|Women's March, DC, Saturday, January 21, 2017|
Can marches make a difference? They can just ignore us and continue on, right? Is it pointless?
The answer is a resounding THEY MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE.
The Women’s Marches of January 21 is a perfect example of how such demonstrations can spark political engagement. The March’s organizers are really on top of their game. They have created follow up actions-one every 10 days over the next 100 days.
The first is seemingly small. Many might dismiss the action as too small to bother. It is to meet up and talk about the march and write printed post cards to our legislators. Surely, in the face of all of the other actions out there, like the Daily Action, this is just another action.
BUT IT ISN’T.
My best friend said, “Hey, the first action is to meetup and write postcards.” Then she listed the five or six people we knew that had either been at the march or supported it and said, “let’s text them and see if they want to do it.” Before ten minutes had gone by, she’d texted or emailed six women with an invitation for coffee after work and a quick post card writing. Within a half hour, all had RSVP’d “yes,” with several more to join. The group practically formed itself. By the time we met, we had eleven.
It was made up of roughly 1/3 Bernie supporters, 1/3 women who have not been particularly politically vocal and 1/3 people who likely supported Clinton. Out of the group, perhaps only 1 or 2 have written legislators before. Not everyone there actually marched. Our ages range from the twenties to the sixties, we have a wide array of focuses, and we have varied life experiences. We represent a broad spectrum. We met at a restaurant; one stranger came up to thank us for our work. He left with cards in hand to write. Another man that we know came up and became part of the group. It looks like our number will grow.
These are folks that are ratcheting up action level beyond previous actions. Grouping together across political divides. Angry, concerned, frustrated and worried but looking to become very practical. We all seem willing to learn.
This is unprecedented among this group; it represents a new level of political engagement. I imagine that our group is not alone. People are becoming politically active—from the left to the center…and maybe even center right—in new and exciting ways.
The question is not whether this is what needs to happen. It is. The question is, did we wait so long to get to this point that we may not be able to preserve democratic process? Will we act in time to save the institutions that have girded us through tumultuous times before?
Here's the thing. Over the past few decades, the US became an oligarchy. People were abdicating their right and duty to vote and stay informed. Apathy allowed corporations to govern. And, now, that's mutated into something even more sinister.
But up until recently, we had at least kept most of the democratic PROCESS. Then, last spring, that was thrown into chaos with the GOP’s refusal to advise and consent on Merrick Garland. Obama’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice languished as the Congress refused to respect the authority of the presidency.
Here we were, an oligarchy that had lost even the procedures that could bring us back to democracy if we tried. We had neither democratic political will nor democratic process. A situation that allowed for an autocratic corrupt narcissist to take over.
But we find ourselves right now at an interesting moment. A crucial moment.
We have lost much of our needed democratic process. On the other hand, democratic power is showing signs of reestablishing itself. These marches are awakening people’s political will. Not just the left, like the Occupy marches. A broad coalition that includes people like those in my coffee group who could potentially unify behind someone like an Obama, a Bloomberg or a Cuomo. What would be different in following these kinds of people now as compared to before? The polity would have the newly developed skills to engage in government that they are mastering now. Skills to reestablish and preserve democratic power rather than oligarchic power. Decisions made in the interests of people, not corporations.
If this continues, we will have an engaged polity representing BROAD political interests. We can potentially see coalitions that don't cater to the values of one segment of the polity, like the far left or far right, but represent the pragmatic compromises we MUST have to represent all peoples in a true democracy. If we act quickly, we may be able to use that political will to reestablish the not yet forgotten democratic process.
We need government to be representative. That could happen if we put together these two pieces--the true political will of the people and established political process. Right here, right now, we may have our chance.