On just his second day in office, President Trump has already scored a major achievement.
The nation’s physical fitness improved greatly Saturday as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators poured onto the National Mall to march in defiance of the newly installed Tweeter of the Free World. Crowds swelled in Los Angeles and other cities, too, and around the world, on what became an international day of cardiovascular health.
Trump, for his part, was in a cranky mood, which may have had something to do with the fact that far more people turned out to denounce him than to celebrate his inauguration a day earlier. He slapped around the “dishonest” media for crowd estimates, and also accused the press of manufacturing a feud between him and the CIA.
This, after Trump lambasted intelligence agencies and compared CIA officials to Nazis for reports that Russia interfered in the presidential election.
Well, we’re certainly off to a colorful start, aren’t we?
On his way to the White House, Trump insulted and degraded women, in the minds of many, with both his words and actions. At one point, an old tape surfaced in which Trump said he grabbed women by their privates and could get away with it because he was a reality TV star. Then there were the pig, dog, slob and bimbo comments, which didn’t help his cause.
Women, and more than a few men, came to Washington to let him know they hadn’t forgotten about any of that, or about what they took to be inflammatory comments about Latinos, Muslims and other groups.
“We’re not going to be silent,” said Gayle Greco, a Los Angeles attorney who marched with daughters Melissa and Alanna, and felt uplifted by the huge turnout.
This isn’t just a one-and-done, Greco said. She’s already organizing to defend against promised attacks on the Affordable Care Act and women’s rights.
Saturday was gray (the weather) and pink (the hats), and I couldn’t get anywhere near the stage and the speakers because the crowd was so thick. You couldn’t even tell where the front of the parade might be, so people just began walking on their own, an estimated half million of them, chanting, at times, “This is what democracy looks like.”
I wish I could tell you about all the clever turns of phrase on the word Trump used to explain where he likes to grab women.
But I can’t. The following, however, are printable:
“We Shall Overcomb”
“Make America Think Again”
“Think Outside My Box”
“IKEA Has Better Cabinets”
“Did You Remember To Set Your Clocks Back 60 Years Last Night?”
“Tweet All People Kindly”
Demonstrators I spoke to had a lot on their minds. They’re worried that environmental protections could get plowed under, that race relations will be further set back, and that Trump’s ego and quick-trigger defensiveness could be disastrous.
“I spent 10 years of my life in the Cold War, fighting the Russians on a NATO/U.S. Air Force program,” said Michael Mullaley of Massachusetts, who drove 10 hours to the march with his wife, Meg, stopping in Philadelphia for cheesesteaks. “I’m really concerned about Trump’s effect on NATO and his relationship with Russia.”
Bob and Mary Helen Harris took a breather on a bench and snapped a selfie with the sign they brought: “Been Marching Since 1963.”
“Trump has been frankly frightening, with his demagoguery and misogyny,” said Bob, a retired Presbyterian minister.
Given the direction Washington’s going in, they said, and their worries about peace and justice, they figure they’ve got more marching to do.
But this was the Women’s March, and women’s issues were a dominant theme.
“We have two daughters, and protecting women’s rights is one of the main things for us,” said Meg Mullaley. “There’s the repealing of Obamacare and the possibility of taking contraceptive health away from women, making it a moral rather than a health issue.”
Vivian Cannon, a TV producer in Los Angeles, said she’s just as concerned about Congress as she is about Trump.
“They want to defund Planned Parenthood, and that’s not OK,” Cannon said. “So many women get their healthcare from Planned Parenthood and we need to fight back and say it’s unacceptable.”
She said that as a Californian, she doesn’t have to lobby her congressional representatives. So she called House Speaker Paul Ryan, to let him know how she felt.
He didn’t come to the phone.
“I left a voicemail,” said Cannon.
Claudia Orlando, of Colfax in Northern California, said she traveled to D.C. because Trump has led “a dumbing down of how women are treated,” and because she fears there will be attempts to reverse Roe vs. Wade and take away a woman’s right to choose.
“At first I thought I would leave the country,” she said.
Then she reminded herself she lives in California, where legislative leaders and congressional representatives have vowed to resist any federal attempts to roll back rights.
“Grab him by the midterms,” said one sign at the rally, a call to try to win congressional seats in 2018 and repeal Republican domination of federal policy.
I met Greco on my plane from Los Angeles to Washington. She said she’s working with a group called flippable.org to try to wrest control of legislatures in tossup states by targeting and backing progressive candidates.
In D.C., she said she was inspired by new California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ call for women to “buckle in” for the fight ahead. Late Saturday afternoon, Greco and daughter Melissa splintered onto Pennsylvania Avenue at the end of the march, to cheers from those who’d already finished.
Just ahead, as darkness fell, was the White House, whose new resident has awakened a giant.