Protests against the Trump administration have sprung up around the country since Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. Since then, thousands of worried citizens have taken to the streets in a series of marches, seeking to voice their opposition to the new administration and its policies.
The day after the Inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., drew millions of participants from around the world.
On a local level, activists from Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley began to mobilize and apply pressure on local officials.
More recently, a series of coordinated protests were held at all three of Congressman Knight’s offices.
Approximately 500 concerned residents came out to deliver letters and speak to staffers in support of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health-care law.
Each time one of these demonstrations has occurred the reaction from critics has been one of casual dismissal. Activists are admonished to “stop whining” and are told that their actions are pointless.
While it is still too early to tell the full impact of the recent demonstrations, the idea that the protests are ineffective is patently false.
If protests and demonstrations are where action ended, then the detractors might be right – the marches would be a pointless exercise in catharsis.
Fortunately, this isn’t the case; they represent the foundation for getting people plugged in and mobilized. This is a beginning, not an end.
Critics of local post-inaugural demonstrations may be surprised to hear that the methods being used are inspired by the Tea Party movement.
Right after Trump’s election a group of Democratic Party staffers got together and produced a tactics guide for the Indivisible Movement to serve as a model for influencing elected representatives.
They specifically cite Tea Party tactics, saying the guide is a model for “individuals, groups and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents.”
The election of Donald Trump ultimately shows that the Tea Party movement’s methods are relevant and have an impact when it comes to getting people to the polls.
In an op-ed for Politico, Tea Party Patriots founder Jenny Beth Martin said, “When the polls said Trump couldn’t win, our canvassers said otherwise.”
Real impact and success will come if the various progressive groups can rally together and apply pressure based on a unified set of ideas. Indivisible can fill that role as a progressive version of the Tea Party movement.
Another recent movement that unified and brought thousands of people into the streets, Occupy Wall Street focused attention on the issue of wealth inequality. At the time of the protests in 2011 many critics scoffed at the effectiveness of the movement, and mainstream news outlets ignored or dismissed the participants.
It’s true that the leaderless format and the lack of a more specific set of ideas and policy goals stunted the ability of Occupy to achieve more.
Nevertheless, some good did come out of it – people met and connected with each other in what might have been the longest and largest networking session the world has ever seen.
Out of that, organizations like Strike Debt were formed. It provides educational resources and public advocacy to help keep consumers out of debt.
Occupy also started The Rolling Jubilee Project which, according to its website, has used the roughly $700,000 raised to purchase and forgive more than $31 million worth of debt that had gone to collections.
Occupy-related organizations have formed to help provide relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy, participate in the financial regulatory process, encourage consumers to bank at credit unions and community-based banks, and assist employees to organize for better workplace conditions.
The Women’s March acted as a similar touch point, bringing new people into the political process and getting them motivated to further action. “Without that boost of solidarity from the march, I don’t think I would have been as energized to get involved,” said local educator Juliana Sheldon.
Even if there were no tangible result from the recent demonstrations, there would still be the impact that large-scale movements tend to have on the national dialogue.
After Occupy Wall Street the idea of the 99 percent and the message behind it has become ubiquitous.
The Tea Party movement created a populist outcry against Obamacare and pressured even moderate Republicans to come out strongly against it. Both movements have done their part in refocusing the political conversation in America.
Whatever the impact of the protests, progressive activists aren’t expecting the miraculous. There is an understanding that there will be a rollback of the progress that has been made over the last eight years, but coming out in great numbers ensures that opposition to those rollbacks will be heard and have an influence on policy makers.
The marches brought together a multitude of people from different backgrounds and levels of political involvement and have succeeded in mobilizing them into a grassroots activist base.
Together they can blunt the damage being done by the Trump administration and have an outsized impact on the next election.
Chad Kampbell is a Santa Clarita Valley resident and a member of a local Democratic club.