WASHINGTON — Just one day after his inauguration, President Donald Trump was presented with a fantastic opportunity to make a down payment on his promise to be a president for all the nation’s people. It was also an opportunity to walk away from the small-minded attacks on any and all opponents that marked his campaign and threaten to mar his presidency.
The Women’s March on Washington and the renditions in cities across the nation on Saturday, unexpectedly large in scope and attendance, largely calm and upbeat, present Trump with an opportunity to let the women (and men) who participated know they were heard, not least because their core demands are so eminently reasonable and fair that they ought to be uncontroversial.
Patty Rojas, 20, a Syracuse University student, marched in Washington holding a sign against xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, Islamaphobia and transphobia and asking people not to be silent.
How easy it would be for Trump to simply say of such demands, “They’re right, these are real concerns. I’ll fight to address them, because these are not the things the United States stands for.”
The march in Washington was not monolithic and some protesters were demanding things that are controversial, most particularly access to abortions. On a smaller scale, some groups wanted an end to capitalism or free college or what have you. But the real thrust among the mostly white, mostly prosperous crowd seemed to be equal pay, no racism, no sexism, an end to sexual assault and the normalization of sexual assault. True, many cried out for affordable health care for all, but Trump himself has promised that. True, many cried out for fair treatment for black and brown people, but Trump himself has promised that.
And he’s generally favored equal pay for women, transgender and gay rights and, for most of his life, access to abortion. The only real beef Trump has with most of the demonstrartos across the country who marched Saturday is that they had a beef with him.
And that’s where the “be presidential” part comes in. That’s where the bigness of the office and the need of the inhabitant to be dignified and kind comes in.
Washington was a particularly strange scene Friday night into Saturday morning, as Trump inauguration attendees checked out of hotels and began to leave the city, and the Women’s March participants began to replace them. Pink-knitted hats replaced coifed hair, and bearded, skinny-jeans-wearing men appeared as the smooth-shaven suit wearers left.
But politics, and this nation, are not as simple as that image suggests. Plenty of people who attended the inauguration want equal pay for women. And not everyone who attended the march was a young, white, liberal Democrat.
Alice Jacksonwright, 68, from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is black, a registered Republican, and a Navy veteran and attorney. She says she joined the GOP based on economic principles, and had no problem with Trump at first. But, she said, “then I heard about the bankruptcies and that tape [about preying sexually on women) and just . . . the meanness of the campaign. And I’m out here today because I believe in women’s rights and equality.”
This is a big, complex country, and many of us don’t fit in easy political boxes, Trump included. This is a prime opportunity to extend an olive branch and an open hand to protesters demanding things many agree the nation wants and should have.
It’s time to be the president of the United States. And Trump, known to be an excellent golfer, has been given a gimme putt to start his round. He ought to sink it, and move on.
Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.