Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Michelle Goldberg notes that the streets in America are awfully quiet.
All over the world right now, outraged citizens are taking to the streets. Mass protests in Hong Kong have been going on for months.... For the last five days, hundreds of thousands of people have been marching against austerity and corruption in Lebanon.... In Chile, protests over a subway fare increase have exploded into a broader uprising against inequality.

These demonstrations are part of a global trend. “There has been in this decade a real rise in the use of mass protests in particular as a way to address grievances against governments around the world,” said Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard professor and co-author of “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” In fact, she said, in the last 10 years there have been more mass demonstrations calling for the removal of political leaders than in any decade since 1900.

So as Donald Trump’s sneering lawlessness and stupefying corruption continue to escalate, it’s confounding, at least to me, that Americans aren’t taking to the streets en masse.
This echoes a recent column from Goldberg's New York Times colleague David Leonhardt:
L.A. Kauffman, a historian of protest movements, has said that effective ones often throw “a monkey wrench into a process that was otherwise going to just unfold smoothly.” That’s the role that an outside game can now play in the impeachment saga....

So it’s time for a sequel to that first Women’s March — an Americans’ March, in which millions of people peacefully take to the streets to say that President Trump must go. And it’s time for a more intense grass-roots campaign directed at his congressional enablers....
But nothing's going on. Why? Because our electoral campaigns are too long.

There were demonstrations in the early days of the Trump administration because we'd just had an election and the results filled us with outrage and frustration. It would be four long years before we could vote again for a president, two years before we'd choose a Congress.

But much of the energy that went into demonstrating against President Trump in early 2017 eventually found its way into campaigns for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms. That went on for a year. Then, almost immediately, the energy went into presidential campaigns, which, in America, take a preposterous two years to complete.

So for three out of every four years, we think we're just on the verge of an election (for most of that time we aren't), and we believe that that the election could change everything (it doesn't -- in 2018, Democrats won the power to check some of the president's worst excesses, but he can still do a lot of harm, and even complete Democratic control, which could conceivably come after the 2020 elections, might leave us at the mercy of timid Democratic moderates, filibustering Republicans, a GOP Supreme Court, and right-wing media propaganda).

Maybe it makes no sense to demonstrate when an election is truly imminent, but at any other time it's well worth it. Think of the damage President Trump did in his first year alone. Now realize that he has more than a year to do damage before we get to vote on him again. So yes, we should take to the streets.

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