A lot of people have been asking me if protesting has any effect. At least three answers come to mind as I think about this question.
First, our community is one with many people who are horrified to see someone who has perjured himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee in previous hearings, who worked with documents stolen from Democratic elected officials at the Bush White House, whose own work documents are being hidden from the public and committee members alike by Republicans in an unprecedented breach of the confirmation process, who has debts and payments that cannot be explained, and who has been accused of multiple instances of sexual assault be considered for a seat on the highest court of the land.
Lots of outrage is spilling out on Facebook and Twitter, but speaking out in the new public square of social media doesn’t let us speak as a community. Showing up with each other, in real time and space creates our statement as a community. It becomes part of our memory of who we are, a moment that affirms values of integrity, candor, respect for all citizens and a belief in the rule of law. No tweet or Facebook post on its own can communicate all that.
Second, the feeling people have right now that protest doesn’t seem worth it isn’t coming from nowhere. It comes from two years of Trump and Republicans showing us in every way they can that public consensus and common values will not be their guide. No matter how many Americans want universal background checks on gun purchases, or health insurance without disqualifying pre-existing conditions, or action to curb climate change, or checks and balances to limit corruption in the Executive branch, they won’t do it.
They want us to give up. But don’t give up.
Thousands of us have decided to put our hopes into the upcoming elections, which absolutely are enormously important. But we are not powerless right at this moment, even with Trump and Republicans in control of the White House and Congress. These corrupt leaders are also enormous cowards. When we have demonstrated in large numbers they have backed down: from their Muslim travel ban, from the family separation policy at the border, their attempted repeal of Obamacare, and over and over again they have back off of attempts to end the Mueller probe.
They want us to give on speaking out because protest works, not because it doesn’t.
Finally, our ability to protest today is a critical measure of our capacity to respond to challenges on our horizon. Many people understand that massive protests will be needed if a really big attack on our democracy were to occur, like if Trump shuts down the Mueller investigation. The argument for saving our strongest response for the moment when it is most needed ignores the reality that defending democracy is a muscle that needs to be exercised. We get stronger by using it. When we hold off endlessly we get the feelings so many are expressing now – doubt, discouragement and despair.
What if, over the next 30 days, Trump found a pretext such as a terrorist attack or widespread power outages to suspend the upcoming midterm elections? Are we ready to fill the streets and stay there to defend our democracy if that occurs? If it feels like too much to spend an hour protesting now, there is no way we will be ready to come out for that day or week when we must literally defend our right to select our government through democratic means.
Taking action now is entirely warranted on its own merits: As a Supreme Court Justice, Kavanaugh would protect Trump from accountability for his crimes, he would almost certainly strip women throughout this nation of their right to decide when and if to bear a child, and his appointment will signal for generations to come that a likely rapist is qualified to sit in judgement on the women and men of America without so much as an investigation of his alleged crimes.
Coming out to reject Kavanaugh as a community will help remind you and everyone around you of the power we still have as citizens today, as well as finding our strength that we may need for the future.
No other generation of Americans have faced the threats we have now and on the horizon. We are being tested by a would-be autocrat to see how much of our democracy we will defend. Trump’s idiocy masks the grave dangers posed by his alliance with Putin and the billionaire oligarchs, Russian and American, whose goal is to permanently disable democracy. Build some muscle for this fight. Start to get ready emotionally and logistically ready for standing together with other Americans to defend our values and institutions.
Vladimir Putin reportedly warned Donald Trump of one force that threatened his autocratic government. Hint: It was not the American military. It was not cyber warfare. It was not powerful business leaders. The only thing he sees as a threat are the sustained, peaceful public protests such as were held in Maidan Square in the Ukraine, defending their democracy and independence from Russia.
Nothing this administration wants to do will succeed if people speak out together peacefully in great numbers to defend what we have long taken for granted: the chance to vote to elect our government, equality and justice for all in the eyes of the law, integrity within our judiciary.
Join us today at 12:00 noon at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 545 1st Avenue South in downtown St Petersburg.
Wear sunscreen. Bring water. Make a sign. (We have 10-20 signs for people to share as well).