“The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through trainings, outreach programs and events. Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.”
The issues the march sought to bring to the forefront of Americans’ minds included reproductive rights (defined as “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education”); LGBTQIA Rights (that’s lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual/allies, for the uninitiated); workers rights; civil rights; immigrants rights; and environmental justice. The Women’s March also called for “an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Despite the wide range of issues listed on the Women’s March website, there was not an obvious mention of the ways that war affects women (and humanity at large). In fact, there was no upfront critique of issues that affect not only women of all types, but all Americans, such as the growing surveillance and police state or America’s destructive foreign policy. At the bottom of the “issues” page, there is a link to a PDF that further explains the importance of the listed issues. In that document, there is one comment about “accountability and justice for police brutality,” as well as calls for “an immediate end to arming police with the military grade weapons and military tactics.”
At the very end of the document, the organizers of the Women’s March noted:
“We recognize that to achieve any of the goals outlined within this statement, we must work together to end war and live in peace with our sisters and brothers around the world. Ending war means a cessation to the direct and indirect aggression caused by the war economy and the concentration of power in the hands of a wealthy elite who use political, social, and economic systems to safeguard and expand their power.”
It may seem like nitpicking to critique the lack of a substantive anti-war/anti-police state message on the site, but while attending the marches in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I did not hear or see these issues represented. In fact, during the speeches in L.A. — with hundreds of thousands in attendance — one speaker in the morning mentioned the need to end the war economy. She was met with near-total silence. Perhaps the crowd didn’t hear the speaker or didn’t understand the vernacular, but it seemed odd for such an important issue to be met with silence after the crowd cheered loudly for declarations on trans-rights, immigrants’ rights, and hate for Donald Trump. Contrast this with the fact that the crowd cheered wildly when one speaker called former President Barack Obama one of the best presidents ever. I am guessing they were not aware that the Obama administration was responsible for more deportations than any other president. And it’s not just the website or the speakers who lacked a critical look at the war and the surveillance state. While attending the Vegas and L.A. marches, I saw a single sign mentioning war (nuclear war, specifically). The focus was largely on identity politics and immigration.
Immigration was a heavy focus of the marches due to the latest government shutdown after Democrats and Republicans failed to come to an agreement on immigration reform related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Identity politics has increasingly become popular in left-wing progressive and Democratic circles. The Women’s March speakers made a point of discussing the need for an intersectional movement — that is, a movement that speaks to the needs of women of all colors, religions, and sexual orientations.
Some readers may be thinking, “So what? Immigration and identity politics are the norm for the American left.” But therein lies the problem: The march was promoted as an all-inclusive event for women. However, the politics of the organizers made it clear that the march was aimed specifically at left-leaning progressive women. In fact, 2017 march attendee Kristen Day, a progressive woman who opposes abortion, told Religious News Service that she was attacked because she had a sign that read “Pro-life for the whole life.” RNS wrote:
“Day is one of many progressives who oppose abortion while also touting left-leaning views on other issues, a position she says is increasingly tenuous in today’s polarized political climate.
‘A lot of Democrats believe in science, climate change and that life begins in the womb,’ Day said. She later added: ‘These are liberal people. They’re not conservative at all: They support minimum wage increases, maternity leave and immigration reform.’”
The experience of feeling unwelcome was echoed by activists who spoke to Anti-Media. Some women who attended the 2017 march decided not to come back because they felt it was more about being against Donald Trump than being for tangible solutions to the problems women face. Others said they were turned off by the pro-Hillary mentality. Based on what I saw at the L.A. and Vegas marches, it’s doubtful conservative women would have been welcomed at the 2018 march. The events were specifically aimed at left-leaning liberal women who prefer to use government as their tool for creating change in the world.
The organizers’ desire to push marchers towards voting for Democrats was not concealed, as the theme of the second annual Women’s March was “Power to the Polls.” The Las Vegas event was apparently only the beginning of a national voter registration tour designed to “channel the energy and activism of the Women’s March into tangible strategies and concrete wins in 2018.” The tour will focus on registering voters in swing states and encouraging them to vote for women and progressive candidates.This strategy may already be working. TIME magazine recently reported that a record number of women are running for political office:
“In dozens of interviews with TIME, progressive women described undergoing a metamorphosis. In 2016, they were ordinary voters. In 2017, they became activists, spurred by the bitter defeat of the first major female presidential candidate at the hands of a self-described pussy grabber. Now, in 2018, these doctors and mothers and teachers and executives are jumping into the arena and bringing new energy to a Democratic Party sorely in need of fresh faces. About four times as many Democratic women are running for House seats as Republican women, according to the Center for American Women and Politics; in the Senate, the ratio is 2 to 1.”
One look at the partners of the Women’s March makes it even more clear that the event was funded and supported by groups who have a history of supporting the Democratic Party. Interestingly, TIME notes that November’s midterm elections will be a “crucial first test” of new female candidates and “the well-oiled advocacy groups behind them.” Some of these advocacy groups are partners of the Women’s March and are working to use their influence and bank accounts to sway young women and first-time activists into supporting Democratic Party candidates.
Does this mean the Women’s March was completely co-opted and funded by the Democratic Party? Not exactly. So far, there is no clear pipeline from the Democratic Party to the Women’s March. However, these non-governmental organizations, political action committees, and non-profits essentially form a diffuse network through which individuals connected to the Democrats can direct their supporters towards the party. For example, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, asked supporters to sign a petition endorsing the goals of the 2018 Women’s March. USA Today reported on the DCCC’s efforts to invest in the march:
“House Democrats, hoping to tap into the energy from the March, invested earlier than ever before in state parties to help hire full-time organizers who could partner at the local level with grassroots groups. One group, called Swing Left, helps progressives in safe Democratic districts support candidates in the closest competitive district. So far, Swing Left and allied groups have raised nearly $4 million to be delivered to the eventual Democratic nominees in swing districts.”
Further, Representative Ben Ray Lujan, current chairman of the DCCC, told USA Today it was critical for the DCCC to launch its 2018 field program immediately after the march. “Local organizers have been working from day one with incredible grassroots organizations like Indivisible and Swing Left,” Lujan told USA Today. It should be noted that the DCCC is not just some random committee. As the chairman of the DCCC, Ray Lujan holds the fourth-ranking position among House Democrats, after the minority leader, the minority whip, and the Democratic caucus chairperson. This means he has a reasonable level of influence and power in the House. His endorsement of the march as a tactic to gain more Democratic votes adds weight to the theory that the Women’s March was in some way co-opted — or at least exploited — by the Democratic Party.
At the end of the day, the only solution offered to marches was voting in upcoming elections. Even those who mentioned getting involved locally only focused on political action. I didn’t hear a single speaker mention any form of community volunteering or action that was not related to casting a vote. This reinforces the narrative that the only way for the people to achieve change is through the ballot box. For all the talk of respecting women’s bodies and their right to self-ownership and determination, the marchers were happy to use the force of government to enact their vision of a more female-friendly society. The message was “I own my body, but you don’t own yours.” The marchers were largely supportive of using government to take money away from working-class Americans (in the form of taxation) to fund health care, immigration rights, abortion, and all the other causes they believe are necessary for a better world. Frankly, however, it’s hypocritical to say you want the government out of your body while you promote the idea of using government to make decisions for other free people.
While it should be celebrated that women of all ages, races, backgrounds, and sexual orientations gathered in the hundreds of thousands around the world, we should not ignore the obvious influence of the corporate Democratic Party. We do ourselves no favors by choosing not to acknowledge the lack of an anti-war/pro-peace message. We should be willing to ask why the march organizers believe “Fight! Fight! Fight!” and “Revolution!” means voting for one of the two parties that contribute to America’s divided political landscape. Until the marchers are willing to ask these difficult questions and seek the truth, I fear the Women’s March is going to fail to achieve any sort of lasting empowerment for women.
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