Going to a women’s march on a frigid mid-west winter day is the last thing one would want to do. So why would hundreds of women march down the streets of St. Louis despite the cold? Because the St. Louis women’s march is committed to keeping a spotlight on women’s issues. This year’s walk is not only a show of activism but engaging in the process of being in a democracy through the right to speech and right to assembly.
Since the firstwomen’s march in 2017, women and men around the nation have used the rally to advocate for women’s rights. Using chants, signs, and fluffy pink hats people marched again to demand action toward solving issues. Traditional political organizers and groups became involved to take opportunity in bringing awareness of issues with in the broad category of issues with in women’s right movement. Issues like the Black Lives Matter movement, the Me Too movement, and Planned Parenthood helped include more marginalized citizens and shape the march’s policy agenda. Considering this march orginally occurred after Trump’s inauguration, the goal was to represent these issues in defense to the new administration’s agenda.
The deputy national organizer for planned parenthood, Kelly Robinson, said “this is a movement where people are inspired to take action at numbers we’ve never seen before. We want to make sure they have a great time at this march, but also plug into local efforts. We want to make sure people are taking action not just on 21 January, but stay engaged for months and years into the future” (Jamieson).
This year’s march has had some internal controversy over anti-Semitismclaims between founders. With that acknowledgement women marches continued around the nation to support the larger issues in the movement. Regardless, the third annual march released a 10-part federal policy platform with targeted proposals combating violence against women, reproductive rights, racial and economic fairness. The proposal is more politically charged than the goals of the first march to publicly oppose policy and rhetoric taken by the Trump administration.
In fact, any rally is about expression and having the masses heard. It is an act of unity and opposition. Joseph Schumpeter author of The Classical Doctrine of Democracy strongly believes that democracy is about the people. What the people want should be represented to the best of a representative’s ability. Schumpeter thinks democracy is not an end, but rather a process or method that should be used to achieve goals. Modern politics have twisted this basic principle where representatives focus on gaining power, acting in the interest of re-election and forgetting the intention of representing what people want. Put it this way, if people were satisfied with their needs being represented, would they want to march in freezing weather?
Fighting for democracy is messy and does not guarantee that everyone will agree on the same issues, or how to accomplish solving issues. But, what is key is understanding that everyone has a right to express their needs, and engaging in the process is a testament to active representation. Rallying is a way for the people to advocate for their interest when they feel it is not being represented or acted upon. The women’s march agendarepresents that the people want to have action. Action toward: ending violence against women, LGBTQIA rights, immigrant rights, economic rights, civil rights and liberties, racial and environmental justice, and disability rights.
Pippa Norris, a political scientist and professor at Harvard University, expressed concerns about American democracy backsliding due to younger Americans lack participation in politics. Participating in politics can range from, and not limited to, voting, serving in a government position, acting in a political organization, and being an informed citizen. Norris argues that a disinterest in politics from three points, culturally, constitutionally, and behaviorally. Culturally, people believe in democracy as a principle, but do not believe the government lives up to it. Constitutionally, we have democratic institutions in place and it all looks good on paper. Behaviorally, no one is trying to overthrow democracy. Norris could be right about being concerned about younger citizens being active participants in politics, but a bigger concern should be direct toward having a government that does not oppress expression.
Governments do not like it when people openly oppose them. Which is fair to assume because when people oppose government it delegitimizes them. However, as Robert Dhal would agree with Schumpeter that democracy is a process, not an end. Within the process of democracy there has to be the freedom to oppose the government and the government being ok with opposition. The Trump administration has taken policies and actions that not every citizen agrees with. Expressing what people what, when they want it, and how to get it is healthy communication. Rallies are representing the common will of the people without the reliance of media/ press to document needs, and in reaction to their needs not be accurately represented by their current representative/ governor/ whatever.
The 2019 women’s march will not be the last and we can look forward to marching again in 2020.
This is interesting to hear that there was a Women’s March in the middle of winter because when I hear that, I think of exactly what you stated, why “would they want to march in freezing weather?” I really like your point that you make about politicians. I see and have felt for a while now that politicians do exactly what you stated, they act in response to having to get re-elected again rather than properly representing the people that they were put in place to represent. I would think that if they were elected in, they would try to represent them properly in order to get re-elected, but that has somehow gone to the wayside for some politicians. One interesting comment you make that is quoted from another’s work is about how the younger population is not as involved in politics. From what I have seen at times is that they may not be involved in the day to day politics but I feel like the younger generation participates more in these types of marches, or at least I feel like the media portrays it that way. What do you think?
This is a great post. It is very well-written and interesting.
You make a very interesting and important point about youth participation in politics and the health of democracy. As you mentioned, Pippa Norris in “Is Western Democracy Backsliding?” speaks about Millennial involvement in politics and the trend that Millenials in some, but not all, backsliding states do not value democracy as much as previous generations. However, I think your post summarizes nicely that youth involvement in politics is increasing, and this is evident through civil protests such as the Women’s March. As you stated, the march itself was for democratic values in which citizens advocated for themselves and others in order to be better represented by their elected officials. Norris also says, that Millenials attach “importance to the rights to peaceful protest and to express unpopular views” (6). This is seen through events like the Women’s March or the March for Our Lives. Therefore, I think that this is youth involvement in politics through the Women’s March and other acts of peaceful protest, are positive signs for the direction of American democracy and civic engagement. I am very curious to see if youth voter turnout continues to increase in the next election, and wonder how much of the increased turnout is the result of these widespread protests.
I was not able to attend the 2019 Women’s March, so I was excited to read your post and commentary. I agree that this event is an extremely important and powerful manifestation of democracy, as freedom of speech and expression is a foundational aspect of a functioning democracy. I also want to thank you for pointing out that the Women’s March is not just about feminism, but also stands in solidarity with movements such as Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community. The point of these marches and rallies is to make a statement about the interests of society, and any restraints on one’s ability to express their interests has an effect on their ability to influence their government. Your application of Dahl is key, as he recognizes that a continued responsive government is the key characteristic of a democracy. To meet these requirements of democracy, voters must be able to formulate preferences, signify preferences, and have those preferences weighted equally in conduct of government. Though he notes that there are degrees to which democracy can be upheld, I think that The Women’s March is a significant example of a liberalized and inclusive public; it showcases the fact that our rights are being preserved and exercised the way there were intended to. And, as mentioned by Huq & Ginsberg, the flip side of this is dangerous- if our government did not allow opposing interest groups to organize and voice their concerns, it would be a sign of democratic and constitutional regression. Overall, these kind of events encourage toleration and diversity, and are important features of democracy.