waiting for something to happen, soaking in the excitement and anticipation everyone shared at being there, enjoying the collegiality, reading the hundreds of signs, from the woman carrying a 5×7 card with the words, “A tiny sign for a tiny man” to the guy not far from me whose placard read, “A woman made this sign for me.”

Apparently, our numbers were so unexpected it took a while for the organizers and police to figure out what to do with us all, so it was 2:30 p.m. or so before we finally began to move, slowly swinging south onto Second Avenue on the east side of Manhattan. This wasn’t so much a march as a slow group shuffle; there were so many people crowded onto the street we could only move a little bit at a time, like an escaped chain gang bound at the ankles.

We worked our way down to 42nd Street and then west. I was tempted to peel off at Grand Central Station and head home — the hour already was late — but I was determined to make it all the way to the end, to reach Fifth Avenue and 56th Street and summit at Trump Tower.

By the time we made our way onto Fifth Avenue the sun was going down but we kept moving, singing, chanting, cheering. A 6-year-old girl, perched on a grown-up’s shoulders, urged us on: “We are the popular vote! This is what democracy looks like!” she shouted and we echoed everything she said. This was her personal favorite: “Donald Duck for president!”

We got to a block from Trump’s gilded pleasure dome and then were turned away by parade marshals and police. We could get no closer; barriers blockaded the way. Amicably, the protesters broke up, walking east and west on the cross streets, many filling the bars and restaurants, others crowding into the subway stations, headed home.

Shrugging Off Protests

White House press secretary Sean Spicer tried to shrug off the significance of what happened on our streets Saturday. Referring to the Washington march, he said, “There were people who came to the Mall, as they do all the time, sometimes in smaller numbers.” Ho-hum, he seemed to say.

A sign at the Women’s March on Washington to protest the election of Donald Trump. January 21, 2017. (Photo: Chelsea Gilmour)

“A lot of these people were there to protest an issue of concern to them and not against anything,” Spicer said, personifying the self-deception that believes the lie. Sorry, Sean — Saturday was a stunning affirmation of defiance, a rebuke and warning that resistance has just begun, yet only if we have the patience and grit to keep it moving forward.

I’ve told this story here before, but the lesson remains: In the wake of the murder of protesting students at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970, the big antiwar demonstrations that followed and the nationwide student strike that shut down hundreds of colleges and universities, the idea was not just to demonstrate but to mobilize and continue to work toward an end to the Vietnam War.

Once the dramatic marches had come to an end, all too many simply took advantage of an early end to the semester and headed for the beach. Little was accomplished and the war continued for another five years. Those of us who wanted to keep the peace work going — the stated intention of the strike — were met with diffidence at best and at worst, outright apathy and resentment.

“Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are,” Gloria Steinem said at Saturday’s rally in Washington. “Pressing ‘send’ is not enough.” She’s right, but marching won’t be enough either as we go up against a committed band of zealots determined to end all remaining vestiges of the New Deal and the Great Society and to further enrich the wealth of the 1 percent — especially, of course, themselves.

“This is the upside of the downside,” Steinem said on Saturday. “This is an outpouring of energy, and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life. It is wide in age, it is deep in diversity, and remember, the Constitution does not begin with ‘I the president,’ it begins with ‘we the people.’”

The work must take place at every level, from local on up: organizing, keeping yourself informed, sending letters and emails, making phone calls, attending town meetings, running for office or working for the candidates who best represent your interests.

And this, perhaps above all: confront your member of Congress. Don’t let him or her off the hook. Make sure your representative doesn’t sell you out to the Big Interests, or deceive you with empty rhetoric. If they do – throw the rascals out.

There is no time to lose. With each day, a cornice of our republic crumbles and the body of democracy struggles to keep itself from stumbling and falling into the abyss. No joke. 

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This story originally appeared at http://billmoyers.com/story/great-joyful-march-not-enough/]

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23 comments for “Ignoring the Voice of the People

  1. Sam F
    January 26, 2017 at 11:42 am

    No doubt large angry marches help, but only the largest cannot be suppressed, and the mass media conveniently ignore all but the largest. Large marches require widespread immediate anger due to further wars, foreclosure crises, or a series of violent suppressions of smaller uprisings, all of which are avoidable by tyrants.

    Unfortunately demonstrations are simply ignored by the tyrant oligarchy. The only language understood by tyrants is widespread violent riots, terror attacks against mass media, oligarchs, gated communities, etc. That is the real cause of the 1964 Civil Rights Act: fear forced the hypocritical politicians to pretend that they had seen the light. As a juror I would never prosecute anyone for such incidents. As Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants.” Much less blood is spilled that way than by the tyrants.

  2. Herman
    January 26, 2017 at 11:48 am

    The elections over. Trump won. Time to address issues. As others have remarked why not look at each issue rather than the President’s character and decide what to support. Certainly, progressives are against war and should encourage the President to abandon the Cold War, the action on TPP might deserve support, and many women but not all will object to proposed policies so voice your opposition.

    What is objectionable is how Hillary Clinton managed her campaign, encouraging women to vote for her because she was a woman. Unfortunately many women, more than you would expect, saw through the strategy and voted for and against Clinton for more substantive reasons. Given the prominence of the marches by the media you would expect that the overwhelming majority of women voted for Clinton. Given Clinton’s strategy you would expect the same. It didn’t happen.

    For those who marched and supported the march, why not listen to what other women had to say and form a truly formidable women’s movement.

  3. D5-5
    January 26, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Would this protest have happened had Hillary been elected?

    Mike Whitney makes good points on this demonstration, including praising Robert Parry here:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/26/double-standards-where-were-the-liberal-protestors-during-obamas-wars/

    • Bill Bodden
      January 26, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      CodePink was active in protests against Obama’s war crimes.

      • D5-5
        January 26, 2017 at 4:30 pm

        @Bill B: What looks like sour grapes in my question and the link to Mike Whitney is not meant to critique protest. Let Trump know, let any administration know, people are watching and will act. I think the deeper response is why did we need Trump to wake up? Are these protesters, horrified at Trump’s personal odiousness, aware of Clinton and the neocon playbook we would have (continuing) otherwise? Amongst my neighbors now there is an almost 100 percent rejection of Trump, but when I ask would they rather have Clinton they don’t answer. Apparently they would. She is seen as “the lesser evil.” And this is what the US must wake up from–IS waking up from? I doubt this IS waking up from due to MSM influence as with Russia-Trump conspiracy to affect the US election.

    • exiled off mainstreet
      January 26, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      I agree. No nukes is good news. The “protests” meanwhile appear to be following the deep state’s “color revolution” playbook. Many formerly “leftist” NGO’s have taken the Soros shilling, 50 of these organizations supporting the demonstrations according to some reports. The false accusations of Russian interference as the rationale for delegitimization of the new regime are enough to delegitimize the maidan style counter revolutionaries. Mainstream writers supporting them like the writer of this piece are mere agents of the deep state seeking to maintain its control.

    • Stiv
      January 26, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      The premise of this article is bullshit. “Bloodthirsty Obama”? Really now. And what do we have here..a cult of personality following Parry? Ask me, he needs to get on the ball. Looking back at Clinton does nothing for what’s ahead.

      So, you right wingers who are now creeping into the discourse can have your say, but I’m not buying it. And I won’t support it either. I depended on this site, in part, to keep me up to date on political happenings with foreign policy and it served well. Thank you! Right now, I’m seeing little of any consequence as to what’s happening now. If the suggestion is to roll over and play dead while a totalitarian/fascist regime has it’s way unchecked, well..that’s the GOP for you. The same people who crow that Nazi’s were “socialists” (LOL!) will do all they can to gain license by pointing to the same game that has been played by both parties unfortunately. Trump is different? Yea he is…and NOT in a good way. He’ll get what he deserves, as all of us will. So far, I see a “pussy” for sure..little dick syndrome. That shouldn’t matter, but in his case it surely does. If he wants to lick the balls of the big dog in town ( Putin ) do it on your own time, not on my dime Trump.

      You could call it “demonizing”, I’ll call yours pandering. Understand that Clinton did some incredibly stupid shit and I don’t blame Putin for some of his actions but that’s a long way from giving him free rein. Obama? Probably his biggest mistake was having Clinton as SS in the first place.

      In the meantime…more war filth and hate from this president. To expect anything less is Pollyannish.

      • John
        January 27, 2017 at 2:57 pm

        Yes, Bloodthirsty Obama. Did he not brag about being good at killing people? Did he not “joke” about using drones to take out the Jonas Brothers? Did he not have his assassination Tuesdays? Did he not invade Libya? Did he not support Al Qeida in Syria? Did he not blow people up in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc? Did he not put nuclear capable missile bases in Poland and Romania? Did he not roll tanks across Europe? Did he not support open Nazis in a bloody coup in the Ukraine? Did he not claim for himself (and all Presidents after him) the “right” to indefinately detain or kill anyone, anywhere, without even charging them with a crime, much less providing evidence and due process? Did he not blow up a 16 yr old American citizen because he didn’t like the kid’s dad? Did he not resupply the Israeli military when they were bombing schools and hospitals in Gaza? The list goes on.

        To claim that any of this is a “right wing” critique of his murderous regime is such utter BS, is beyond the pale. Considering that we know that he told bankers that he would protect them from pitchforks, that he bragged that his administration had built more pipelines than any other, that under his administration, the rich got substantially richer, while the poor (disproportionately those of color) got poorer, that he pushed hard for Investor Rights agreements (disguised as “free trade”), that he organized a nationwide violent crackdown of Occupy (the largest Left uprising in a generation), that he was behind a coup in Honduras and attempted coups in Ecuador and Venezuela, and that he bailed out banks (but not their victims), not to mention that he dedicated $1 trillion to update nuclear weapons, but did nothing about failing water infrastructure (of which Flint is only the tip of the iceburg), I have to wonder why anyone who is not as hard right as he has shown himself to be would still support him.

        Of course, your comment actually does serve as an excellent example that proves Mr. Parry’s article to be frighteningly true.

    • exiled off mainstreet
      January 26, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      As is almost always the case, Whitney is spot on, as is Black Agenda Report, which is cited by Whitney, in most instances. What is unsaid is the likely significant financial support being given to these color revolution style demonstrations by Soros and other neoliberal angels. This renders the entire effort suspect and corrupt no matter what Trump does in the future. Actually, his past track record on foreign affairs, at least, is distinctly less bad than that of the mainstream democrats, as Whitney indicates. Tulsi Gabbard, the anti-war Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, would, I think be a formidable candidate in 2020 and would signal that the Democratic party had returned to civilization.

  4. journey80
    January 26, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Or maybe they should have reminded Trump that George Soros is a formidable, Orwellian, and Goebbels-level manipulator, a cosmic creep, and a very dangerous opponent.

    • exiled off mainstreet
      January 26, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      The Trump justice department should make a full investigation of Soros and, in light of the fact a ham sandwich can be convicted in the US absent any evidence, the real evidence against this international criminal should be enough to get him to up stakes and go somewhere else, but not his native Hungary, where he is already persona non grata, where his history started as a teenager witnessing his father’s collaboration with the Arrow-Cross Nazi quisling regime in its end of the war persecutions in the final months of the Hitler regime.

      As far as the status of the yankee republic, said by the author to be under threat by the new regime, it was already seriously undermined for the last few decades by the authors’ friends, the Clintons and their “new democrat” hostile takeover of what was once the progressive party of the US. The only question is whether the republic is too far gone to repair. Thus, the only recourse was taking the risk of an obvious demagogue, but one who might just be, with his proven faults, interested enough in following the public interest according to his lights to attempt some sort of restoration.

  5. Zachary Smith
    January 26, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    There is no time to lose. With each day, a cornice of our republic crumbles and the body of democracy struggles to keep itself from stumbling and falling into the abyss. No joke.

    I’d give a pretty penny to know if the author wrote anything like this late in 2000 or early in 2001.

  6. junius
    January 26, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Is your headline intended to be a joke, or do you actually know nothing about American history for the last, oh, shall we say, two hundred years or so? Ever heard of the estimated third of Americans who did not want to leave Britain? Or the 40% of southerners who opposed the Confederacy? Or the opinion polls that FDR ignored again and again, topping eighty percent against choosing sides in another European war?

    The only thing that surprised me is that the recent news coverage was relatively respectful of the protestors, unlike the outrageous distortions that were presented of the civil rights and antiwar demonstrations of the sixties. And that’s only because the media owners don’t care for Trump. They know “we the people” are nothing to worry about.

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 26, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      junius, I like your comment.

      If California voting is going to be a point of national discussion, then let’s start with the 2016 Democratic Primary. After we trash that around, let’s start with some other Democratic primaries like staring with whatever the hell it was that happened inside New York City. This my friends is where I would start the investigation to all of what that went wrong with selecting a viable candidate for the Democrats. Trump will be Trump, so get use to it. To blame anything other than Hillary’s corrupt backers for stealing the Democratic Nomination is all but a distraction from getting to the bottom of what really went wrong. If Hillary had not been the Democratic Presidential Candidate, it is very likely we wouldn’t be here now talking about President Trump.

      What is wrong with the current left, and shows up functioning currently in the Democratic Party circle of supporters is the following comments left on HuffPo regarding Rep. Gabbard’s Syrian trip….
      ………………………………………………………………………………..
      Suzie XXX · UCLA
      She is a self serving hypocrit. Has back-stabbed the Democrats time and again. I would not trust her.
      Like · Reply · 42 · 22 hrs

      Marilyn XXXXX XXXXX · Sacred Heart School of Business
      I have always felt she had an agenda; just can’t figure out what it is.

      Read the coverage and comments here:
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tulsi-gabbard-met-with-assad_us_58891f5ce4b0737fd5cb6d29
      ……………………………………………………………………………..

      All before the provided link are a couple of comments of true blue pseudo liberals who trash Representative Gabbard for her Syrian War foreign policy agenda, which I think Tulsi makes tons of sense with while pursuing her mission. I could be wrong, but wasn’t the left disgusted with war back around 2007? Also, the problem with the Democratic National Campaign committee during this past campaign season, was that Tulsi was highly outnumbered by the Hillary/Podesta crowd, and this is the ugly illness that must be eradicated from within the Democratic Party, if it is ever to regain the title of the People’s Party once more.

      Also, many of the liberal articles condemning Trump is forcing many of us normally liberal thinkers into defending Trump. Why, because we don’t want a WWIII, we do want Trade Agreements that aren’t fair to the common citizen, and yes there are plenty of us who while liking Trump for those policies, are not so happy with some of his other policies. If we are going to trash the Donald let’s talk about Native Americans and Pipelines, or fair labor laws aimed at helping the average wage earner. Also how in the world did suddenly the TPP agreement become so wildly popular and liked by those on the left?

      Lastly, if you like Madonna then listen to her DVD’s, but for heavens sake get her off the protest stage. Okay, if you need her for media attention, then have Madonna simply introduce the mom of three who receives no child support and has a hard time making ends meet, or the Native American who wants to save his natural water and land which they need to survive on…. it’s endless, but do it smartly, and tell George Soros no thanks, because making a deal with George is like making a deal with the devil. Seriously buyer beware!

      • John
        January 27, 2017 at 3:14 pm

        Thank you.
        One thing I do object to in your post, however, is your use of the term “the Left”. A pro-corporate, pro-capitalist ideology, by definition, cannot be “Left”, new or otherwise. Democrats have, for my entire life, been a hard-right party. Had Sanders been an actual Democratic Socialist, rather than a New Deal Liberal, that would be a centrist position (as Democratic Socialism is about a 50/50 mix of Capitalisim and Socialism).

        When you yield the rhetorical ground to Democrats by calling them “Left”, you (even inadvertantly) are aiding and abetting them in their criminal enterprise. (As Capitalism kills something like 30,000 people a fay through malnutrition and preventable disease alone, not including its wars, pollution, and other criminal actions, it is most definitely a criminal enterprise.)

        I know, from your comments, that this is not likely intentional on your part, but more likely something you never really thought about. I would recommend the Political Compass website to you. Take their questionaire, to see where your views place you, then compare it to their charts for recent elections. I think you will find it to be a eye opening site. (I am in no way affiliated with them, I just find it to be a good tool.)

        • Joe Tedesky
          January 27, 2017 at 4:58 pm

          MY Political Compass

          Economic Left/Right: -6.88
          Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.79

          John see my score I received after taking the test, that was fun.

          I sometimes have called the Left, pseudo left, limo left, and try real hard to think of other variations to describe whatever it is that fits their description best at that moment. I thankfully appreciate your pointing out the difference between Democrats and true left leaning people. I had this out with myself as a young man when trying to balance the Democratic Party between Wallace against McGovern, and never did figure out the convenience of the relationship the party had with the two of them, or more so called Democrats sometimes that deserved our attention at times.

          I am hoping that with all the noise, is that good people find their way through our political fog machine, and eventually we all come to agree on a party platform whereas we may all go forward. What I see at this moment, is a political climate running on personality celebrity type values, and by having that kind of atmosphere I feel the air is too thin to sustain a true democratic run society. It may be said, and history proves them right, that this culture of celebrity leadership has always existed, but so has the culture of change, so why not continue trying to change what bogs us down?

          Thanks again John, and correct me where you feel you need to…Joe

  7. Wm. Boyce
    January 27, 2017 at 12:27 am

    “There is no time to lose. With each day, a cornice of our republic crumbles and the body of democracy struggles to keep itself from stumbling and falling into the abyss. No joke.”

    It’ll be interesting to see if the big media reporters grow a pair to confront this neo-fascist state rapidly taking shape. They don’t have much time before they are locked up.

  8. Pat
    January 27, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Mr. Winship: YOU are an idiot! The first line of your article proves that!

    “The massive protests that followed the inauguration should have reminded Donald Trump that he is a minority president with a slim-to-none popular mandate”. Obviously, YOU and the few thousand women marchers, the warmongering Neocons, the Bush/Clinton criminal cabal, an obsolete bought-by-israel’s AIPAC Congress, and all of Jew-owned Hollywood have not “gotten” the FACT that 330 MILLION middle-class Americans in the 47 states outside D.C., NY, and CA, i.e., “flyover country” INTENTIONALLY VOTED IN A NON-POLITICIAN when neither party represented the PEOPLE or the CONSTITUTION. Donald Trump has the BIGGEST MANDATE IN US HISTORY! You and your D.C. nincompoops had better wake up and smell the roses!

    • Brad Benson
      January 29, 2017 at 7:04 am

      Kaboom! You just blew that guy up. Hopefully, he’ll be so embarrassed that he’ll retire from political writing. He’s no “Progressive” and certainly not even representative of anything “left” of center. The guy is a moron.

      • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
        January 29, 2017 at 8:18 pm

        Pat was an anti-Semite, retard.

  9. Kalen
    January 28, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Ignoring voice of the people is embedded in the US constitution it is as American as Apple pie.
    It is the core of very being of every patriotic or idiotic American.
    My way or highway is an expression of American exceptionalism, exceptional to sanity and humanity.

  10. Brad Benson
    January 29, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Ho-hum…another column by this Winship guy. Does Consortium News publish his stuff out of some sort of odd sense that balance must be maintained? Or is it just for humor?

  11. fuzzylogix
    January 31, 2017 at 9:37 am

    The antiwar marches against the Iraq war were much larger (estimated between 8 to 30 million worldwide), and the women’s march of 2004 was estimated at 1 million in DC.

    And Gloria Steinem was a former CIA agent! Nobody enriched the 1% like the Clintons and Obama!

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