EDITORIAL: Beyond the march

The York Dispatch
  • Will Women’s March turn into a progressive tea party that can upend the progressive establishment?
  • If change is to happen, this movement must now coalesce into a political force.

The Women’s March on Washington saw phenomenal participation across the United States and around the world.

Thousands of people gather to participate in the Women's March on Washington, D.C Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Amanda J. Cain photo

It created a tidal wave of energy — opposition that appeared to get under the very thin skin of newly-minted commander in chief. It appeared to bother him so much that he spent a good part of the weekend defending the size of his inauguration audience.

Because, really, what else has he to do besides ensuring his conflated ego remains intact?

But the thing about President Donald J. Trump is that he has been successful in tapping into a nationalistic fervor that started with the tea party movement and has steadily gained momentum.

At its inception, the tea party had a laser-sharp agenda: oppose President Barack Obama’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and sweeping health care reform, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which they dismissed derisively as Obamacare.

In 2010, the tea party effectively unseated GOP congressional incumbents and replaced them with more conservative, though often little known, entities — local businessmen and the like.

Locals feel hopeful after march in D.C.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks this week makes the argument that the Women’s March cannot effect change by simply opposing Trump and the political patriarchy. It cannot motivate the electorate on the idea of diversity alone.

Instead, he argues, it must move the political system around specific initiatives — much like the tea party did with its agenda to hold its mainly Republican representatives responsible for the passage of TARP and Obamacare at a time when the Democrats were in control of the Congress.

It worked; the Affordable Care Act was passed without a single Republican vote.

Meanwhile, the 2010 midterms ushered in a new slate of unknown tea party candidates — and the beginnings of what we see now as the Trump administration’s nationalist agenda were born.

The question now seems to be, will the Women’s March turn into a progressive tea party that isn’t afraid to rally around candidates who can upend the progressive establishment and replace them with candidates who don’t cater to special interests?

Or will it be Occupy Wall Street, which is known mainly for some camp-outs in financial district NYC parks?

Brooks writes: “Sometimes social change happens through grass-roots movements — the civil rights movement. But most of the time change happens through political parties: The New Deal, the Great Society, the Reagan Revolution. Change happens when people run for office, amass coalitions of interest groups, engage in the messy practice of politics.”

Saturday's Women's March reached around the world

If those who participated in the march want to ensure that an agenda of diversity rights — justice and equality for people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ citizens, people with disabilities; as well as religious freedom and women’s rights — is back on the table, the march was a fine symbolic kickoff.

But if change is to happen, this movement must now coalesce into a political force. If it does so, it could soon — perhaps in the next two years, even — change the tide that brought us the Trump Administration and what is already gearing up to be a very dark era in American history.