Cities in the Verde Valley and around the country saw tens of thousands of marchers, hundreds of thousands in some cities, protesting on Saturday, Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration of the country’s 45th president.
The Women’s March on Washington and sister marches around the country were focused on a host of issues that affect women specifically and the nation in general, such as ending violence, especially violence against women, defending and promoting worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights and environmental justice.
They also served as a focal point for anger against the president and statements he made during the campaign and prior to his running for office.
The Women’s March on Washington’s official vision statement is: “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
With the marches over, the question is, what happens next?
Protests centered on anger or defense of constitutional rights and values can attract huge crowds, but unless there is some organized follow-through, the power of any protest evaporates.
For example, the Occupy Wall Street movement began in September 2011, inspired the anti-government, anti-oligarchy protests of the Arab Spring. But the group had little focus and no coherent message. By November, the main camp in Zuccotti Park, N.Y., was evicted and the protests nationwide faded away with only and handful of minor changes by local governments.
Conversely, the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s were coupled with political outreach, organizers campaigning for office and real change on the national and state level.
While the president has a lot of power to effect change and direct the nation’s focus, the office of the president actually has no authority to create laws. The president’s domestic power exists primarily in enforcing the laws enacted by Congress.
That authority to create laws remains with the Senate and the House of Representatives, so if marchers want to achieve real change, they must press for it with their members of Congress. Some of the marches’ goals easily lend themselves to specific legislative goals likely to be supported by popular, bipartisan measures. Others are more vague and will require organized efforts.
In general, the long-term Unity Principles of the Women’s March on Washington are nonpartisan issues, but the specific policies could prove divisive along partisan lines.
While thousands of letters, phone calls and emails to elected leaders can promote any agenda from any part of the political spectrum, real change happens when those motivated by a movement put down the protest signs and pick up petitions to run for office.
Selfless public service in elected office is the bedrock of American democracy. The Founding Fathers envisioned future leaders would put aside their personal concerns and their egos to serve their respective communities honorably, dutifully and honestly.
So if you marched on Saturday or merely wanted to, consider putting yourself in the running for elected office. Our republic demands that our best and brightest, from all camps and colors of the political spectrum, offer their candidacy for public office. A healthy democracy is one that has a host of noble candidates on the ballot, whom voters can decide from based on their ideas and characters, not just two names followed by their political party identification.