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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Where Is the Protest?

Although the United States has ended its direct combat role in Iraq, it maintains thousands of troops there, and a Monday rocket attack killed five of them. Americans are fighting in Afghanistan. And the United States is taking part in NATO operations against Libya, despite serious legal questions.

Our chapter on interest groups includes a discussion of protest as a political tactic. Although the Iraq War triggered protest activity between 2003 and 2008, it has tapered off. Why? In "The Partisan Dynamics Of Contention: Demobilization of The Antiwar Movement In The United States, 2007-2009," Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas report:

Changes in threats perceived by activists, partisan identification, and coalition brokerage are three mechanisms that help to explain the demobilization of the antiwar movement in the United States from 2007 to 2009. Drawing upon 5,398 surveys of demonstrators at antiwar protests, interviews with movement leaders, and ethnographic observation, this article argues that the antiwar movement demobilized as Democrats, who had been motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments, withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, if not policy success in ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The withdrawal of Democratic activists changed the character of the antiwar movement by undermining broad coalitions in the movement and encouraging the formation of smaller, more radical coalitions. While the election of Barack Obama had been heralded as a victory for the antiwar movement, Obama’s election, in fact, thwarted the ability of the movement to achieve critical mass.