From Dennis Nealon’s blog
For all of their democratic righteousness and celebratory vibrations, the historic anti-Trump marches also raise troubling questions about the future of American government
So now what? What’s next?
The massive marches against Donald J. Trump gave his opponents what they wanted. The millions of American women who hit the streets to denounce the new President the day after his Jan. 20, 2017 inauguration stuck a finger in the eye of the new Commander-In-Chief, and for a moment at least they soothed the fury brought by the shocking defeat of a candidate who won more popular votes than any other loser of a presidential election in U.S. history.
The protests also revealed a new way of challenging presidential elections, one in which losing, as defined in the Constitution, is depicted by millions of voters on the losing side as being a mere technicality.
On a positive note, the demonstrations revealed in spectacular fashion what America is—a nation where citizens can assemble freely and peacefully to denounce their new President and then return home happily, in time for a late supper.
History will judge the marches as unprecedented; a phenomenon that embodies what the French sociologist and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) meant when he wrote that the United States set the standard for equality in action. Tocqueville of course came to the United States in 1831 to study the country’s prison system then returned home to write “Democracy in America” (1835), a treatise on American government as a great experiment.
His work, which still stands as of one of the most influential surveys of the country’s political character, has been updated by these protest marches, this winter of outrage—this pointed disdain for the legitimate outcome of the 2016 Presidential election.
While professing his admiration for “American individualism,” Tocqueville wondered whether “a society of individuals lacked the intermediate social structures—such as those provided by traditional hierarchies—to mediate relations with the state.” Now we know that those social structures that Tocqueville talked about do exist, in the form of this refuse-to-lose model for disputing a national election in the United States.
But for all of their history-making thunder, their sheer awe as a spectacle, and feel-good vibrations, the anti-Trump demonstrations leave us with some difficult observations, as well. The first of these is that the demonstrations reveal that the United States of 2017, to paraphrase what Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, is now met in a new civil war, one fought not with swords and rifles, but with the sticks and stones of social media and the harsh condemnations of Trump emblazoned on the protest signs.
Lost in the waves of protestors, obscured by the so-called pussy hats and profane anti-Trump placards, is the fact that the President, with 62,979,636 votes (46.1 percent), was duly and legitimately elected according to the Constitution of the United States. That this is utterly undisputed, or rather was proudly shrugged off by the protestors, accentuates the devil-may-care fervor of Trump’s antagonists. It also reveals a new swagger in the American electorate, one that says the results of a national election—or not getting your way with it—can be made to appear meaningless, if only for a time, and if enough people turn out to say so.
Trump won the Electoral College and thus the election by a score of 304 to 228. That Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million votes may count for a lot among the protestors, but it still connotes and always will mean nothing in terms of the official outcome. With all the numbers in, according to the dailywire.com, Clinton ended up with 65,844,610 votes, or 48.2 percent of the total ballots cast. That tally, reports dailywire.com, is good enough to give her the third most votes of any presidential candidate in history (Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 elections are first and second, respectively).
Clinton’s total beat Trump’s by 2,864,974 votes, a 2.1 percent margin. As a comparison, referencing again the numbers reported by dailywire.com, Al Gore won the popular vote over George W. Bush in 2000 by less than 600,000 votes, just 0.5 percent: 50,999,897 (48.4 percent) to 50,456,002 (47.9 percent).
Still, the will of the millions who voted for Trump in the Rust Belt and elsewhere deserve full recognition. In the marches, those voters were rendered faceless—lost and unaccounted for in the denunciations. But these millions of voters are real. They, and not the demonstrators, decided the election. They too are American citizens, mothers and fathers, and sons and daughters, who in the end also want good things for the United States and for themselves but have their own perspectives—legitimate and valid opinions—for the direction the country should go and who should lead it.
These marches, spun in the name of inclusiveness and human rights, are an affront to millions of Trump supporters, much in the same way that the north once offended the south with its moral stands against slavery and questioning of states’ rights.
In the wake of these marches, we are left with more than a few things to ponder. Is this manner of rejecting the outcome of Presidential elections the new normal? Is it here to stay? Will the side that loses the next election thumb its nose at the Constitution and take to the streets, as well? Can the Presidential election process survive? Will the Electoral College?
Like it or not, the new administration has to face the fact that millions of Americans no longer abide by the old formula that, in the end, voters would come together to support a new President whether they voted for him or not. This is the new political reality in the United States—that some, indeed millions, will openly refuse to coalesce around a duly elected candidate. Their stated intention now is to ride Trump at every turn, to wag a finger in his face at each word and with every deed.
We know this for certain now: America is a house irrevocably divided—at least for the next four years. The question for Trump is how can he govern with most of the electorate vehemently opposed to him, amid a relentless din of dissention. This raises another question: is this good for our government? For the country’s future?
Having Republican control of the House and Senate will help Trump enormously, but he will need to do something huge (as he might say), and good, and compassionate to quiet the protestors. To change the minds of millions and gain any additional public legitimacy, he may need to perform a miracle of biblical proportions.