The Women’s March on Washington took place in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, and it could be argued that the celebrity-filled protest event for the political left managed to overshadow Donald Trump’s inauguration, partly because it took place a day after the inauguration, thereby grabbing headlines that might have otherwise been devoted to Donald Trump, and partly due to the sheer number of people who attended the respective events. According to the New York Times, 470,000 people showed up to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., versus an estimated 160,000 who showed up to the inauguration.
It’s debatable which of the two events will have a more lasting impact. Donald Trump’s inauguration marks the beginning of his presidency, which itself will have more of an impact on the country and the world than any protest possibly could, but an inauguration is just a ceremony. Inaugurations set the tone for the start of a president’s administration, but are largely seen as minor footnotes to their time in office. The Women’s March managed to draw a diverse group of people from the political left who are unhappy that Donald Trump has been elected president, many of whom are also aware that there are deeper problems with the state of society than just someone they don’t support becoming president.
There are criticisms of the Women’s March, however, and not just from the political right. Some on the left have raised concerns that the event was merely a public relations campaign for the Democratic Party as it begins its battle to regain power from the Republicans. The presence of establishment Democrats at the march, such as Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, only served to amplify such concerns. Many progressives and other anti-establishment leftists are weary of the Democratic Party co-opting what they see as a people’s movement to reform the Democratic Party.
Many of these people are Bernie Sanders supporters who feel like their candidate was cheated out of the nomination in 2016 by the Democratic National Committee, and they blame the Democratic Party for nominating what they see as a poor candidate in Hillary Clinton, thereby making it possible for Donald Trump to be elected president. According to Roll Call, elected Democrats were not shy about claiming the march as a political boost to their efforts to take on Donald Trump.
“This is going to give us — the men and women, the Democrats of Congress — real energy to move forward,” said Representative Lois Frankel of Florida.
Further fueling these concerns from the anti-establishment left was the presence at the Women’s March on Washington of numerous celebrities who were vocal Hillary Clinton supporters, such as Madonna and Ashley Judd. Bernie Sanders’ supporters and others on the left outside of the mainstream of the Democratic Party have grown weary of famous celebrities lending their voices to political causes. Given the manner in which Madonna and Ashley Judd used their time on stage at the Women’s March, they may very well have a point.
According to Variety, Ashley Judd read a poem written by 19-year-old Nina Donovan during her time on stage. The poem compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler and at one point goes as far as to accuse Donald Trump of having an incestuous desire for his daughter.
“I’m not as nasty as your daughter being your favorite sex symbol,” Judd said.
Not one to be upstaged, Madonna used her time in front of the crowd to say that she often thinks about blowing up the White House, according to New York Daily News.
“Yes I’m angry, yes I’m outraged,” Madonna said. “Yes I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House, but I know that this won’t change anything.”
Both of these instances could be explained away as hyperbole or humor. Both of them are not on their own incredibly significant. But taken as a whole, the relationship that elite celebrities have with the political left is one that has generally not produced positive results for the left. When Meryl Streep took to the stage at the Golden Globes to denounce Donald Trump earlier this month, she couldn’t help herself but to take a swipe at fans of NFL football and mixed martial arts, according to Time.
“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” Streep said. “And if we kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”
The comments were interpreted as smug and pretentious by many Americans who enjoy sports, and especially by people who would argue that there is definitely an artistry involved in mixed martial arts. Mainstream Democrats generally applauded her comments because they were attacks on Donald Trump, but many on the anti-establishment left cringed at her out-of-touch elitism, and such views were much more widespread among the general population.
Her comments were not dissimilar to George Clooney’s acceptance speech at the 2006 Oscars in which he congratulated himself and all of Hollywood for their role in solving society’s problems. The speech was ridiculed by many as typical of the smugness of elite liberal entertainers, culminating in a hilarious South Park episode where the “smug” produced by Clooney and other actors enjoying the scent of their own flatulence created a troubling smog-like cloud over California, a phenomenon which later plagued the town of South Park for its own self-congratulating, overly smug citizens.
There is a very real possibility that Donald Trump will enact policies that do more damage than merely offend the delicate sensibilities of celebrities who crave the attention that will come from being an outspoken critic of the president. These are serious political times, and the mobilization of the political left that formed largely around the Bernie Sanders campaign and the 2016 election requires more than attention-grabbing histrionics from entertainers whose sheltered lives are far removed from the day-to-day struggles of ordinary Americans. Wealthy, elite entertainers talking about blowing up the White House or rambling about Trump being a Nazi who wants to sleep with his daughter will only alienate people who prefer collected, rational, fact-based discussion over stream-of-consciousness celebrity demagoguery.
It is time for the political left to fire its celebrity spokespeople, stop promoting their cries for attention, and instead embrace calm, cool, collected, rational political thinking in the face of Donald Trump. To do otherwise could be playing right into Donald Trump’s hands.
[Featured Image by Theo Wargo/Getty Images]