By Nick Bray, Staff Reporter
The 2016 United States presidential election was among one of the most controversial in history, and political activism is rising across the country in response to the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. Although Mr. Trump won the electoral vote, Democrat Hillary R. Clinton edged him out in the popular vote by about 2.8 million votes. On the day after the president’s inauguration, an estimated 4 million Americans took part in hundreds of women’s marches across the country.
The main march, the Women’s March on Washington, drew an estimated 470,000 demonstrators. According to the crowd scientists attributed in a New York Times article published last month this was about three times more than the 160,000 who viewed the presidential inauguration on the national mall the day before the march.
According to the march’s website, the purpose of these rally’s were to show solidarity for people from all backgrounds, affirm the protection of civil rights, and to recognize the strength of a united, diverse population.
In Maine, there were marches from Fort Kent to Kittery, which were attended by many students from UMF. At the march in Augusta, about 10,000 people gathered to hear from a program of speakers who spoke about various issues, from women’s reproductive rights, concern for the environment, and protection of civil liberties. Danielle Blair, a senior at UMF, was one of the marchers who gathered at the state capitol. “It wasn’t just a protest against Donald Trump,” Blair said, “It was a rally to support women’s rights.”
Blair was encouraged by the positive atmosphere at the rally. “Everyone was loving and happy,” Blair said.
Jeff Willey, a junior and vice president of the College Democrats attended the march to become more involved. “The problems that we are facing aren’t new, they are crossing multiple generations,” Willey said, “It was unifying.”
The rally brought together people who have already been politically involved, and people who wanted to become more involved in light of the recent elections. “It was empowering for the people that needed to be empowered,” Willey said, “The people who didn’t came to support those who needed it.”
If Facebook is any barometer of political activism, it can be seen how users who weren’t active before the election have become very active after the election. I have noticed a significant uptick in the frequency of friends sharing political news and their political opinions, as well as engaging in political discussion. I think this is especially the case for people I follow who were not sharing and discussing these issues before the election.
This increase in political activism via social media shows that people believe there is a need for these discussions. However, social media political activism has its drawbacks. Social media can become an echo chamber; people who follow and interact with only those who share similar beliefs are only reaffirming their established ideas. In addition, the prevalence of so called fake news is on the rise, and it is spread like wildfire on social media. Blair believes that engaging with people who have different political views is important to get the whole picture. “It is important for people to view accurate, reliable media sources that will challenge their beliefs,” Blair said.
On the UMF campus, it is not hard to seek out political discussion. With two political clubs and roundtable discussions on current events, there is frequently a platform for students, staff and faculty to have their voices heard and listen to the views held by others. As the transition into the Trump administration continues, it can be expected that college campuses across the nation will be rich with discussion and opportunities to get involved in political actions.