If you’re on Facebook, you couldn’t miss it. Friends, relatives, acquaintances, and hangers-on were celebrating The March. And of course the pictures and the general acclamation by the media made it the top story of the week, eclipsing the fuss about the inauguration of possibly the most controversial president in the history of the Republic. Well, maybe not possibly. Andy Jackson, with his miserable hordes of the discarded, might have played Mr. Trump a close game.
But behind the news is the meta-news. Who were these people, anyway? Who were their leaders? What was the whole point of this gala gathering?
I should first spell out my experience as a gawker and analyst of things political. Maybe “confessions” would be a truer word. During my junior year in a small denominational college in the interior of Kansas, three of my friends and I distributed a petition complaining about the (college) President and his unstated policies. Though I wrote it, I don’t recall the points we made, except that there were three: one on academic standards, one on the religious life on campus, and a third on . . . I don’t remember. We got about a third of the student body to sign it, and soon were invited into the President’s office to account for our very public act. It was not a pretty scene; he made some veiled threats, and we did not back down. Instead, we took our case to the Chair of the Board of Directors, who assured us he would cover our behinds. Result: next school year, we had a new president. One of my cohorts had been a senior and so was off to Indonesia; two others transferred to other colleges; and in that year I was rewarded by being nominated for a prestigious national fellowship, which I got. (Forgive and forget my modesty.)
I was in graduate school when the Civil Rights movement hit America hard. I got involved, but only for a time: I participated in an event convened by several student leaders, who had a small battalion of us underlings dress in sackcloth to attend a protest over Chicago’s racial educational policies. As we turned in our gunny sacks to our leaders, they stood there and joked about our appearance. I, and others, felt we had been used by our leaders. And that was my last demonstration. I believed in the cause, and still do, but this was too much. I realized that I had served them for a higher purpose, but as a useful idiot.
After graduate school, I found myself being a professor at a basketball-crazed university in Kansas. For a time, I served as my department’s chair, where I learned that victory does not always go to the just. In fact, a happy ending is seldom secured. And the problems always seemed to come from my higher-ups, one of whom, in the midst of a shake-up with which I had nothing to do, noised it about that he was to be interviewed for a similar job at a more prestigious North Carolina university. Sensing that he was angling for the presidency of our own university, I phoned a friend at that other institution to discover what I could about our man. He checked around, then called back to tell me that our man was twelfth on the search committee’s list and was not even being considered for the position. That committee then wrote our higher-ups to inform them of this fact. In the meantime, our man was bruiting it about that he was going to Carolina for an interview. Fact checkers then showed that he had indeed bought a ticket, but had then gone to Kansas City to chill out, or whatever men of his stripe do when they are gaming their way through the academic mazes. The higher-ups in our town got wind of these facts and voila, our man left town. But alas, as they used to say, though I came to be seen as the power underneath the throne that got our man in a parlous state, I also came to be considered armed and dangerous, as a result of which I was badgered by our man’s successor and the other powers that be, forcing me to take early retirement and begin writing humorous novels.
This background provides my bona fides, I think, for making a few critical remarks about The March.
Looking closely at the signs held aloft, one can see that the participants represented the usual panoply of progressive causes—abortion rights, human rights, Muslim rights, LGBTQ rights, Indian rights, disability rights—with the encompassing theme of justice for all, which of course everyone should desire even though philosophers from Plato to John Rawls have had difficulty agreeing on a definition.
The honorary co-chairs were voices from the distant past, including Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, and Harry Belafonte. Speakers included Michael Moore. The national co-chairs included Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist who in the presidential election had endorsed Bernie Sanders, the mirthless socialist from Vermont.
Who were the foot soldiers, both in D.C. and other venues? Those, including men, who champion one or another—or all—of the abovementioned causes and use the language of conflict to describe both their own end and their means. Those who use the NYT as their alternative Bible. And of course those who voted for Saint Hillary or Wise Bernie and, more importantly, against Donald.
The Donald. Yes. He of the unclean mouth and the ready Tweet. The vulgarian. The man who is neither a Republican nor a conservative but is now the duly-elected President of these Divided States of America.
Now, I hold no brief for the man. As an Independent in search of the vanishing center, I voted against him, as well as against the woman. But he is now our leader, and some of his ideas might actually work. Some will certainly not: another reset with Vladimir will not; the return of tariffs will probably not. His cabinet picks were, with significant exceptions, good; even Warren Buffett thought so and thinks, incidentally, that all will be well. Corporate tax cuts could benefit all who have or will have pensions whose coffers are replete with investments in stocks—that is, the majority of Americans. And what if this highly-flawed man is able to bring quality, full-time jobs back to his small army of electors?