What else is happening?
Available parking for the downtown areas started disappearing during the morning of Jan. 20, then vehicles moved deeper into residential areas. People singly, in couples and groups, walked toward the federal building at Liberty and Virginia streets. It quickly became apparent that the march would be comparable in numbers to the gathering a year earlier.
And there were men—lots and lots of men. Though this nameless movement was started by women, and the first march was heavily women, men have clearly been incorporated into it.
Some signs were repeats (“We are better than this”). Others were new.
“THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD BURY US. THEY Didn’t know WE WERE SEEDS.”
“WITHOUT HERMIONE Harry would have DIED in book one.”
“VOTE Candidates With ties to the UNITED STATES.”
The first march helped Trump opponents feel less isolated and alone and to make contact with organizations or interact with others.
But a year of organizing and activism has had minimal impact on issues and policy. The movement, if such it is, has not been terribly visible between marches, though that may be deceptive—EMILY’s List, an organization that helps fund female candidacies, says it has been contacted by 20 times the usual number of prospective candidates.
The Tea Party started having political impact quickly, without waiting for the next election. That has not happened with the Women’s March movement. Though it has not been as lethargic as the Occupy movement, it has had little impact on Republicans in Congress, and even less on Democrats, if that’s possible. Last week, most Democrats in the House voted for more military spending than Trump requested. Charles Schumer and other Democrats caved in on paying for Trump’s wall.
Concern about the Democrats is strong enough that a coalition of progressive groups called journalists around the nation two days after the march with this message: “You Don’t Win by Retreating/Progressive Groups Call on Senate Democrats to Stand Strong.”
At the state level, opposition to Trump has found outlets. In some states, such as California, legislatures have been able to put a stick in Trump’s policy spokes or launch initiatives which, while not necessarily anti-Trump, advance a policy agenda Congress does not. After the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality rules, California filed a lawsuit to stop the action, and legislation was introduced in the California Legislature to reimpose the rules within California’s borders. Legislators there also crafted measures to alleviate the impact of higher taxes under the federal GOP tax plan.
In Nevada, state legislators de-funded a Republican plan to subsidize private school costs for affluent families. They also placed a measure on the ballot to remove the sales tax from women’s hygiene products but did nothing on broader relief for sales taxpayers, a key element in the state’s reputation for soaking the working poor. Pharmaceutical companies were forced to be more transparent.
But, otherwise, this year’s march—like last year’s—promised little until the next election, a lack emphasized by the slogan “Grab ’em by the mid-terms,” an election that is 10 months away.
The lack of accomplishments growing out of the first march was accented in a StyleCaster timeline on “The Women’s March One Year Later: Where Do We Stand Now?” It listed items like “June 4: Wonder Woman Crushes the Box Office” and “March 17: First Black Female Neurosurgeon,” which were hardly march accomplishments.
Former state legislator and RN&R columnist Sheila Leslie said she believes, “If the people at the marches this weekend stay involved, and so far they have, and stay motivated to get others to vote for change, and then get further motivated by the power of the ballot box, the impact will be tremendous.”
But a greater immediate concern for Trump may be more from his own party than from the amorphous movement in the streets. Republicans who want to reclaim their party from Trump have made it all but certain that there will be a primary challenge to him.
“I am ready to work in whatever primary campaign against Trump is strongest here,” said a Reno marcher who identified himself only as Rodney.
“I think there certainly will be a primary challenge in 2020 if Trump is still in there, perhaps from Kasich or even Romney if he has made it to the Senate by then, but it’s far too early for my crystal ball to function now,” columnist Jules Witcover told us.
Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake, John Kasich, Ben Sasse and Scott Walker are among the most common names being mentioned as GOP competitors to Trump, who won the Nevada Republican caucuses in 2016 with 45.75 percent of the vote that gave him 14 national convention delegates.
Incumbent presidents have faced primary challenges in several elections. Lyndon Johnson was opposed by two U.S. senators before his withdrawal from the race in 1968. Jimmy Carter faced a U.S. senator in 1980. Richard Nixon was opposed by two U.S. House members in 1972, Gerald Ford by a former California governor in 1976.
Weakness is always encouragement to challengers, and virtually Trump’s entire presidency so far has been spent in weakness. It is true that presidents generally have poor approval ratings during their first midterm election year. Kennedy fell to 61 percent approval—low for him—and Reagan to 41 percent. But Reagan rebounded to win reelection, so it is possible to read too much into low 2018 rankings for Trump.
What sets him apart from earlier tenures, though, is that he has never had any high ratings. He began his tenure with a virtual tie in the Gallup survey—46 percent approval to 45 disapproval. Since then, his job approval rating has never broken 50 percent. After his bombing of Syria—such foreign crises tend to generate poll rises—he reached 50 percent. His weekly approval has averaged 38 percent, which is where his ranking this past week was. On the other hand, those who disapprove of the job he is doing have broken 50 percent regularly, and sometimes 60 percent as well. Trump has the lowest average of any president in the polling era. That surely provides encouragement to rival candidates.
As for whether the Women’s Marches and the movement they represent have a role in the effort to end the Trump presidency is still an unfolding story.