Think the liberal protests are big? Just wait.
Protesters rallied at O'Hare International Airport on Jan. 28, 2017, after travelers were held, including those with green cards and visas, following President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus noted Sunday that the huge protests at some of the nation's airports over the weekend were out of proportion to the practical effect of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.
"The fact of the matter is 325,000 people from foreign countries came into the United States" on Saturday, Priebus told NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd. "And 109 people were detained for further questioning."
That number grew slightly by the end of the day, but reflected a general truth that ought to be sobering for the administration — the vast majority of protesters didn't know the detainees and didn't have friends or family connected to one of the seven predominantly Muslim nations targeted in the crackdown on immigrants and refugees.
They descended by the thousands on international terminals coast to coast mostly to raise alarm on behalf of strangers and to object to the abdication of key American values that a ban on refugees represents.
Similarly, none of the millions who marched and rallied for women's rights the previous weekend had yet lost anything or suffered a single deprivation on account of Trump. How could they have? He'd been president for only one day.
In other words, most of the anti-Trump protests so far have been over symbolism and omens.
So just imagine what's going to happen if or when the largely hypothetical becomes real and the abstract becomes personal.
•If or when the numbers of people turned away from our borders, detained or deported grows from the hundreds into the tens of thousands.
•If or when millions of people lose their health insurance policies after Obamacare is repealed.
•If or when Roe v. Wade is overturned and states begin outlawing abortion.
•If or when we begin to go backward on LGBTQ rights and anti-gay discrimination is enshrined as a religious right.
President Donald Trump's sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough controls on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries was met with protests at U.S. airports.
•If or when prices or taxes rise to pay for an unnecessary border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and for Trump's misbegotten trade wars.
•If or when public education begins to disappear in major urban centers.
•If or when strict voter-ID laws, with their racially discriminatory effects, sweep the red states.
If any of the above hypotheticals become reality, these recent protests will seem quaint in comparison.
I wouldn't go so far as to call this the Liberal Spring, but make no mistake: After eight, sleepy, nearly torpid years of hoping that President Barack Obama and his wealthiest supporters would protect their interests, members of the left — progressives, Democrats — have awakened with a roar.
Critics complained that the Women's March on Washington was incoherent and diffuse, an airing of various concerns without an identifiable set of demands. Actually, though, the message of those rallies was quite clear: We're not cowering in the face of the Trump agenda. We're determined, we're energized and when Trump crosses the line, we'll be right back out here with demonstrations that'll make those tea party rallies of 2010 look like Tuesday morning gatherings at the dog park.
Don't miss the idealism. Many of the marchers, like many of the airport protesters, don't feel directly threatened by Trumpism. They're straight, white people of some means who have decent health insurance and probably won't be alive long enough to be mortally sickened by the poisonous air and water in a deregulated America.
These protesters organized, made signs, traveled and took time out of their lives to make a show of their beliefs on behalf of others now that they've been poked by Trump's statements and his early moves in the White House.
After ineptly playing defense and squabbling internally during Obama's two terms, the left is back on offense, angry and activated.
The evidence is not just in the crowds and first-time protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union reported taking in $24.2 million in online donations over the weekend, more than six times the total of online donations the organization usually gets in an entire year!
And the real action, the real outrages, haven't even really started.
Trump likes to talk about leading a "movement" because he galvanized just enough disillusioned, credulous voters to eke out a victory in the Electoral College over an opponent nearly as unpopular as he is.
But he's about to see what a real movement looks like.