For more than two years we have had to watch and listen to hundreds of protests against President Donald Trump. Protest have become so common that one could say, “Protests are the American Way.” Do you remember, the day Trump was inaugurated, millions protested not only in the USA but around the world.
Do these protests matter?
A study from Harvard University and Stockholm University finds that protests can have an impact on policy but not how you might think. The research showed that they have influence by getting more people involved in politics.
According to the book The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism, most of the people who showed up at rallies where there for the first time. The Tea Party succeeded at getting millions of people involved in a powerful populous movement. A couple of years later we saw the same thing with the Occupy Movement. Once again millions of got involved in politics for the first time.
Looking at the research we can see that the bigger the rally in a district, the larger the voter turnout on election day. The researchers argue that the protest itself has little to no effect on policy. What the protest does is motivate and invigorate the attendees and their friends. Suddenly people who normally don’t vote are pushing everyone they know to get out and vote.
Change the politician and you change policy. At least in theory. Unfortunately, most politicians elected thanks to a protest, only get one term in office. It would seem that emotional voting leads to weak candidates and policy.
Another interesting note.
Congress seems to respond to protests with great sound bites. Trump on the other hand uses the many protests against him to bolster his own base. In areas with big anti-Trump protests, we are seeing more and more Trump supporters. The current wave of protests seem to be designed to get congress to start impeachment proceedings. Most experts agree, a move to impeach Trump will result in 4 more years of Donald Trump. I wonder if the protesters are considering this possibility.