As of Feb. 25, one to several supposedly trucker-organized “convoys” are reportedly wending their way to the Washington, D.C. area. The organizers intend to stage protests on or around March 1, when President Biden will deliver the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
Separate truck convoys appear to have been organized through online forums with names like “American Truckers Freedom Fund.” Each has separate starting points, departures, and routes. They generally aim to arrive in the capital in time for the SOTU or later.
Whenever when they get to our nation’s capital and set up camp there or nearby, they may discover that the American political landscape is shifting again toward a middle-of-the-road equilibrium, the position most American historically embrace, and that makes it unlikely their messaging won’t travel far.
Those behind these convoys say they are protesting COVID-19-related mandates, especially vaccine mandates. Presumably, they assume that concern will resonate loudly with their fellow Americans.
Check the Polls
But the polls tell us the most pressing issues for the majority of Americans cover a range of key concerns that never go away, ranging from economic concerns — pocketbook issues — to long-term social issues like climate change.
The road-tripping to Washington and any protests that may be staged there will be overshadowed by news on Americans’ growing concern about inflation (and now also the surging price of crude oil); the ups and downs of the economy; cutting healthcare costs; winding down COVID-19 restrictions; effecting climate change; improving racial justice; protecting elections from fraud; and seeking bipartisan action in these issues from politicians.
Not to mention headlines and newscasts dominated by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as what Biden might say in his SOTU and how the speech will be received.
Add in the fact that a solid majority of Americans now condemn the Jan. 6, 2020 attack on the U.S. Capitol and they’ve got a mountain of baggage to plow through to hope to sell their brand of populist action.
And then there’s the lesson that these so-called pro-trucker groups should have absorbed before hitting the bricks: The abysmal failure of a shocking — mainly because it was happening in stolid Canada — convoy that parked itself in the center of a capital city and tried to seize an international bridge.
The collapse of that multi-location illegal seizure of roadways and other public and private infrastructure revealed that the leaders were acting in bad faith by stealthy attaching their far-right agendas to the workaday concerns of everyday citizens who happened to be truck drivers.
As it was in Canada, the rallying cry for the U.S. convoys is anger over COVID-19 mandates. This despite pandemic restrictions already being rolled back as the number of new cases is ebbing across the country.
The Real Driver?
But are COVID-19-related mandates the real driver of these protesters? Not according to the news. “Though it was billed as a grass-roots, nonpartisan event intended to oppose government COVID-19 mandates, a trucker demonstration that left California for Washington, D.C., [on Feb. 23] appeared to be tightly aligned with far-right organizations and activists,” reported The New York Times.
With last January’s storming of the Capitol still top of mind, authorities in the Washington, D.C. area are taking all possible precautions to keep any of these wheeled activists from going beyond their constitutional right to protest.
Indeed, convoy organizers have threatened to clog the Capital Beltway in the days and weeks ahead. One of the leaders went so far as to declare in a TV interview that one aim is to shut down the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) this week. "I'll give you an analogy of that of a giant boa constrictor," Bob Bolus told FOX5 TV. "That basically squeezes you, chokes you and it swallows you, and that's what we're going to do the D.C."
Going beyond merely monitoring the convoys, a request by the U.S. Capitol Police and other Washington, D.C. officials for help from the National Guard with potential truck driver protests was granted on Feb. 22.
Some 700 National Guard troops, about 400 from Washington, D.C., and up to 300 from outside the district, will "provide support at designated traffic posts, provide command and control, and cover sustainment requirements" through March 7, per a National Guard statement. The mission includes a provision for “50 large tactical vehicles to provide support at designated traffic posts around the clock no later than Feb. 26.”
Not surprisingly, trucking interest groups are not endorsing these convoys. In a statement, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear minced no words: “ATA strongly opposes any protest activities that disrupt public safety and compromise the economic and national security of the United States.”
He added that the trade group will “continue to advocate on behalf of our members for policies that enable the industry to keep the supply chain moving, and we’ll do so in ways that do not hinder the safe and timely flow of commerce that everybody depends on."
What’s more, referring to a “trucker convoy” starting in California this week and driving through Arizona on its way to Washington, D.C, Arizona Trucking Association President and CEO Tony Bradley stated bluntly that, “It appears that political operatives are attempting to organize truckers by encouraging them to protest via a convoy by paying truckers for their participation.
“As our counterparts across the country have done, the Arizona Trucking Association condemns any activities that disrupt public safety and compromise the economic and national security of the United States,” he continued.
Bradley also took the air flat out of their tires by observing, “There is no vaccine mandate in the United States because the American Trucking Associations federation stood up and challenged the OSHA rule all the way to the Supreme Court. We won, it’s over. What is there to protest?”
“It is critical that truckers continue to deliver food, supplies, equipment, medicine, materials, and hope as we have done during times of crisis and during normal times. We will continue to fight injustice and overbearing government regulations when appropriate without disrupting the free flow of commerce that the people depend on.
He added that “we condemn any political organization that attempts to profit off the good will that hardworking truckers have established for their own political gain or purposes. Their actions are shameful and self-serving.”