By Haley Raphael
Democracy is a form of government in which the power of a state is held by its citizens. Because it is usually defined by the election of representatives, democracy is often called the “rule of the majority.” On December 19, Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States by the electoral college, which represented the American people. Donald Trump was then inaugurated on Jan 20 with a peaceful transition of power—in line with the American democratic tradition—despite the millions of people that were discontented with the results of the election.
On Jan 21, this underlying national unease and discontentment with the 2016 presidential election manifested itself in the largest one-day protest in U.S. history: the Women’s March on Washington. The purpose of the demonstrations was to support policies bolstering women’s reproductive rights and other issues that people feel will be threatened under Donald Trump’s administration.
The intense protests following the election demonstrated a main pillar of democracy: the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. Organized protests are to democracy as the immune system is to a body; organized protests help maintain the health of our nation by giving a voice to the disgruntled. Only by listening to the minorities’ voices and their needs can we truly be a just, democratic society.
Following the protests, President Trump tweeted: “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.” The marches following the 2017 inauguration indicated that American democracy is still thriving; citizens still care immensely about the happenings of their government and will not let their rights be infringed upon. The demonstrations highlighted the issues that are important to the constituents of the elected representatives who, in turn, will modify their positions in order to safeguard the voice and the views of the people. Many oppressive governments throughout history have silenced the voice of the minority and even the people in general. The United States’ free election followed by free protests demonstrate that American democracy has survived for 250 years because it is dynamic and can adapt to the views of not only the majority but also the minority.
Protests have always played a large role in American history. Many defining moments in America were the result of protests: the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the 1969 anti-Vietnam War protest, and even the Boston Tea Party. All of the aforementioned protests are manifestations of democratic expression and each of the majorly aided in the development of our nation.
While other countries fear the right to protest, our government embraces it. Our founding fathers realized its importance and granted the right to free speech and assembly in the first amendment. The marches following the 2017 presidential election were a healthy application of fundamental rights in a democracy.