It’s easy to forget that the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., was just last month. I mention this to add some context to the truly extraordinary success of the March for Our Lives: the young people who helped organize these amazing events didn’t just pull off the impossible; they did so with incredible speed.
That, of course, should worry the marches’ opponents. So should the electoral focus. Roll Call reported over the weekend:
As hundreds of thousands of people from all over the United States flocked to the “March For Our Lives” rally in Washington on Saturday, the message was clear: Hit the polls this November.
“Vote them out! Vote them out!” the crowd of roughly half a million people chanted throughout the afternoon, referring to members of Congress who have resisted calls to enact sweeping gun control legislation.
The events weren’t partisan, but they were overtly political. Those who want to see policymakers take steps to reduce gun violence seem to realize that the success of their movement will depend on election results. It’s not complicated: if the gun lobby’s allies win at the ballot box, reformers will fail.
And so the March for Our Lives featured an electoral focus that acknowledged that reality. An NBC News report noted, “At many of the March for Our Lives events across the United States on Saturday, speakers reminded the hundreds of thousands of people in attendance that there was an important way they could push for gun reform: register to vote and go to the polls.”
The report added, “HeadCount, a nonpartisan organization that registers young voters at concerts, partnered with the students behind March for Our Lives and sent close to 1,000 volunteers to register marchers at Saturday’s crowd in Washington, which numbered 800,000 people, according to organizers.”
The events themselves were a remarkable show of force, which likely intimidated the NRA and its allies, but what should be of greater concern to opponents of gun reforms is the practical clarity of the March for Our Lives. These activists are acutely aware of their intended destination and they understand what they need to do to get there.
Daniel Dale’s report in the Toronto Star noted, “The American teenagers who thronged the streets of their capital on Saturday came armed with the boundless hope of young idealists. And, as backup, the threats of savvy realists.”
It’s the kind of potent combination that tends to get results.
What’s more, Saturday’s events offered fresh evidence of what MSNBC’s Chris Hayes referred to last year as the “awakening of civic consciousness” in response to Trump’s presidency. The trend is hard to miss: immediately after Donald Trump’s inauguration, women’s marches struck a defiant, progressive note. They were followed by amazing displays of activism on health care. And science. And in opposition to gun violence.
If the right is waiting for progressive-minded activism to quietly fade away, my advice to conservatives is simple: keep waiting, because it doesn’t appear to be happening.