When Will the Protests Stop?

“When will the protests stop?”

It may have been just another rhetorical question, someone wanting the frenzy and panic to die down so they can go back to planning BBQs and having casual conversations with their friends and neighbors without tip-toeing around sensitive topics. But if it was a genuine question, it deserves a genuine answer.

I don’t think the protests are going to stop. Not this time. Maybe that sounds like wishful thinking — or just an angry, knee-jerk reaction without much thought behind it. But unless there is a dramatic shift in the way this administration governs, this is the new normal.

It may help to recognize that protests are about thresholds. There is a certain level of decency and fairness that people have come to expect of one another. They will tolerate disagreement and conflicting beliefs to a certain point. They may shake their heads quietly or even argue out loud when they think something is unjust, unacceptable, or unwise. But at a certain point, if their core values feel threatened, if they feel they’re losing sight of the world they envisioned for themselves or their children, they will stand up and demand to be heard. For a lot of people that threshold has been crossed, and they aren’t likely to go back to sitting in silence and allowing their government to chip away at their rights — or those of the people around them.

It’s also worth remembering that our current president won the electoral college, but he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes. I’m not suggesting that this makes his presidency illegitimate. Far from it. The rules of the game don’t require that he win the popular vote, and those numbers don’t mean much when it comes to declaring a winner. What they do mean is that there are a lot more of us than there are of you. And we’ve been told for too long that in a democracy numbers mean power. Perhaps those numbers haven’t translated into actual representation, through the use of machinations like the electoral college and gerry-mandered districts, but that only makes it that much more imperative that we use our voices. That we leverage our majority through protests and town hall meetings and phone calls to elected officials. And until these 65 million plus individuals have an alternate outlet to air their grievances, I wouldn’t expect them to passively accept the new status quo.

Finally, it shouldn’t be overlooked that this was not a typical election — and it’s not going to receive a typical reaction. It would be a mistake to conclude that all of this angst is nothing more than sour grapes over an unexpected political loss. Not all of this is about policy. Some of it is about process. It’s about conflicts of interest. It’s about a free press. It’s about checks and balances and an independent judiciary. It’s about preserving the truth. It’s about foreign interference with democracy. This is what people are concerned about when they allude to a constitutional crisis. This is far larger than tax reform and access to contraception.

So that is my honest assessment. You can ignore or dismiss all of the above and continue planning your BBQs in the hopes that the tension settles in the upcoming months. But don’t be surprised if some of your friends can’t make it because they’re out protesting.

Thanks for reading! Kelly Antoine is a Labor and Employment attorney in Seattle, Washington. She recently published her first novel, The Ghost of Fort Leavenworth. Kelly also manages the website Mediagobble.com, which focuses on highlighting positive examples of women and girls in film, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. Check out more at www.kellyantoine.com.