Protesters around the U.S. kicked off Sunday with rallies and marches to protest President Donald Trump’s continued refusal to release his tax returns, the first president to do so. Even though the widespread coverage of Saturday’s violent clash between anti-fascists and Trump supporters in Berkeley, California might have made it look like riots were commonplace, the opposite is true. The Trump Tax Marches are a symptom of a healthy democracy.
And that’s good news for a country that’s increasingly questioning its moral direction. How do you reconcile Trump’s unquestionably secretive and untruthful behavior with the American ideal of robust democracy and the more commonplace expectation of a dignified presidency?
The fact is, any president who refuses to release his or her tax returns merits the same kind of public backlash that Trump is currently facing. To not do so means there is damaging information lurking somewhere in the file folders. In Trump’s case, however, it’s all the more suspicious considering he has not placed his business in the hands of a blind trust, but rather, his children.
These protests, like the Women’s March in January of this year, are reminiscent of the Tea Party protests of 2009-2010. Like Barack Obama before him, Trump is facing a grassroots movement that has the potential to play an influential role in electoral primaries for members of his own party. Though both are organic in nature and uncompromising in stance, the movement we’re seeing take form under Trump appears to be a lot more scrutinizing of his own personal transgressions. The Tea Party movement, on the other hand, channeled its anger more at the D.C. establishment that failed to protect everyday Americans following the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
We’re less than three months into Trump’s presidency, and if the anti-Trump movement can sustain its energy until the November congressional elections next year (or at the very least, through the remaining special elections to fill seats of ex-members of Congress who are now Trump Administration employees), then maybe Trump will finally take heed. Regardless of the result, the fact that many people who weren’t previously involved in politics are now taking to social media and to the streets is a testament to the resilience of American democracy and the persistence of voters in holding their elected officials to account.