Sunday, October 09, 2011

Leading by example

David Atkins points out how the Tea Party (however contrived and astroturfed) may have contributed to the rise of the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement by legitimizing protest as a means of political change. And it's worth highlighting that Canada has every reason to draw the same lessons from its own right-wing forces who would normally want to suppress any public activism - even if the story hasn't yet found its way into the public consciousness in the absence of the same constant promotion that the Tea Party has received.

Keep in mind that when faced with defeat at the hands of a democratically-elected majority in the House of Commons, the Cons publicly stated their willingness to attack the very foundations of Canadian governance in order to try to cling to power.

Yes, there were protests on both sides of the 2008 coalition showdown - which themselves served to signal the view that popular assembly has a place in shaping political outcomes. But it's even more striking that Stephen Harper's backup plan to cling to power involved "going over the head of the governor the Canadian people", reflecting both an expectation that mass protests could be assembled to keep the Cons in power, and a statement that such protests as a means of undermining Parliamentary processes would be an acceptable and viable political tool.

Of course, I'm sure the Cons would paint that as yet another example of IOKIYAC which doesn't apply to activism that doesn't support their political ends. But while a progressive protest movement shouldn't be as reckless as the Cons in its willingness to trade off long-term destruction for short-term political payoffs, it shouldn't hesitate to point to the Cons' example as an indication that citizens expressing their grievances through popular protest have an entirely legitimate role to play in reining in a government which refuses to listen to them through any other means.


  1. Yes, the Tea Party may have been a contributing factor but I think the Arab Spring uprisings have far more to do with the nature and the numbers of protests across North America in the name of OWS.

  2. And they certainly make for more of an example to emulate. But I do think it's also significant that the political forces which normally have the greatest incentive to stifle any popular activism have forfeited any credibility in doing so.