I believe peaceful protest is a legitimate tool for change. I marched many times during the Vietnam War. I marched when Dr. King was assassinated. I marched for women’s rights. I marched for peace before the Gulf War, speaking on the Capitol steps and lying down in the streets. I have rallied for Black Lives Matter.
I understand the passion of the people who are now protesting the election of Donald Trump, but I don’t think these marches are appropriate, or useful. The protests we have seen in the last few days are a venting of emotion, not a tool for advancing a progressive agenda.
Of course, I certainly understand the intense disappointment of the protesters; I share those feelings. Immigrant families, Muslim Americans, disabled Americans, the LGBT community and women have all felt threatened by the words Trump spoke during his campaign.
The coalition that elected Trump included a wide range of people, from disaffected workers to clear-thinking ideological conservatives. But some small part of that coalition was comprised of hard core racists, misogynists and xenophobes. There have been numerous stories indicating these people have felt emboldened and are acting aggressively toward minorities, Muslims, and women.
Trump himself acts impulsively and vindictively, as we’ve seen in hundreds of late night Tweets. He has mocked the disabled, attacked a gold star family, and maligned women. He is clearly a narcissist who is doesn’t like to take guidance from others, and he has no governing experience.
Mike Pence has been clear the new administration’s agenda would include appointing Supreme Court justices who would roll back Roe v. Wade and marriage equality, and eliminate protections provided by the Obama administration to transgender individuals. Pence is a committed evangelical Christian who even opposes birth control.
Senator Mitch McConnell made it his mission to block President Obama at every turn, even refusing to fulfill his constitutional obligation to hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee. Yesterday he was ecstatically proclaiming that Trump can immediately roll back all the existing executive orders on safeguarding labor rights, equal pay, workplace safety, and protection of immigrants.
For progressives, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Of Americans who voted (and far too many did not), just over half voted Democratic. In this election, the philosophical divide is enormous. When we voted, the stakes were high.
But vote we did. We live in a constitutional republic that has rules for electing our government. We all went to the polls and participated under those rules. Many of us do not like the outcome. Many of us are braced for a profound change in direction for this country, and we are concerned people will be hurt. We fear mass deportations and erosion of individual and human rights.
Democracy is messy, but as Americans, we have placed our trust in the system. The right to peaceful protest is enshrined in the system, but this is not the time for protest. This is the time to take a deep breath, acknowledge that our fellow citizens have spoken, and accept the outcome.
This is a time to allow the democratic system to work. It is time for a little humility. We as progressives do not represent the totality of thought in this country. Our fellow Americans have a vision of progress that is different from ours. They won the election. Let’s stand back and give them a chance.
There can be positives to having a united government. While we may be unhappy with many of the actions a Republican President and Congress may take, it is also possible good things can be accomplished, perhaps in areas like creating new jobs.
In the meantime, we can and must continue to make our voices heard. We must continue to support the causes we believe in with our time and money. We must continue to communicate with our representatives. America is not just the government, and progressive change rarely originates with elected officials.
I anticipate there will be times in the next few years when we again want to make our voices heard through peaceful protest. There will be times to avail ourselves of our First Amendment rights and take to the streets to bring attention to our causes.
But in my opinion, this is not the time.