Women marchers declare: ‘Time to finish what we started’ against Trump
Maria Acosta wears a mask with a message as she attends the Women's March in downtown Chicago, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Dozens of Women's March rallies were planned from New York to San Francisco in opposition to President Donald Trump and his policies, including the push to fill the seat of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day. | Nam Y. Huh / AP

WASHINGTON—One big electronic sign, rented by Planned Parenthood, said it all as tens of thousands of women—and male allies—paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown D.C., denouncing anti-woman, anti-worker GOP President Donald Trump.

“Time to finish what we started,” it flashed, after two rotating messages reminding people to wear their masks and keep social distancing, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And “finishing what we started,” as organizer Rachel Carmona also said beforehand, would occur via a massive anti-Trump, anti-GOP vote in this year’s election. It was the theme of this Women’s March, the fourth. “We have the power to end this presidency and we will do it,” she declared.

The Oct. 17 march, along with 440 others the same day, spread over every state and in cities ranging from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles on down to Media, Pa. It followed the anti-Trump, pro-resistance, pro-voting campaigns at the prior three Women’s Marches.

Demonstrators in the Washington, D.C., Women’s March pass Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. | Mark Gruenberg / People’s World

The first drew 500,000 people to parade through D.C. the day after Trump’s inauguration. Those first marches also fired up female participation in politics, culminating in the huge blue wave, electing dozens of Democratic women and returning the U.S. House to pro-worker control, in 2018.

And, like those three, this year’s march was all grass-roots. “We are the leaders we have been looking for this whole time,” said Carmona, keynoter, emcee, and co-chair of the Women’s March organization.

“What we have learned is that the folks who are supposed to lead us have let us down,” said Carmona, referring to the Senate’s inability to stop Trump’s nomination of right-wing federal judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Opposition to Barrett was this march’s other key cause.

But the big cause was to thrash Trump and his political enablers this fall. “It’s not enough just to stop Trump. It’s up to us to mobilize, organize and motivate” voters to beat his allies, too, Carmona declared.

“The fact of the matter is that we are powerful and they are afraid,” added Sonja Spoo, reproductive rights director for UltraViolet. “They are on the ropes and they know it and we are about to give the knock-out punch.”

“It is not hyperbole to say everything is on the line. We cannot afford four more years of [Texas GOP senator] John Cornyn and [Iowa GOP Senator] Joni Ernst falling into line behind his judicial nominees,” Carmona added of two lawmakers facing unexpectedly tough races against female Democrats. Senate control is up for grabs this fall, too, with 10-13 of the GOP’s 23 seats up this fall viewed as shaky. Overall, the Republicans have 53 senators, Democrats have 45, and independents two.

“That’s why we are mobilizing voters today,” adding a texting number for cell phones, 22422, for activists to contact, Carmona explained.

Salt Lake City, Utah Women’s March, Oct. 17, 2020. | Rick Bowmer / AP

Stopping Barrett’s elevation to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist, progressive and pro-worker icon, provided more motivation for the marchers. “Vote RUTHlessly,” many buttons said. Handmade signs featured RBG, in her famous white lace collar worn when she dissented from right-wing High Court rulings. “I dissent,” was a frequent theme of those signs, too.

As for Trump, graphic designer Kathryn Prance carried a sign with two images of Rosie the Riveter, one white, one Black. “Grab him by the ballot!” it read.

“Megalomaniac: ‘A person obsessed with their own power.’ Sound familiar?” Tina Bustos’s handmade sign read. “Megalomaniacs do not belong in the White House.” Bustos said she “heard this” at the first women’s march “four years ago and it stuck in my mind ever since. It’s a perfect word for what we’ve seen and what we’ve got.”

Opinion polls show beating Trump is definitely within reach. But thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., defeating Barrett isn’t.

The Democratic ticket of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.—the first Asian-American and first African-American woman on a major-party slate—leads Trump and his white male “Christian” Vice President, Mike Pence, by as much as 16 percentage points nationally. The Biden-Harris lead among female voters is even larger.

Harris tweeted her support of the marches, even as positive tests for the coronavirus forced her campaign into a two-day suspension. “There is nothing more powerful than a determined group of women marching, protesting—and voting. Don’t wait: Join women across the country today and make your voice heard at the polls. #WomenAreVoting” her tweet read.

But the GOP-run Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to approve Barrett on Oct. 22, on a 12-10 party-line vote. McConnell intends to jam her nomination through the full Senate before Election Day (Nov. 3) and before the justices hear a GOP-crafted case to obliterate the Affordable Care Act (Nov. 10).

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That didn’t deter the marchers, including those championing reproductive rights, which Barrett has also opposed in writing. Numerous signs warned the Republicans to, in so many words, keep their hands off of women’s bodies. Some marchers dug out the pink woolen “pussy” hats worn during the first march.

One group added the $15 federal minimum wage for tipped workers to the causes. Most of those tipped workers, whose federal minimum wage is $2.13 an hour, are women. “We’re campaigning for fair wages, fair elections, and respect for the workers,” organizer Breanne Delgado of OneFairWage.org explained while helping hold the group’s large banner.

“Health care, not wealth care,” another sign read, arguing for Medicare for all, as well as reproductive choice. “Destroy the patriarchy, not the planet,” another woman stenciled on her T-shirt on the warm fall day. Democratic Socialists appeared with their own large banner.

Though the Barrett elevation seems a foregone conclusion, the speakers and the marchers said that fight would continue—as well as other fights for progressive causes—even if Biden and Harris defeat Trump and Pence.

With the U.S Capitol in the background, demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women’s March in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. | Jose Luis Magana / AP

“What changed things was not what happened after the first march” on Jan. 21, 2017, “but what didn’t happen afterwards. We didn’t pack things in,” Carmona explained.

Besides, now, “we’re sicker, we’re poorer and we’re scared,” she said. That referred—without her explicitly saying so—to the ravages of the virus, the ensuing economic depression and its disproportionate harm to women and people of color, and to the threat of Trump.

“Trump likes to spread fake news,” Carmona noted. “He wants us to feel dispirited, hopeless and scared”—and not vote.

Then, though it wasn’t her clincher line, Carmona added one Ronald Reagan uttered in his 1980 race against incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter. The line sunk Carter’s candidacy at a time of stagflation and presidential unpopularity resulting from the Iran hostage crisis.

“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

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CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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