U.S. Intellectual History Blog

On the March

Well, it has come to this:

I am going to the Women’s March in Dallas.

I’m not going in my professional capacity as an historian; I’m going to march.

If you know me – and a lot of our readers do know me in real life, face to face, while the rest of our regular readers have surely come to know my principles and values well enough through my writing – you know there’s pretty much nothing about me that says, “political protester” or “feminist activist.”  Hell, I’m not sure there’s anything about me that says “feminist” with any consistency.

No matter. I’m marching.

And I’m not alone.

You’re not alone.

We’re not alone.

15 Thoughts on this Post

    • Thank you and congratulations. Yesterday (Jan 20) I felt depressed and pessimistic. Today I am happy and optimistic as I follow news of the Women’s Marches around the world. This is an amazing day.

  1. Thanks Susan.

    I went with a friend who had also never participated in any kind of protest march or demonstration before. I wouldn’t have gone without her, and she wouldn’t have gone without me. Didn’t know what to expect. Didn’t know if there’d be a few hundred people there, or counterprotesters, or what.

    There were a few thousand people there, and no counter protesters that I could see. The Dallas Morning News is reporting an initial (and, it seems to me, perhaps somewhat low?) crowd size estimate of 5,000 to 8,000 people. In any case, still to my own surprise, I was in that number.

    I posted some pics at my own blog for those who want to see some crowd shots and some great signage. (Last four pics, taken near Dallas Theological Seminary, are my favorite.)

  2. Good photos of the Dallas demo on your blog.

    Headline on WaPo: “More than a million people protest at women’s marches worldwide as Trump takes office.”

    I happened to hear on radio Trump’s remarks at the CIA today, his first public stop, with Pence, on his first full day in office. He did not bother to thank by name either Pence, who introduced him briefly to the several hundred CIA employees in attendance, or the acting director of the CIA who also introduced him (the acting director is a woman whose name I regrettably did not quite catch and am not taking the time to look up). After Trump’s remarks, partly a rant against the press, were over, he said audibly “thank you, beautiful” to someone — not entirely clear who, but a reasonable surmise is that he was thanking the acting director of CIA whom he couldn’t be bothered to thank properly at the outset. This on the same day as the marches.

    Btw, I’ve somewhat resisted the label ‘narcissist’ for Trump b/c of its clinical implications, but if his meandering speech at the CIA today doesn’t qualify, in significant part, as textbook narcissism, I think they might as well rip up the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual…

  3. Victories are not won with one time mobilizations no matter how many people participate. History is replete with examples. The question is what are you doing the day after, next week, and next month. Everyone feels great on the day of the protest, but who has the wherewithal to do the hard work of organizing day after day. I’m not writing this to rain on the parade or to be contrarian, but if one-tenth of the participants actually are committed to the long term, they’ll be a force in politics. Hopefully, the spectre of the next four years will jolt people out of their own pet projects and make an attempt at forging solidarity. In other words, it’s easy to mobilize middle class women to march for women, but how many will march at the next Black Lives Matter protest? How many of the youth will join with their elders to protect Social Security? How many of our educated coastal professionals will have sympathy for those “deplorables” who tipped the election in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania? (By the way, those are the people for whom Trump must deliver. The people protesting aren’t his base anyway.)

    In solidarity,

    • Coming from the left myself, I agree with some of your points about organizing and mobilization in general. But I find the general tone of the post deeply unproductive in political terms. If one writes in the name of true solidarity, one does not turn to condescending, dismissive rhetoric. Every time I see something like this I can’t help but offering the following ironic comment: good luck with trying to convince those who have not yet achieved full “class consciousness” through this kind of language.

      Reflecting on criticism such as this, Black activist and intellectual Keeanga Taylor wrote in Facebook quite forcefully about what true solidarity means, I am leaving the full post below Everybody who identifies as a leftist should take note of her words carefully and put them into practice, if they want to truly transform our world for the better.

      “The United States has just experienced a corporate highjacking. If Trump’s inaugural speech did not alert you to the fact that they intend to come after all of us then you are not paying attention. The scale of this attack is deep as it is wide and it means that we need a mass movement. In order to build and organize that movement necessarily means that it will involve the previously uninitiated, those who are new to activism and organizing. We have to welcome those people and stop with this arrogant and moralistic chastisIng of people who are apparently not nearly as “woke” as everyone else seems to be in the social media world. Yesterday’s marches around this country were stunning, inspiring and the first of a million steps needed to build the resistance to Trump. the denunciations of the character of the marches are a sign of the persistence of political immaturity that continues to stunt the growth of the American left. Were liberals on the march? Yes! And thank god. Mass movements aren’t homogeneous, they are heterogeneous. There is not a single radical or revolutionary on earth who did not begin their political journey holding liberal ideas. Liberals become radicals through their own frustrating experiences with the system but also through engagement with radicals. So when radicals and those who have already come to some conclusions about the shortcomings of existing system mock, deride or just dismiss those who have not achieved your level of consciousness then you are helping no one. This isn’t leadership, its infantile and amateurish. It’s also a recipe for how to keep your movement irrelevant, marginal and tiny. If you want a movement of the politically pure and already committed then you and your twelve friends go right ahead and be the resistance to Trump. Should the marches have been more multiracial and working class? Yes! But you are not a serious organizer if that’s where your answer ends. The issue for the left is how do we get from where we are today to where we want to be in terms of making our marches blacker, browner and more working class. That is truly the work, but simply complaining about it changes nothing. Yesterday was the beginning, not the end. What happens in between will be decided by what we do. Movements do not come to us from heaven fully formed and organized. They are built by regular people. We must do a better job at facilitating debate, discussion and argument so that we talk about how to build he kind of movement we want, but the endless critiques with no commitment to diving into organizing to struggle for the kind of movement we want is not a serious approach. There are literally millions of people in this country who are now questioning everything. We need to open up our organizations, planning meetings,marches and other actions to them. We need to read together, learn together, be in the streets together and stand up to this assault together. let’s engage people and stop writing people off before we’ve even gotten started.”

      • Wasn’t trying to be dismissive. Sorry if I confused my historian’s cap with my activist’s cap.

        I am going to push back on one small point concerning a corporate coup. Unlike Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, I do not believe that the “United States has just experienced a corporate highjacking.” My assessment of the situation is heavily influenced by Sheldon Wolin’s 2008 book, “Democracy Incorporated:
        Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.” My take is that it already happened. The Trump brand is just not as effective as Obama’s cool rationality, or Bush’s studied folksiness.

        I also worry about the effectiveness of the “resistance.” I find myself thinking about Derrick Bell’s theory of “interest convergence” might apply and how that may affect the success or failure going forward.

        Best.

    • In my experience since 1980, it is relatively easier to mobilize protests along lines of identity politics, that across races or class. It’s not my area of historical expertise, but the protest movements of my adult life have been isolated single issue campaigns. There hasn’t been a coherent Left movement.

      I apologize if my comment was imprecise. It was not meant to antagonize or be dismissive.

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