New York, Washington D.C., Sacramento—we might have expected large crowds in those cities when women across the nation decided to march against the ugliness called forth by Donald Trump in his hate-filled campaign to the White House.
But Boise, Idaho? Columbia, South Carolina? Nashville, Tennessee? Modesto, California?
Yes, even Modesto marched, and hundreds of people showed up. Leng Nou, of the Modesto Peace and Life Center, says it started with Modesto’s Writers Resist event, when 175 people turned out to listen to local writers and musicians voice their resistance against Trump’s attempts to divide the nation along lines of race, gender, and religion.
“People were asking, ‘What else can we do,’” said Nou.
Since there were already plans for marches in Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, some Modesto women suggested a local march.
“We thought maybe fifty people would turn out,” said Patty Hughes of the local Democratic Party. And given Modesto’s history of political apathy, fifty was probably a reasonable estimate. Instead, the numbers swelled into the hundreds.
In what turned out to be a global event, Modesto women shared the same upbeat spirit and firm resistance to Trump’s agenda found in marches in all fifty states and in cities around the world. Instead of the tacit or explicit support shown by local political leaders, all of whom refused to condemn Trump and some of whom supported him enthusiastically, the marchers made it clear that it will take more than the bluster of an orange-skinned bunco artist to twist America’s core values of liberty and equality into a contemptuous mask of hatred and anger.
Trump knew that if he appealed to the trifecta of deadly sins—greed, anger, and envy—he could garner votes from both parties’ disaffected bases. Stoke the anger of people long abandoned by America’s elite political classes and envious of perceived privileges handed out to minorities and you gain the support of millions of working-class Democrats and Republicans, especially when you promise a huge job-producing program in the form of rebuilding infrastructure .
Promise evangelicals a conservative Supreme Court and millionaires tax cuts, and you’ve got the Republican base no matter what else you do. As long as money is speech, corporations are people, and there’s a chance to repeal Roe vs Wade and the Voting Rights Act, the base is locked up.
Trump also appealed to widespread fear of brown-skinned people and the smoldering resentment of a well-spoken black president who had somehow managed to attain high culture and success when white folks were being held back by an economic revolution that discarded blue collar workers with contemptuous disdain and left them desperately angry and in need of hope.
Some are saying he ushered in a post-truth reality, but Trump knew facts were dying as long ago as Ronald Reagan’s stories of a fictional welfare queen. When an entire congress, the supposedly liberal New York Times and the vast majority of the American people can be persuaded to invade a sovereign nation based on evidence like hollow aluminum rods, “yellow cake uranium” and confusion about Arab nations—Iraq, Saudi-Arabia, Iran, what’s the diff?—evidence-based claims are obsolete. Add birthers, climate-change deniers and a grab-bag of Clinton conspiracy theorists, and who needs facts?
Hypocrisy? Double standards? Hey, we’re talking about a nation where serial philanderers like Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde shamelessly and successfully accused Bill Clinton of high crimes because of a tawdry affair instigated by a naïve intern. We’re talking about politicians who promised to oppose Barack Obama’s every action and are now saying, “Give Trump a chance.” We’re talking about people willing to grant Donald Trump a blank check for lies while holding Hillary Clinton to impossible standards of truth.
Trump saw that the sordid atmosphere of campaign politics offered a perfect opportunity for a born swindler and confidence man. He’d had a lifetime to hone his act, and plenty of opportunities to test it on WWE wrestling events and reality television shows. From the cantilevered comb over on down, Trump had perfected a program of calculated misdirection that somehow always left everyone shocked by just how low he would go. Who could believe it when the clown in orange walked away with all the winnings?
With the practiced eye of the veteran opportunist, he sized up the Republican candidates and realized all he had to do to run the table was puncture their self-bestowed auras of inevitability with school-yard name-calling and crass ridicule. Hillary Clinton proved a more formidable opponent, but despite pleas from his own party to act “more presidential,” Trump stuck to his strategy of promoting ever more fear, anger, envy and greed.
When political consultants suggested Trump abandon his simplistic tactics of name-calling and slogan-mongering, he instead ramped them up. “Lock her up,” became a campaign rallying-cry, and the puzzled but dwindling fact-based community remained in denial about his chances until the bitter end. When he won the crucial rust belt and electoral college, it seemed for many that country’s long run of idealism in service to core American values had come to an end.
But Americans have never liked bullies, and a major theme in Saturday’s global movement was solidarity—solidarity among women, solidarity with Muslims, solidarity with immigrants, and solidarity with minorities of all kinds, no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation—the very people Trump tried to turn the nation against.
Women around the world marched to assure each other and anyone else subject to Trump’s fear tactics that they were not alone. They also rose together against the white-supremacist movement that occupied the periphery of Trump’s campaign like a dark and fearsome shadow, making clear that it will take more than the menace of a gang of racists to back down people steeped in America’s bedrock values of courage, tolerance, and compassion.
These are eager students of freedom’s hallowed history who’ve been inspired again and again by the lives and writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt, Virginia Woolf, Franklin Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Simone de Beauvoir, the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, Gloria Steinem, Nelson Mandela, and hosts of others who took on the never-ending challenge of speaking truth to power and willingly suffering the consequences.
Like their ancestors in courage, these Modesto women and their counterparts around the world let Donald Trump and his partners in fear know they aren’t backing down. Not now, not ever.
About The Author
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.