Let’s be clear: Donald J. Trump does not have the Constitutional power to enact the executive order he issued last Friday, banning citizens from seven countries from traveling to the United States and barring refugees for 120 days (and refugees from Syria indefinitely). To be fair, he’d (arguably) be technically in the clear if he had made an exception for green card holders, but he didn’t. The United States green card lottery program even has a page titled Permanent Residents Are Entitled to the Bill of Rights. They are also entitled to protection under all federal and state laws. Essentially, once they are granted permanent residence, they cannot be detained or deported simply because of their country of birth. Particularly when the basis for such a ban appears to be religious discrimination. Those who arrived in the United States on Friday evening were not detained and/or deported because of a crime, or a review of their visa/immigration paperwork. They were harassed because the Trump administration has decided to punish Muslims.
Today, in the aftermath of an inauguration speech characterized by the promise of isolationism and fear, over half a million protestors came together to march on Washington, D.C. Thousands more walked into the streets in other cities throughout the United States and around the world. Here’s why, even in the shadow of the Trump administration, those protests still matter.
Donald Trump has made a career of being “tough”. He says what he thinks, he does what he wants, and he’s not about to get pushed around by a pathetic bunch of whiners. Today’s protest, no matter how massive, is unlikely to change any policy decisions he plans to implement in the next 99 days (although of course we all look forward to reading the 3:00 a.m. meltdown when he realizes more people turned out to protest than came to his inauguration). Similarly, the last eight years have demonstrated a new Republican strategy of politics as a zero-sum game; there is no longer room, it seems, for working together toward a greater good for all. It seems apparent, in fact, that any conversation between conservatives and liberals at this point in history is doomed due to the inability of either party to translate the language of the universe next door.
Given the disconnect, the partisanship, and the blatant callousness of our new President and his supporters, it is easy to dismiss today’s protests as a futile effort, perhaps good for morale but with no substantial effect on the future. But that completely misses a larger perspective, both in what the protests mean for today and in what they create for the future.