Columnist Rob Okun: Jan. 21 launched MajoriTea Party

  • Scene near the Smithsonian Institution during the Women's March on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 1/31/2017 8:48:28 PM

“We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must pledge we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Since Donald Trump took office, we have taken to the streets — and airport terminals — by the thousands to defend democracy and welcome those from other countries. We are the majority.

On Jan. 21, we demonstrated in all 50 states. Several of the largest marches were in the hundreds of thousands. In total, millions of us here and abroad banded together to speak out for women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ rights; a sane climate-change policy, health care for all, and more. We are the majority.

Our list of issues is as diverse as we are: young and old; black, white and brown; gay, straight and transgender. Many roads, one path: We are the majority.

From the moment the first pundits began questioning whether marchers would go home or evolve into a movement — as the Tea Party did — I found myself saying, “Of course we will; we already have.” 

Mark it down: the day of the women’s marches across the country and globally, was the official launch of what I call the “MajoriTea Party,” since  by every measure we represent the majority of voters, and not just because Trump lost the popular vote by a landslide.

We are working at the grassroots level and in the halls of Congress; in our town and city halls, and in our statehouses. One hundred days of resistance is only a beginning; we will resist every day of the 1,460 days in Trump’s term (if he makes it through four years.) We are the majority.

Much of the country believes Trump doesn’t deserve to be commander-in-chief — whether because of the antiquated Electoral College, voter suppression, a historic 2.9 million more citizens voting for his chief opponent, or Russian interference in the election. Whatever your reason, consider this simultaneous truth: Trump is in the White House and, in the words of Georgia Congressman John Lewis, he is an “illegitimate” president. We are the majority.

In resisting our democratic values being trampled on by the new administration, we are following a long tradition in U.S. history. We are marching in the footsteps of those who worked so women would have the right to vote. We are marching in the footsteps those who championed the 40-hour work week, who agitated for laws that would further equality among all people. We are the majority.

Our movement was in place long before the election. But since Nov. 9, affinity groups, political initiatives, and organizing campaigns have sprung up around the country. The White House, Congress, corporations and the media take note: millions of people are mobilizing; speaking out against the dangerous agenda Donald Trump has pledged to enact. His divisiveness unites us; his mean-spiritedness inflames us. Our solidarity inspires us. We are the majority.

Trump’s ominous “American First” inaugural address was chilling. He personifies the worst aspects of human behavior, particularly, sadly, the behavior of too many men: bigoted, misogynist, racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic. But at the 650-plus marches on Jan. 21, negative comments about the new president were far less prevalent than were expressions of empathy, kindness, and support for the most vulnerable members of society.

There was an implicit affirmation of the spiritual politics the indigenous waters protectors at Standing Rock embody — connection, sacredness, nonviolence, and compassion. Our movement will be stronger if we continue to learn from and seek guidance from the people at Standing Rock — who need us now, more than ever. Their wisdom can inspire us to find the courage to stretch past our comfort zones and stand up for our environment and for justice. We are the majority.

Where do we go from here?

In every corner of the country people have formed or are forming affinity groups to address a myriad of issues: from dialoguing with those with a different world view to protecting women’s reproductive rights; from being an active bystander challenging hate to engaging in direct action — including civil disobedience — to effect change; from running for office to working on congressional redistricting in 2020; from joining a group that challenges racism to supporting immigrant rights; from advocating for a healthy environment — including working to prevent the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines — to supporting courageous journalists speaking truth to power. We will and need to continue to protest and resist.

In the months ahead, many of Trump’s voters will discover that they were misled — that coal-mining jobs are not coming back, for example. When they see they’ve been conned, we must be ready to reach out to these citizens who voted against their own self-interest, who will need support.

Repairing our frail spiritual and political infrastructure is essential work if we are to build bridges of connection sturdy enough to hold us all.

Rob Okun, of Amherst, is editor of Voice Male magazine, and author of “VOICE MALE: The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement,” with a new edition due out later this year. He can be reached at rob@voicemalemagazine.org.


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