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The Viability of Protest Politics | The Nation

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The Notion

Unfiltered takes on politics, ideas and culture from Nation editors and contributors.

The Viability of Protest Politics

I liked Richard's treatment of the New School occupation. I'm not sure what is in me, or our culture, or the generational attitudes of post-baby booms progressives, but I have a visceral cringe reaction to a lot of protest politics. I'm not quite sure why that is, though I suspect part of it has to do with being pretty skeptical about their efficacy. In my political life it's hard to think of mass protests, actions of civil disobedience playing a crucial role in any recent progressive victories. Indeed, some of largest and moving actions I've been around: the anti-war marches and the immigrant rights marches, were absolute successes as actions and expressions of a collective progressive political demand, but it's hard to say they succeeded.

But it's also hard to think that we're going to overcome the massive power of entrenched interests without some sustained collective form of politics in the streets. The longer I am in Washington, the more I know that to be the case.

That's part of the reason I've been so enthusiastic about A New Way Forward, which Zephyr wrote about here. Right now we have this strange situation in which there's a tremendous amount of frustration, anger, rage, and populist backlash in the country, but none of it organized enough to make concrete demands.

There's a vacuum in our politics that some kind of mass protest movement might fill, but I just don't know a) what it will look like b) whether it would simply meet the same fate as the anti-war and immigrants' rights movements. Thoughts fellow Notioners?

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