Opinion

Joan Vennochi

Galvanizing women, Trump (inadvertently) succeeds where Clinton failed

Protesters took part in the women's march on Washington D.C.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Protesters took part in the women's march on Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON

Donald Trump did what Hillary Clinton couldn’t do.

He triggered a massive women’s movement. On Saturday, it drew a diverse crowd of several hundred thousand people to Washington, as well as hundreds of thousands more in cities across the country.

The power of this movement to fight President Trump and a Congress controlled by Republicans over the next four years is an open question. But no doubt about it, just one day after Trump’s inauguration, outrage over his political agenda and personal history as they apply to women fired up a huge protest.

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Clinton tweeted her support for it, saying “Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @womensmarch. Important as ever. . . ”

Yet, the enormous passion of this day contrasted with the more lukewarm response to Clinton, the first female Democratic presidential nominee, in November.

Overall, Clinton did win 54 percent of all female votes, to Trump’s 42 percent. About 94 percent of black women and 64 percent of Latino women came through for her. But white women voted for Trump, 53 to 43 percent. Clinton won 51 percent of the vote of white college-educated women, but lost non-college educated white women to Trump, 62 percent to 34 percent.

Now, all women are left with Trump, a president known for making lewd comments about women on tape and, more recently, for referring to a top female adviser as “baby.”

He also plans to choose a Supreme Court justice who opposes Roe v. Wade; threatens to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood; and is in the process of derailing the Affordable Care Act. That, plus his anti-immigration stand and hostility to the science of climate change, spurred chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”

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Put me down as a skeptic when it comes to the ubiquitous pink knitted “pussy hats” designed to protest Trump’s past comments about women. But I loved the signs, most homemade, that expressed a range of creative opposition to Trump and his misogynist locker room talk. “Real men don’t grab” was among the more printable, family-friendly ones.

This march had celebrity participants galore, including Gloria Steinem and Michael Moore. Not all of them helped the cause. Caught for a time in the claustrophobic grip of the crowd, I missed Madonna’s f-bombs and her quip that “Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.”

No one should ever hand Trump weapons like that. His presidency raises legitimate alarms on multiple fronts, as expressed by all those regular women who came to Washington by bus or train or plane to make their voices heard. The march should not be marginalized as a venue for self-indulgent celebrities, which is exactly what those comments by Madonna allow Trump to do.

Ellen Church of Northborough, Mass., said she came to support environmental issues and immigration rights. For Sandra Stafford, of Auburn, Mass., it’s all about preserving abortion rights. Jennifer Meyer-Hardt, 53, of Needham said she cares about “kindness”. Her 16-year-old daughter, Lila Blaustein, said she stands for human rights and against “hate.”

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For some, anti-Trump sentiment runs deep. “I have despised this man for decades,” said Leslie Williams, 62, of Charlottesville, Va. “I was personally insulted when idiots elected him.” Williams, a Clinton supporter, said her choice for president could have done the job “backwards, in heels and blindfolded.”

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Ann Seligman, 56, of Manhattan, who worked for Clinton in Florida, said she was ambivalent about coming. She feared the march will be a feel-good event that accomplishes nothing — unless people channel the excitement of the day into activism at home.

That’s exactly what Tatiana Cody, 25, a member of the Black Law Students Association at George Washington University, said she intends to do. She said she’s committed as a woman, as a woman of color, and as a law student to work to protect the rights of all.

Before the march, there was talk of a racial divide, with black women initially feeling left out of the planning. However, at the march, commitment to a shared cause came through.

Perhaps Trump can be a uniter, after all, even if it means uniting women against him.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.