WASHINGTON — The Women’s March 2018 ended in Washington in front of the White House, where college-aged demonstrators danced to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”; others chanted, “You lost the popular vote” and “Lock him up!”; and there was little shortage of signs battling to skewer the president in the most creative way.
Trump’s response to all of the anti-Trump sentiment happening just outside his windows? “Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March,” he tweeted.
And he related the event to his own agenda: “Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!”
Trump was only in town at all due to the midnight shutdown of the federal government, occurring on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. It forced him to cancel weekend plans to travel to Mar-a-Lago, where he had planned to attend a pricey fundraiser to mark the occasion.
Strangely enough, the shutdown had little impact on the march itself, nor was it top of mind for many who attended the march, which started at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The crowds were smaller than in 2017, but the intent of this year’s march was to focus on building support for 2018’s local and state races. Some of the most popular signage featured variations of “Grab ‘Em By the Midterms.”
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Abby Bolt of Baltimore held a sign featuring a big blue wave and the words, written in all-caps, “IT’S COMING!”
“I knew he would be bad,” she said. “I did not expect the Republicans in Congress to just fold and be sycophants to this man.”
Joining her were two friends, Leslie Henderson, of Charlottesville, Va., and Andrea Higgins, of Fairfax, Va. They all attended the march last year, and noted that the crowd was not nearly as large.
“It was shoulder to shoulder. You couldn’t move,” Henderson recalled. “You never felt threatened, and it was such as wonderful, welcoming atmosphere.” Despite this march being smaller, though, she said that it still had the same spirit.
“He’s still in office. We can’t stop the message. We need to resend the message,” she said.
The women spoke of becoming more politically engaged over the past year. Bolt said that she has been registering voters and donating “lots of money to every campaign that I see. Every time I get a request, the money goes out,” she said. This year, she plans to work to defeat Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), whose district covers the eastern shore.
The theme of the march was “Power to the Polls,” a reflection of efforts to translate the heavy crowd enthusiasm at the marches into turnout at the ballot box. The last two midterm elections, in 2010 and 2014, saw huge gains for conservatives and Republicans, who surpassed progressives and Democrats in voter enthusiasm. Polls show there could be somewhat of a reversal of that trend taking place this year.
On stage at the rally, some women shared stories of being motivated to run in the wake of Trump’s unexpected victory.
“I attended this march last year. I was outraged,” said Nadia Hashimi, a pediatrician, who is running for a seat in Maryland and to become the first Afghan woman in Congress. “I stood with fellow physicians, ready to demand change, and this year I stand in front of this crowd as a candidate because I decided, like so many of you, that enough is enough, and if we are the majority then we should look like it.” She then noted that Afghanistan “could be classified as one of those ‘bleep hole countries,'” a reference to Trump’s “s—hole countries” comment, reportedly made to a group of senators discussing immigration legislation.
Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the crowd that “if the Congress, if the White House, if the governorships across America, if the legislatures across America, had more women like I see here today, we’d be a much better America. There’s no doubt about it.”
Members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, also spoke, and the crowd cheered them on as they waded through afterward. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) called for Trump’s impeachment.
Behind him, a group of demonstrators sat on the steps of the memorial with the word “Narcissist” displayed in hot pink block letters. Around them were all sorts of signs commenting on various aspects of the drama of the past year, whether it was Robert Mueller’s investigation or the recent Stormy Daniels story. (“Trump, Stormy weather ahead.”) Others took part in chants of, “Donald Trump has got to go.” Some protesters got in exchanges with pro-life demonstrators, who on Friday participated in another large event, the Right to Life March.
Perched at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, Madeleine Wolff, 20, sat with six fellow students from Catholic University with hand drawn signs, but she talked of recognizing people’s differences of opinion.
She attended the march last year, and said it was important to return “to show that we are strong.”
“We have a voice, and everyone deserves to be heard,” she said. “I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in, and I believe that no one should be quiet, because there is a high chance that if you feel some way, someone else also feels that way, and they will stand with you and by your side.”
She didn’t assign blame for the government shutdown, but expressed hope that it doesn’t last long.
“I hope that the government gets it together and isn’t just relying on tweets and unreliable sources,” she said. “The government is more than people, and it needs to start acting like it.”