Donald Trump returned to the White House on Monday, following a weekend of unhinged ranting on Twitter, including another all-caps threat of war. This time against Iran. Thousands of inconsolable immigrant children continue to be penned up like livestock, continue to be carried before judges in the cruelest, most insane abuse of the courts since the days of slavery. The administration—this gang of monstrous hands-out imbeciles—leaked plans to strip California and the 13 states (plus D.C.) that follow its environmentally friendlier car-emissions regulations of those states’ rights to choose sane and constructive climate policies. Just three of the absolute outrages in a few days of increasing, maddening outrages.
The federal government is controlled by a jabbering maniac and he’s being kept there by a cynical alliance of massive corporate interests, shamelessly evil foreign adversaries and a transparently complicit Congress. Indictments come with regularity now, against the local mob goons and Kremlin bankers and Russian agents who backed Trump for the sheer chaos it would cause, the Russian thugs who never expected or believed this bankrupt bed-wetting clown and serial sex-offender would win, only that he would erode Hillary Clinton’s ability to do anything as president beyond fight off endless investigations and raise re-election money from Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
Yet he’s here, in the White House, in the center of a city built as the headquarters of the American government, for a generation now the world’s only superpower. For now. A city of 700,000 in the middle of the country’s fourth largest metropolitan area, 8 million souls in all, military and lobbyist, staffers and support, lawyers and judges, campaign managers and political journalists. And even though the District’s black population has fallen below 50 percent after six decades as a majority African-American city, it is still home to some 110,000 black voters who turned out in 2016, voters who almost universally voted against the vocal racist and deranged white nationalist currently living out his vulgar and dangerous senility in the executive mansion.
I counted 32 protesters at Monday night’s “Occupy Lafayette Square.”
They were mightily outnumbered by passers-by, a tour group on bicycles, two pedestrian tour groups, and the accumulated police and Secret Service officers milling around the park and the fences protecting the north side of the White House.
Perhaps there were more, later. The rain had started again, and the one pair of shoes I’d worn on the plane were only beginning to dry out after several hours with the hotel hair dryer parked in each one. Having spent five consecutive nights alone, standing in a park awaiting a mass of people to shout Donald Trump out of Washington, I was quite ready to have some human contact and met my comrade Jim Newell for oysters and drinks. I squeezed into a Metro car that held triple the number of people protesting this vile presidency. It was nice to be around so many people again.
“It is endless misery,” Newell said. He was talking about covering Congress but he was also talking about the punishing effects of knowing just how bad it is, overall. Jim Inhofe was standing behind us, unmolested.
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On June 30, more than 30,000 people protested in Washington against this administration’s intentionally savage treatment of child immigrants. Hundreds of protesters occupied an ICE building in Portland, Oregon, this month and many remain. Anti-Trump protests in London attracted 100,000 people on July 13, and tens of thousands more across the UK, forcing the despised slob to cower and hide during his quick visit on the way to bow down to Vladimir Putin. A bunch of French farmers shut down the whole Tour de France today, with hay bales and pepper spray, for god’s sake.
Why are White House anti-Trump protesters outnumbered by joggers and picture-snapping foreign visitors and tour groups of Segway riders and people who can’t find the Metro station?
Everyone involved will have theories, and it can surely be said that any show of protest is better than none. But over a week of watching these middling events, I have noticed some consistencies:
- It’s not an occupation. Borrowing the popular #Occupy hashtag is fine. Borrowing it for brief protests is a failure of branding—hardly the first time Hillary Clinton’s campaign crew have flopped in this department.
- Where are the black people? I’ve spotted a handful in this city with an African-American population 325,000 strong. And in an embarrassing acknowledgement of the usual power dynamic, they mostly served as entertainers.
- What is the message? The biggest (and least genuine) complaint about Occupy Wall Street was the mishmash of messages. Was it about income inequality or climate change, racism or sexism, health care or education, corporate power or voting rights? (Shhh: Those things all go together.) An anti-Trump protest at the Trump White House should be pretty simple: Trump Out of the White House! Get Him Out! How? Who cares! Handcuffs are fine, impeachment is fine, a plutonium burger from Putin is fine, just get him out and put his gang in prison. We’ll take it from there! Instead, each night I’ve witnessed has lacked a fiery speaker, lacked a robust and memorable chant, and as a result the handful of people are doomed to half-heartedly recycle whatever 1990s’ slogans they vaguely remember from the news: Whose streets? Our streets! and etc. It’s deflating. It’s like watching a white dad do a hip-hop dance at Disneyland. You die inside.
- Where are the kids? Where’s DSA? The protest was organized and is led by former Hillary Clinton staffers and volunteers. There is nothing wrong with that; we need all hands on deck. But where’s the energy we hear so much about, brewing up on the Left? It either wasn’t invited or chose to sit this one out. There is the sense that the Democratic-Socialist wing has moved on to simply winning elections and aggressively taking over a moribund party—as first became clear when several DSA candidates swept away Democrat and Republican state office holders, including the magnetic 31-year-old Marine and avowed democratic socialist Lee Carter, who took the Virginia House of Delegates’ Republican majority whip’s seat on November 7 of last year. It was one of many DSA and progressive shockers of which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ June 27 defeat of entrenched Democratic congressman Joe Crowley was only the most recent and dramatic example. After progressive Danica Roem defeated a 25-year incumbent and avowed Republican bigot in that same Virginia election, becoming the first transgender woman to win an American election in the process, Roem made it clear she wasn’t a showboat: “You have to make a compelling case, and you’ve got to speak fluently on the issues that directly affect the office that you’re seeking. You can’t just say, ‘I hate Trump, vote for me.’ That doesn’t win you the House of Delegates.”
God bless the retirees and well-off moms of Indivisible and the Resistance and the Hillraisers. We all need each other if we’re going to survive these next few months or couple of years as a country. But like any movement or moment, it eventually comes to an end—no matter how well-funded—and must be absorbed into the New Thing. I am sad to report the New Thing has not yet arrived to drag Trump onto the streets in his greasy bathrobe, but the evidence and the energy seems to suggest a far more aggressive strategy of winning every possible election and sending the brawlers out against ICE is the current best hope of dragging ourselves out of the broken toilet called America.