Opinion

One new presidency gives rise to two divergent grass-roots movements

In his inaugural address, President Trump bragged that he was leading “a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.” Turns out he helped spawn two of them.

On Friday, a legion of Americans cheered Trump as a refreshingly pugnacious leader elected with a promise to shake the regular order in a country they say has gotten off on the wrong track. On Saturday, a multitude of Americans demonstrated against the new president for policies and rhetoric they see as misogynist and dangerous.

Elections are by definition divisive, of course, and Trump takes control of the White House at a time politics have become increasingly polarized. But historians struggle to cite a precedent for a new president who is both beneficiary and target of such powerful and rising grass-roots movements.

At stake are clashing visions of America on everything from the role of women and the impact of immigration to how the United States should engage with the world.

“It’s hard for anyone to say when we’re at a pivotal point, but I think these may be seismic shifts,” Timothy Naftali, an historian at New York University and the founding director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, said in an interview. “We thought there was an era of new politics because of the role Trump played in the Republican Party, but the new politics may not just be of the right. We may be seeing a new politics in the center and the left.”
Change direction?

Last year’s surprising presidential primaries set the landscape for this year’s political turmoil.

Among Republicans, Trump tapped rising discontent, especially among whites, men and workers who had watched well-paying manufacturing jobs evaporate in the Rust Belt. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders did the same — especially among liberals, women and Millennials — with his strong bid for the Democratic nomination.

Now both movements believe politics-as-usual has failed them, and neither owes their origins to the political establishment. While those in both movements would agree the nation is headed in the wrong direction, though, they disagree on just what the right direction would be.

In his address Friday, Trump said his lodestar would be “America First,” a phrase with resonant history suggesting a withdrawal from global engagement. One core campaign promise was to protect American workers by ending or renegotiating free-trade deals. Another was to build a wall along the Southern border to limit illegal immigrants he portrayed as rapists and murderers. He suggested he might propose a registry for Muslims. He wants the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision recognizing abortion rights.
In contrast, the Women’s Marches on Saturday limited official participation to groups that support abortion rights, and they accused Trump of trying to roll back hard-won equal rights for women. Marchers made a point of welcoming Muslims to their ranks and extolling the value of immigrants, including the young people known as DREAMers who may be about to lose protection from deportation that former president Barack Obama had extended.

Katie Page Sander “boycotted” watching Trump’s Inauguration, instead driving to Washington from her hometown of Ann Arbor., Mich., to march against him on Saturday. “Trump is the quintessential bully and we teach our children how to stand up to bullies,” she said, marching alongside her husband and three children. “What I hope is this is a catalyst that people realize you can’t be complacent any more.”

A day earlier, Gary Nystrom of Boone, Iowa, was elated as he stood on the National Mall to watch Trump sworn in, calling it a victory for the “silent majority.”

“It’s a breath of fresh air,” said Nystrom, a city councilman and member of the Iowa GOP state central committee. “There’s a new life ahead of us. President Trump — I can say that now: President Trump — said today is a new day, and the people are going to dictate what goes on from this point forward. I truly believe that’s why he got elected.” – usatoday
Photo: Joe Lamberti/Courier-Post