If right-wingers held a “March for Economics,” progressives would be justifiably peeved that the topic insinuated they are idiots.

On June 3, 1916, tens of thousands of Chicagoans marched through the city’s streets to support “preparedness,” or the idea that the U.S. military should be ready for eventual engagement in the First World War. Official crowd counts put the number of parade participants at more than 130,000 — The Chicago Daily Tribune newspaper boasted that that made the parade the largest in American history. “Surely every one of the marchers went home last night a better American,” noted the paper.

At the same time, preparedness marches were occurring all over America — but the Chicago parade was particularly of note, as it directly preceded the Republican National Convention that was about to kick off just blocks away from where the parade was held. And just days later, the first women’s political party was formed, with a large march scheduled in Chicago’s streets on the day the convention began. While 30,000 marchers were expected, only 5,000 showed up to demonstrate in the driving rain. (In order to recruit marchers, the suffragists hired a parrot that they trained to say things like “Polly’s going to march” and “Polly wants a vote.”)

These were the days when marching for a cause may have been at its most effective. The demonstrators pushed for a single, identifiable goal. They were organized and clear about their aims, and tried to persuade rather than insult. (Although dissent wasn’t necessarily tolerated — several people on the preparedness parade route were arrested in their own homes for posting anti-war signs in their windows.)

Contrast those demonstrations with today’s protests in which people march in favor of vague concepts like “women” and “science.” In the past when protests were specific, people marched for things you could oppose, like preparing the military for war or granting voting rights to women (and many did.)

But the lexical shift towards generality now tries to put the theme of these events out of the reach of criticism. Who opposes “women?” Or denies that science is important? Or believes that black lives don’t matter? If any local town held an “anti-women’s” march, it would be a national public embarrassment (as well as a sub-optimal place to find a date.)

Of course, the whole purpose of naming these marches after amorphous concepts is to throw shade at your ideological opponents. Marching in favor of “science” presumes your political opponents don’t believe in it. In the most passive-aggressive way possible, it tries to demonize non-participants while pretending to be pushing something universally accepted. If right-wingers held a “March for Economics,” progressives would be justifiably peeved that the topic insinuated they…