is the democratic party the graveyard of social movements?

The main theoretical argument of Party in the Street is that when movements and parties overlap, the movement will collapse if the party moves on to other issues. We saw it in the antiwar movement and now we might see it again post-2018.

After Trump’s election, we saw the rise of two movements tied with the Democratic party. One is the broadly titled “#Resistance” movement and then you have more focused ones like the March on Science or the Women’s March. What do they have in common? An overwhelming majority of participants are Democrats. What about March for Science? Dana Fisher’s work shows a very high proportion of Democrats. The March for Science people aren’t just Democrats, they are overwhelmingly Clinton Democrat (e.g., 84% had voted for Hillary Clinton).

So we now have a test. If the Democrats win the House in 2018 and the Presidency in 2020, the party in the street theory predicts that events like March for Science will dwindle in size. As movement actors shift into government jobs and party activism, the specific issues will likely get swallowed up and protest events will shrink.

The bigger point is this for the Democratic party. In the decades following 1968, we’ve seen a number of movements attach themselves to the Democratic party with mixed results. Some movements have succeeded in shaping the course of the party. For example, the Democratic Party is strongly pro-choice. But a number of other movements have been stymied. These would include civil rights activists, labor unions, antiwar activists, and immigration reformers. In these cases, a particular movement got absorbed into the coalition, but the party has often put their interests on hold.

The Trump presidency offers a new opportunity to test the idea that the Democratic party swallows up movements as whales swallow plankton. You know my prediction: the March for Science, and other heavily Democratic leaning groups, will be deflated if the Democrats win in 2018 and 2020.


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Written by fabiorojas

November 6, 2018 at 5:25 am

Posted in uncategorized

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