Thousands attend Saturday’s Women’s March on Austin, joining other movements across the country to stand up for civil rights protecting a wide range of constituencies including women.

Austin American-Statesman — Ralph Barrera

More than a million women and the men who love them took to the streets of locales ranging from frigid Fairbanks, Alaska, to Austin (with a reported 50,000) to Washington, D.C., Saturday, nearly eclipsing the inauguration of a president they vow to resist vigorously. But beyond expressing outrage at Donald Trump’s arguably misogynist words and deeds and concern about issues such as health care, voting access and civil rights, what does all this civil uproar signify? Does it have any lasting impact in terms of policy and the law?

Certainly, women’s marches nationwide make clear that the new president best get past his boorish obsession with whether his Inauguration Day crowd was bigger than Barack Obama’s. And these marches make clear that, for all the president’s rants to the contrary, numbers are numbers — and while the Electoral College tally fairly decrees him our president, the fact remains far more people across our land voted for someone else.

If he’s a wise leader, Trump will pay close attention to what many marchers are saying, recognize he has a serious rift with many women and minorities and fold at least some of their thoughts and priorities into his initiatives as part of an effort to heal this polarized land. That would neatly underline his vow to represent all Americans. That’s what a shrewd businessman would do about his customer base.

Demonstrations are terrific for TV, but if the people who took part in these want to ensure their ideas go from seed to tree, they should consider the striking success of the tea party. The real work is boning up on issues. The real work is taking seriously state legislative seats. The real work is learning whether your state legislator is even working for your priorities or against them. Same for your congressman. The real work is going to town-hall meetings regularly and respectfully offering thoughts and questions.

And if your legislator or congressman doesn’t hold town-hall meetings, you and your allies need to find out why.

And if you’re one of those who can only get pumped up during a presidential election year, you might as well pack it in. If you can’t name your state legislators at this very moment, you’re hardly prepared to mount any movement to transform the nation and mold hearts and minds of fellow citizens. True change doesn’t lie in just the White House but in legislative and judicial branches, federal and state.

Protesters also need to disassociate themselves at all levels from loose cannons such as Madonna, whose remark about blowing up the White House got plenty of headlines this past weekend but also hijacked marchers’ message and drew deserved condemnation. Letting such characters near any microphone might seem fun, but stupid rhetoric can also quickly undermine your nobler cause.