THE VIEW FROM THE RAIN AND THE DARK. Before President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, which won praise for its presidential tone, a coalition of progressive groups rallied in Lafayette Square in front of the White House, or — more precisely — in front of the fencing that has since January surrounded the remains of the inauguration viewing-stand scaffolding, preventing people from getting close to the White House gates themselves.
After a record-breaking mild winter that saw enormous protests against Trump across the city of Washington in the unseasonable warmth, an early spring has arrived and brought with it the season’s annual deluge of rain. It was pouring rain and dark out when the protest began Tuesday, and of the five protests at the White House I have seen since Trump became president, it drew the smallest crowd.
Unlike some of the earlier short-notice protests in response to Trump actions — which led to packed crowds struggling to hear a distant voice on a lone bull-horn — the setup was professional. More signs were preprinted than hand-drawn. There was a great sound system. There was a stage. There were marshals (volunteers who work to keep everyone safe) in neon green vests and professional security officers. Actress Rosie O’Donnell was there, as were speakers from NARAL Pro-Choice America, the American Civil Liberties Union, Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution, the immigrants’ advocacy group United We Dream and Vote Vets.
And there was an acknowledgement that the progressives’ fight was not an easy one.
“It is easy to get discouraged right now. There are scary things happening right now,” Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org, told the crowd huddled under umbrellas as puddles of water pooled on the grass under their feet.
“Are we going to get discouraged?” he asked.
“No!” the crowd replied.
“Are we going to give up?”
“No!” they answered again.
“Are we ever going to give up?” Again came a chorus of “No!”
“They have the House. They have the Senate. The have state legislatures. They have the governorships. They have Fox News. They have Russian hackers. They have the Oval Office,” he said. “Not for long!” someone in the crowd cried out. He continued: “But not for long! Because we have three things that make all those things seem this small. We have the truth. We have the Constitution. And we have the large majority of the American people.”
That majority is not easy for members of Congress to see in Washington, Wikler continued. “It’s easy to think when they’re in Washington, D.C., that they have the power,” Wikler said. “But when they went home, they had something called town hall meetings. A hundred thousand people went to town hall meetings and protests and empty chair type town hall meetings where the Republicans were too scared to face their constituents. And they heard what we want.”
At the conclusion of the rally, about half the protesters wandered away in the rain, while the rest proceeded to march under their umbrellas down 15th Street toward Pennsylvania Avenue, trailed by the endlessly patient D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, which expertly scrambles cars to block traffic and protect protesters in their by-now-routine route across the city from the White House to the U.S. Capitol.
TRUMP FATIGUE. Signs of Trump fatigue among anti-Trump forces are popping up elsewhere too, as people seek out spaces in their lives that do not revolve around the president’s words or actions. Protesters have been turning Tuesdays into days of action under the rubric of #ResistTrumpTuesday, but yesterday comedian Jimmy Kimmel announced his show that night would be a “Trump-Free Tuesday.” Meanwhile, across Twitter, opponents of the president declared their intention to avoid his speech to Congress under the banner of #notwatching and #blockouttrump.
Whether from Trump fatigue or the same causes that led to low turnout at his inauguration, Trump’s first major speech as president failed to draw as big an audience as did Obama’s initial foray before the legislature, Variety reports: “President Trump delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening, and while the pundit class may be heaping praise on the performance, Nielsen’s metered market overnight ratings indicate that he likely didn’t draw as big a crowd as his predecessor.
“Across seven networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — Trump’s speech notched a 27.8 household rating in those early ratings. Across these same networks, President Obama’s first address of a joint session of Congress on Feb. 24, 2009, drew an overnight household rating of 33.4, a difference of about 17%.”
MORE SIGNS OF ELECTORAL ENERGY FOR DEMOCRATS. Narrowing the margin of their losses is not the same thing as winning, but Democrats are sufficiently in the wilderness that they will take it. “While President Donald Trump was delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress, Democrats got the highest vote percentage they have ever received in the most Republican state Senate district in Connecticut. Democrat Greg Cava lost the election, but it was another small sign of improving electoral conditions for Democrats,” reports the Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal.
“Republican Eric Bethel defeated Cava in the special election to fill Connecticut’s vacant 32nd state Senate district by a 56-44 margin based on unofficial results. That doesn’t sound so great until you look at the district’s past elections. Not only have Republicans held the seat for a century, but Cava received the highest percentage a Democrat has in recent memory. …
“In addition to the loss in Connecticut, the Democratic candidate in a Republican state House district in Minnesota lost by fewer than 500 votes.”
RUBIO LOSES AN OFFICE OVER PROTESTS. “Protests outside Sen. Marco Rubio’s offices in Tampa haven’t succeeded in getting the Florida Republican to hold a town hall meeting with constituents. But they did have one unintended consequence: the staff have been kicked out of their offices by the landlord,” writes Yahoo News’ Chris Wilson. Rubio’s team had been on a month-to-month lease.
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