This Saturday was the second annual Women’s March. You might remember it. Perhaps you read a news story about it.
Or maybe, perchance, you even attended one. Lots of people did! In Los Angeles, an estimated 350,000 people took to the streets, and in Chicago, 300,000. New York City claimed 200,000. Even red states saw decent-size turnouts. Nashville saw 15,000 and Omaha 8,000.
But after the initial flurry of media attention — crickets. According to an analysis by Media Matters for America, the Sunday morning news shows all but ignored the mass event. “Meet the Press” granted the subject a mere 20-second exchange — and the NBC show was the most generous of the lot.
As pollster Matt McDermott of Whitman Insight Strategies wrote on Twitter this weekend:
Looking at the sheer size of the protests happening across the country, it’s clear the Resistance is the most underestimated, unappreciated, and underreported political movement in modern American history.
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) January 20, 2018
While it’s common sense to observe that the government shutdown is taking up some of our oxygen, the lack of attention also demonstrates how even with the #MeToo movement, it is ingrained to treat the concerns of women as secondary to, well, bigger things that are deemed more serious. And when opposition to the Trump administration and the Republican Party is framed as a women’s issue, it receives less attention than it should.
I reached out to McDermott to expand on his Twitter comment. He told me he attributed the lack of attention to the Women’s March in part to the media’s conviction, in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 victory, that journalists missed the initial surge of populist rage that led to Trump’s victory and are attempting, as he put it, “to course correct,” by diverting media attention to Trump’s angry male supporters. At the same time, he added, the media often prioritizes the issues of concerns of white males. The result?
“There is not coverage of the actual movement building on the left, which is arguably by any measure the greatest political movement we’ve seen in decades in this country,” he said.
It’s hard to disagree.
By all objective standards, the rage of many women against Trump has been big news since the 2017 march, which took almost everyone — including organizers — by surprise.
It set off a never-before-seen wave of women running for office. According to Rebecca Traister, 439 women have announced plans to run for Congress this year, marking an all-time record. The #MeToo movement also owes some of its resonance to the waves of women organizing, registering to vote and making their anger heard.
It’s hard not to compare the attention — and lack thereof — to the Women’s March against the attention given to the tea party, the movement that seemingly garnered all-but-nonstop coverage from the moment it began as a rant by CNBC personality Rick Santelli. Soon enough, there was enormous amount of media attention devoted to tea party rallies and the protesters’ concerns. In 2011, after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, CNN not only aired the official Republican response, it also gave time to then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who delivered a tea party response.
Make no mistake — the attention was deserved. Tea party members made major electoral gains, and the tea party is still an influence in our politics.
But the Women’s March and the resistance that engendered it are also having a huge impact on American politics. We saw that impact in the November 2017 elections, in which a surge of female support led to huge Democratic gains in Virginia. We also saw it in Alabama, where it was African American woman who helped Democrat Doug Jones win election to the Senate instead of Republican Roy Moore.
There is no question that all this energy matters and will almost certainly continue to matter. A Post/ABC News poll released Monday morning found that the Democrats have a “large early advantage” in this year’s congressional elections, thanks in part to “strong support from women,” with “a 57 percent to 31 percent advantage among female voters.”
In the meantime, it looks as though a deal was reached to end the government shutdown, the dispute that has received so much media attention over the past few days. As for the female-led resistance to Trump, it continues.