Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

7 Thoughts on “The Expiring Cultural Power of Mass Protest Movements

  1. Brilliant! I’ve heard over and over, that the anti-war movement died after 2006. This provides the clearest explanation – it was co-opted. I would only add that politicians can ignore their own voters as well after they have been co-opted.

    The protests become victims of their success. Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather be a victim of success than just a victim. I hope the current Arab protest movements achieve some lasting, institutional change before they fade away.

  2. Provocative thoughts. I’m not sure that I completely agree, but I want to think more about this argument.

    But if that’s true, a question: Did or did not the Tea Party protests in 2009 have an impact on the shape of the Health Reform Legislation that ultimately passed the Congress — in the form of creating pressure that led Congress to drop the more progressive elements like the Public Option and Medicare reimbursement for advance directives?

    If they didn’t, then why did Congress cave on those elements. If they did, then does that undermine your thesis?

    And finally, assuming your thesis is accurate — what takes the place of mass protests to effect social change? I don’t think you’re suggesting that they should move to threats of violence 🙂

  3. DSD…

    I don’t think I agree with the premise of your comment… that the Tea Party movement signifcantly affected the actual legislation that was passed… I think we got about as good a Healthcare Bill as we could have gotten, and the things you mentioned us not getting were far more the result of healthcare insurance industry pressure than they were the “Tea Party”… with the possible exception of the Advance Directive (Death Panel) counseling, which was more Fox News than the Tea Party.

    Yet, the Tea Party is in some ways a case in point for my argument. I believe we are seeing the power of the Tea Party protest movement expire before our eyes. Remember that it seemed “new” and “counter-cultural” when the Tea Party first appeared. Now, it has become part of the norm. Republicans have tried to co-opt it… to become its leaders. Democrats have learned to ignore it.

    The result is that Tea Party protests are now a set-piece performance, understood in the political landscape for Republican ends. People say that the “conservative” swing of the Republicans is because of the Tea Party, but I dont buy that. The Tea Party is being used as cover for the corporate interests that are really behind the newly conservative Republican Party.

    As far as what comes next… the lesson I take from this theory is that to affect social change, a movement must be counter-cultural, and not part of the understood political landscape. It must shock the political establishment. What that is probably depends upon the moment.

    And we’ll see….

    Yours in Faith,


  4. I see your point, although I still reserve judgment on the overall conclusion.

    Here’s an unverified factoid: Reportedly, governors in IN, OH, FL and MI have backed off from provisions to gut colletive bargaining in their states. If that’s accurate, can perhaps the Wisconsin insurrection (I really don’t think that’s hyberbole) be credited with leading them to at least delay such efforts? I realize it may be too soon to pass judgment on this question, but I throw it out there for consideration…

  5. I know I might be called a dreamer, but I still write letters to Senators, Congressman and people in power, and I believe that one person can make a difference in writing a thoughtful letter, when that is multiplied a number of times, perhaps by a number of people, possibly is more effective than a movement of form letters set up on the internet–which is one form of peaceful movement in which I have little faith. Putting original thought and effort into something is worth more than putting one’s rubber stamp on something in terms of value. Just an aside–violence is not the key people think it is– I think one reason our “violent revolution” in the U.S. formed a better country than some violent revolutions is that so much more thought, negotiations, planning, diplomacy, economic planning and discourse went into making our country than a short overthrow. We became a good country despite the violent character of our beginning, not because of it.

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