I want to bring up a topic that, for some of you, might be a little uncomfortable.
As I do this, I think it's important to state, for the record, that I'm not at all a fan of Donald Trump. Second, I want to you to know that I don't expect you, if you are an anti-Trump crusader, to answer ]the questions I bring up right now, but they are questions that must be answered.
I've always prided myself on being one who is an honest broker of the truth, in whichever way, shape or form it might take, when it comes to matters of politics. I've voted for Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians in my lifetime. If you are to ask me what I am today, I'll tell you I'm an independent progressive, key word being independent.
I was in downtown Columbia, Missouri, as the 2018 women's march rolled through, and as much as I appreciated everyone marching, I couldn't help but feel something was off. I knew a sense of anger at our current president was driving the turnout and whatever passion there was, but could any of these marchers define what makes their movement different today than any other protest against any other Republican?
This may be no different from the women's marches that took place last year, which I also witnessed in Columbia, but it really caught my eye this year just how many varying messages there were in the march. Here are just a few of the ones that I noticed in Columbia alone:
- Stop the cuts (Which ones? Couldn't tell)
- Protect health care
- Protect the environment
- Black lives matter
- End the wars
- Save the climate / climate change is real
- We are still here and mad as hell
- Pro-women's rights messages
- Impeach Trump / stop Trump / some variation thereof
- Support planned parenthood
- Support Dreamers
- Support science
- Capitalism will not save you
- Abortion on demand, free & legal
- Get money out of politics
- Support journalism
- We will not be governed by hate
- No campus carry (in reference, I'm assuming, to concealed weapons)
- Renee Hoegenson for U.S. Congress
- Who would Jesus bomb?
- Equal pay / equal representation
- Greitens (Missouri's governor) is Trump's Mini-Me
- Make racists afraid again
- Build bridges, not walls
- Support unions & public education
Did I mention Renee Hoegenson for U.S. Congress? I see I did... which is good, because I wouldn't want to leave that out. Same with Planned Parenthood, which I must say, gets the award for having the most professionally designed signs.
I think it is important to get out on the street and let the powers that be know that you aren't happy with today's state of affairs, and on that note, I was happy and grateful to every individual who made their voice heard. It's important for people to see democracy in action. I saw a wonderful moment between a mother and very young daughter as they walked out of a storefront together as the march was happening, and the mother explained to her inquisitive little girl that this is something that people can do when they aren't happy with how things are. I had my family with me, and personally, it was important for me to let my boys see this movement and that people are, indeed, standing up to this president.
But I also know that lack of focus makes it difficult to bring new people on board or affect any one change. Part of me was left wondering: What exactly was this? A one year anniversary of the women's march? A solidarity march (how I saw it billed ahead of the event)? An anti-Trump rally? A litany of complaints against a Republican government? A progressive agenda parade?
It is clear to me that progressives are mad as hell, and that they have energy. But my sense is that something is off on the messaging, and recent polls tell me I may not be entirely wrong. Was this something that was special because of the special threat that this president poses, or was it something that could have just as easily been done against any other Republican president? As much energy as there was, that question seemed difficult to answer.
Ultimately, what I sense is wrong is that we have a progressive movement that is still in need of leadership. This is a process that this movement will simply have to work through in the run up to the 2018 mid-term elections, and eventually 2020, when someone will take on Donald Trump.
Whether progressives are successful, both on the short term as well as the long term, will be whether they can communicate a cohesive message that brings on board enough people to win an election.
The anger progressives feel against this president is certainly relevant in that regard. I am personally of the opinion that one thing progressives can do to win elections over the next few years is to get enough conservatives to feel enough disgust to just stay home. While Democrats celebrated their win in Alabama and tried to spin it as some sort of Democratic movement sweeping the nation, I think we all know that a Roy Moore without sexual abuse allegations would ultimately be the next senator from Alabama. Thus, a disgust-them-enough-to-keep-them-home strategy is actually what worked successfully there, regardless of party spin.
But even if that strategy is employed successfully against Republicans in 2018 and 2020, there won't always be a Donald Trump boogeyman to run against, no matter how far into the future that scenario seems. (Let's hope it's sooner rather than later). When that day comes, what will progressives say to bring others on board? How will their message be summed up? How can the message appeal to more people than it did in 2016, where progressives lost?
I don't think success for progressives comes from trying to flip someone on abortion or guns. This is pure speculation at this point, and maybe even personally wishful thinking, but what I wouldn't be surprised to see is for the progressive movement to eventually crystallize it's message around a theme of simple respect. Respect for immigrants. Respect for those of other religions. Respect for minorities. Respect for those of other sexual orientations. Respect for those who are less fortunate. Respect for women. Respect.
And a strong woman leading this movement might go a long way.
A year into the Trump administration, the progressive movement still has energy, but it will take more than marches and words and Planned Parenthood signs to bring others on board. How will the movement build it's coalition beyond it's current group of activists? That's the question moving forward.
I'm a political junkie who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. Follow me further into the depths of political addiction by following me on Facebook or Twitter. Are you following me on Facebook? Keep up with my latest posts here.
Bonus content: see the videos below of the march as it moved through the streets of downtown Columbia.