Rallies are good. Voting is better.

No disrespect to the millions who will take to the streets today to protest Donald Trump’s separation of immigrant families, but the only real opportunities to put a stop this destruction and discrimination will come on November 6, 2018 and November 3, 2020. All the rallies in the world won’t stop the Stephen Millers and Kirstjen Nielsens of the world from taking their hatred out on immigrants. Only their loss of political power will.

Ask yourself: did the right gain its power in the United States by rallies? How influential was the notorious “9/12” rally in 2009? The right’s real rally occurred fourteen months later, when Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives and numerous state legislatures and governorships after the 2010 midterms.

A rally, in and of itself, does not obtain political power–and political power in the hands of progressives is the only thing that can stop the madness. Great speeches will not stop the madness. Clever signs and T-shirts will not stop the madness. Outrage will not stop the madness. Only political power will.

This is the lesson that too many folks failed to understand in 2016–especially the folks who became obsessed with Hillary Clinton’s perceived flaws. Now more than ever, voting is about keeping political power away from those who will use that power to inflict harm upon the innocent. Those who became fixated on Clinton’s alleged “corporatism” and deference to the “establishment” ignored the reality that the other man on the other side was hellbent on obtaining political power in order to harm those he considered undesirables and social inferiors.

Had folks understood that reality back then, we might not be in this mess today. Do folks understand that now? Do folks understand that the only way to stop Trump is not by rallies, not by nitpicking the alleged flaws of the Democratic Party, but by taking political power away from the President?

I’ve cited his words before, but the observations of former Rep. Barney Frank bear repeating–and remembering:

[M]y friends on the left make a mistake by not thoroughly taking advantage of the political process. Pound for pound, the NRA [National Rifle Association] is the most influential organization in America, and it has nothing to do with demonstrations. You have never seen a “shoot-in” by the NRA. They vote. They get all their people registered, and when a bill comes up, they call everybody – the city council, the senator, the supervisor, their representative. They have a lot of impact. Unfortunately, too many on the left find expressive politics more satisfying. Best example: contrast Occupy [Wall Street] and the Tea Party. In general, I was very disappointed because the Tea Party has been so much more effective than Occupy, not because they represent more people, but because they are smarter about how to do it. In summary, when the left gets mad, they tend to march. When the right gets mad, they tend to vote, and voting beats marching.

Trump will laugh at today’s rallies. Limitations on his power will make him weep. What tactic would be more effective? Doesn’t the question answer itself?

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D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.