The Women’s Marches yesterday were massive, one of the largest protests in the nation’s history. An estimated 500,000 were at the main event in Washington, D.C. (around double the estimated crowd for Friday’s inauguration). The march in Los Angeles was estimated at 500,000, New York at 400,000. Five other cities had estimated crowds between 100,000 and 250,000. It wasn’t just the big coastal cities. There were reportedly marches in more than 500 cities and towns across the country, in every state. Nashville and Reno and Cleveland and Anchorage. Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine. Beaumont, Texas and Clemson, South Carolina and Jackson, Mississippi. Grand Forks, North Dakota and Moscow, Idaho and Minocqua, Wisconsin. And on and on.
A crowd-sourced effort to tally the marchers based on newspaper and other accounts estimates the total number in the United States between 3.6 and 4.6 million (take that with a grain of salt because in some cases the source used is the march organizer’s estimate). It will probably take some time to get reliable national numbers, but it appears clear that several million turned out and it could wind up being the largest single-day protest in American history. The seeds are there for a popular resistance to Donald Trump; the question now is whether a viable movement will bloom. Mass grassroots movements can move the needle politically (see the Tea Party for a recent example) if they are able to channel their energy into political organization. That’s a big leap — will the folks that showed up yesterday write and call their local reps? Will they phonebank and knock on doors? Will they organize and galvanize their friends and neighbors? Will they show up to midterm elections and make sure their allies do too? We shall see.
In any case, Democratic voters on the whole clearly weren’t as enthusiastic in 2016 as they had been in, say, 2008. That matters. Opposition to Trump may have reversed that gap overnight. Fear is a powerful motivator. And so is hope. Another test will be whether Democratic leaders can offer a message that inspires these millions of potential foot soldiers.
Former Arkansas Gov. and aspiring scat comic Mike Huckabee thought the crowds were angry and joyless.
I did not attend a march, but I must say that this seems like just about the opposite of true (perhaps wishful thinking on the part of Huck, who needs venom to match his own?). In the photos and videos I saw, people did not look angry or despairing, they looked hopeful, determined, playful, and inspired. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from hundreds of friends and acquaintances on social media who said they had not felt so hopeful, motivated, and energized in a long time. A lot of smiling faces. I’m sure it’s easy to find counter-examples — there were a lot of people! But for rallies of this size, it was notable that they were overwhelmingly peaceful and positively engaged, with an atmosphere that seemed closer to a politically resolute festival than an angry rally.
In addition to the marches across the country, there were also sister marches in more than 80 nations with hundreds of thousands more participants, including all seven continents (love the picture from Antarctica below).