Demonstrators arrive at Union Station for the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017, in Washington, DC. Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images
Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

An unmistakable message: ‘Welcome to your first day; we will not go away’

Almost immediately after Donald Trump’s election, tens of thousands of Americans in cities nationwide took to the streets to denounce the nation’s new president. Last week, there were comparable events in support of the Affordable Care Act. A couple of weeks earlier, much of the public howled when Republicans took aim at congressional ethics rules, forcing GOP lawmakers to quickly retreat.

But while these displays of progressive activism were impressive, it’s been many years since Americans have seen events on the scale we saw the day after Trump’s inauguration.
In a global exclamation of defiance and solidarity, millions rallied at women’s marches in the nation’s capital and cities around the world Saturday to send President Donald Trump an emphatic message on his first full day in office that they won’t let his agenda go unchallenged.

“Welcome to your first day, we will not go away!” marchers in Washington chanted.
This wasn’t just impressive, it was also important. By most measures, roughly 250,000 people attended Trump’s inauguration in D.C. on Friday, but an estimated 3 million people participated in the women’s march worldwide on Saturday – including tripling the new president’s crowd in the nation’s capital alone.

The traditional conservative retort is to dismiss progressive activism as being limited to coastal elites in major urban areas. Not this time. Marchers and protesters made their voices heard in literally every state - including the reddest of red states.

As the events wrapped up, many on the right were quick to dismiss their significance. White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway said yesterday the events didn’t seem to have a “point.”

That’s ridiculous.

When millions of like-minded people take a stand in support of women’s rights – in all 50 states and across the globe – an indifferent shrug from the new White House won’t cut it. For all of the president’s bluster about his role as the champion of The American People in his inaugural address, it seemed painfully clear 24 hours later that Trump is a deeply unpopular leader whose agenda is already generating a fierce resistance and who’s inspired his opponents to take a stand against him.

The political world may be frequently jaded and cynical about the electorate’s whims, but Saturday’s marches and rallies demanded attention. To look past them is to ignore a brewing backlash of national significance.

Indeed, while Trump isn’t the first president to face protests, he’s definitely the first to face this kind of confrontation with his own constituents so quickly. As the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne noted,  ”[T]he reaction to Trump is unprecedented. No other president faced such a wave of rallies immediately after he took office. No other president so quickly mobilized so many people against him. Trump really is special.”

For his part, the new president, returning to his favorite medium, tweeted yesterday, “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.”

Putting aside Trump’s creepy preoccupation with celebrities, it’s worth noting for context that we did just have an election and “these people” did vote. It helps explain why Trump received nearly three million fewer votes than his principal opponent.

Donald Trump and Protest

An unmistakable message: 'Welcome to your first day; we will not go away'