It felt like the sixties. There were the ghastly transportation struggles to get to the actual demonstration. The earnest concerns of the demonstrators were almost palpable. Above all, there was the sense of comradeship and fun. Even the symbol of the demonstration- a knitted pink hat with cat’s ears- poked sly fun at The Donald’s hot mike incident and the lack of respect it showed for women. The signs were home-made and showed a wide variety of anti-Trump sentiments, from the serious “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” to “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off My…” Alas, as I walked across Boston Common, my joints reminded me that I wasn’t still thirty, no matter how familiar the demonstration looked. But the more than a hundred thousand people on the Common was witness to a statement I have been making to younger people: the progressive movement now has its best opportunity in the last fifty years.
It would be nice to report that Trump paid some attention to the half million or so demonstrators who came to Washington to shout their defiance outside his window. Even Nixon went down to the Mall on one occasion and had conversations with demonstrators. Our new President, however, was busily engaged in his favorite game, “Mine is bigger than yours.”
In this instance, the “mine” was his crowd at the inauguration versus that of Barack Obama.
In their own ways, both Trump and some Democrats made a similar point: the election is over and the protesters should have made their views known at the ballot box. This is nonsense, of course; those very responsible people almost certainly voted and many of them probably worked hard for Hillary Clinton. More importantly, this argument obscures the fact that Clinton gave them (us) precious little reason to feel enthusiastic. Having available the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party, some of whose planks were forced on her, she managed to run a campaign that left cold a significant part of the Democratic base. Hillary and her chosen technocrats ran the kind of campaign they wanted;
the election was hers to lose and lose it she did.
Inevitably, the Pussy Hat rallies had a diversity of speakers (in the case of Boston, there were two Native American speakers, not including Elizabeth Warren). And, yes, the crowd was mostly middle class. There was some labor sponsorship, but the demonstrators were not working people, on the whole. This should not concern even those of us who want more attention paid to the needs of poor and working people. Social Democracy is an ideology of human liberation, and while it certainly includes economic justice, it also covers a broad spectrum from gender equality to equality of sexual orientation. To borrow from Sheri Berman, Social Democracy is a cross-class coalition. From moment to moment, groups of us will emphasize one aspect or another. While doing so, it is important that we not lose sight of our role of fighting against all forms of oppression.