In Germany last week, a quarter-million people gathered to protest the actions of the far right. Americans have done the same thing several times since the Women’s March on Washington in early 2107.
But it’s not enough. Millions of Americans need to be in the streets on a regular basis, and if we don’t do it soon we may lose the chance.
That’s because the Trump administration’s latest offense – and I mean that in both senses of the word – is a proposal to restrict large protests in Washington D.C. by having the Parks Service and other relevant federal agencies revise their regulations and permitting processes.
It’s the next battle in the GOP assault on the America that existed in the 1960s through ’90s.
Every thrust by the administration against that range of values generally accepted as progressive (human rights, environmental stewardship, climate science, accessibility to health care, etc.) is met by a tactical response from the left. It’s not enough.
Trump and the GOP are piggies at the trough. They will feed off the public for as long as we let them. They won’t move aside or make room for anyone else. They will keep eating until we force them out. There is no point at which they’ll say, “Whoah, enough is enough. It’s your turn now.” They can’t be shamed by what they’re doing because they’re proud of it. Our offense is how they measure their success. They will fight to stay in power, and when one of them is forcibly dragged away from the trough, the others will complain that it represents hypocrisy by the left which, after all, essentially stands for everyone doing their best to get along.
You can’t beat that mindset by counting on free and fair elections, or by showing up to the regional march-of-your-choice once a year.
If we want to put progressive values back in government, we have to start by getting far more people actively involved. There’s a highly visible, relatively easy way to do that: A peaceful, orderly March for Progress by a million people in Washington, 4 times a year, between now and whenever.
It would be noticed by people who share progressive values but don’t think there’s an active role for them to play.
It would be noticed by independents who are uncomfortable with GOP governance but also see all the faults of the Democratic Party, and need to see a massive outpouring before being willing to take a side.
It would be noticed by the GOP, which would struggle with a way to spin messages against such ongoing, popular protest.
It would be noticed by the world, and would embolden the leaders of other Western nations to push back harder against Trump.
Most of all, it would be what Americans are supposed to do: Send a loud, prolonged, unambiguous message about the kind of country we want to be.
Between now and November, the GOP has uncontested administrative, legislative and judicial control of the government, and it’s working quickly to destroy the left’s ability to fight back. They’ll do it behind closed doors – through voter suppression and gerrymandering; and they’ll do it out in the open – as they did with Brett Kavanaugh and by slowly choking the ability – if not the right – to protest. The GOP is marching across Progressive America the way Sherman marched across Georgia, and elections alone aren’t going to stop it.
Whether or not the Democrats take control of the House in November, progressives need to unite and mobilize – visibly, repeatedly and en masse. If we don’t take to the streets now, we may forever lose the chance.