“There are seven stages of grief. I’m still stuck on the first one,” said new U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) last night, Jan. 18, at the Woman’s National Democratic Club’s historic mansion near Dupont Circle. (The first stage is denial, but he may have been referring to the second stage, anger.)
“Me too,” echoed dozens of feisty Democratic women — and some men — who had gathered to “celebrate our most recent victories” and honor new female members elected to the 115th Congress.
Like much else for the Democrats this year, not everything went as planned at the event. No new female members of Congress were there. “Perhaps they’ve left town, as many are participating in the inauguration boycott Friday,” said one longtime WNDC member.
But male Democratic leaders did: Van Hollen and civil rights leader and icon the Rev. Jesse Jackson. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck time,” said Van Hollen, who replaced Barbara Mikulski after she retired. “We must fight, especially the repeal of Obamacare and the confirmation of the Trump nominees for attorney general, secretary of Health and Human Services and especially the Supreme Court,” he said, to enthusiastic applause from the audience. “It’s going to be a hell of a fight and you will be called.”
Jackson, who is the same age as Bernie Sanders and ran for president twice, recalled the struggles of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the restrictions on voting — even on college campuses. The founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition likened those times to now. “We still have to protect the right to vote,” he emphasized.
Several club members asked, “What can we do now?” Jackson responded: “It’s not too late to unify … to tear down walls, not build them.”
During the inauguration activities on Friday and Saturday, the WNDC will be a hangout for women who come to participate in the Woman’s March. “We’re going to be the café to come to,” said David Hoffman, WNDC vice president for programs. “We’ll have a big-screen TV and discussion groups ongoing.”
On Friday evening, Jan. 20, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore is expected to speak at the club on the topic of “What’s Next?”
“Breakfast will be served from 7 to 9 a.m. on Saturday and discussion groups will be meeting all day as well at the club,” said MaryEva Candon, vice president for administration. “We stand together in solidarity with our partners for the protection of our rights,” the WNDC declares on its special webpage, womensmarchevents.org.
Van Hollen will attend the inauguration ceremony on Friday morning. To date, no Democrat from the Senate has decided to boycott it. “But I refused the invitation to attend the congressional lunch under the dome for the new president,” he said. “That I am boycotting in protest.”