Editorial: Women’s March may threaten Trump most

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Hundreds of thousands of people protest in the streets as part of the Women’s March on Chicago, Jan. 21, 2017. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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Thinking about the Women’s March on Washington and what might be coming next, we kept an eye on the signs.

“Tweet women with respect.” That one put President Donald Trump on notice.

“I’ve seen better cabinets at IKEA.” That one put Trump’s questionably qualified administration on notice.

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“What do we want? Evidence-based science.” That one demanded that Trump show more respect for facts and truth.

“Honestly, there are too many problems with this administration to adequately summarize in one sign.”

That sign, to our thinking, said it all.

It’s true to say that millions of women around the world, as well as men, marched on Saturday out of a revulsion for Trump and his agenda without having a clear-cut agenda of their own. A three-page statement posted by the march’s organizers seemed a little tacked on. It called for reproductive freedom and economic justice for women, for immigration reform, police accountability and union rights. What really drove the marchers, as Jia Tolentino wrote in the New Yorker, was a more general conviction that “a country led by Trump endangers their own freedoms and the freedoms of those they love.”

But this was not some empty feel-good exercise.  The march was a powerful rejoinder to the ugliness of Trump’s uncivil tone and divisive politics, to his objectionable attitudes toward women and his more callous social policies. The march put Trump on notice that there is a massive loyal opposition — loyal to the country — that won’t be cowed by bullying tweets or fooled by “alternative facts.”

Given the sheer vitality of Saturday’s demonstrations, from Sweden to Chicago to Antarctica, concrete action seems sure to follow. It is hard to imagine this movement, both intensely grassroots and mainstream, fading soon. The march’s organizers have begun a new campaign, “10 suggested actions over the first 100 days” — the first action being sending postcards to senators to tell them what you’re concerned about.

You can bet the march scared Trump, or rather his advisers, and likely for the better. Democrats and the media calling you out is one thing. Millions of marching people calling you out, on behalf of an entire gender, is quite another.

Trump’s impulse was to lash out. In his first tweet after the march, he sneered: “Why didn’t these people vote?” But in a second tweet, two hours later, he noted that “peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy.” Somebody must have got to him.

On Monday, the change in tone was even more apparent. When asked by reporters about the march, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said his boss was not troubled at all. The president, Spicer said, “is fighting for them and for every American” and will prove by his actions “how much he cares to unite us.”

Nicely put. But if the famously combative Trump camp is sounding more conciliatory, it is only because the Women’s March is a counter-force to their agenda that they never saw coming.

Maybe they saw that sign held up by a marcher in London: “Quite annoyed.”

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