The energy of so many people careening toward Washington D.C. was palpable on January 21st.
I’d felt this power once before, 8 years ago as I arrived on the national mall with my family to wait in the freezing cold with 1.8 million others to witness the historic inauguration of Barack Obama. We felt deep pride and hopefulness that we had elected the first African American U.S. President. We were inspired by Obama’s intelligence, humility and frankly his humanity. Eight years later we were awed by the integrity of the man, even though we accepted that he was unable to achieve even a small measure of our aspirations from that frigid day of celebration in 2009.
The contrast between Obama and Trump coudn’t be more severe. My emotions were anger and despair when I travelled to Washington for the Women’s March (still working through the stages of grief).
Before I left for D.C. I pulled out my protest paraphernalia from as far back as 1980. Reagan’s election prompted my early activism. We launched a women’s network to protest the escalation of nuclear power and arms. Our founder, Dr. Helen Caldicott, had successfully rallied physicians to protest the nuclear threat, leveraging her credibility as a physician to make a scientific argument. Women flocked to her talks with deep concern; however, most lacked a basic understanding of international defense policy or political organizing. So we formed WAND to educate and organize women to advocate for people-centered policies. We tapped the power dynamics of the first presidential gender gap — a distinctly partisan voting pattern between women and men that still persists. As I prepared for this Women’s March 35 years later, I was uncomfortable with gender as an organizing frame. Are we women going to save democracy from this kleptocrat? After all, 42% voting women chose Trump compared to just 54% for Clinton. And white women skewed support for Trump.
I believe that today’s movement requires us to think and act beyond identity politics. We must create a swell of humanity who will override tribal fears and entrenched ‘isms’ to restore love, respect and democracy.