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It's easy to get disillusioned with mass protest. Did it stop the invasion of Iraq? Has it ended the war against Afghanistan? Is the current "occupation" of Wall Street really likely to end the power of the bankers and overthrow capitalism?

But a recent interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might shed a little light on the subject for those with a negative view:

"The question is," Williams asked, "what made you think [as an ACLU lawyer arguing a case before the Supreme Court] you could get the court to overrule over a century of precedent (regarding women's rights)?"

"The times," Ginsburg said. "The court is a reactive institution. It's never at the forefront of social change. There's always a movement in society that's pushing the court. By 1970, the women's movement was revived, not just in the United States, but all over the world. It was an issue that people cared about."

So there you have it, from the mouth of a Supreme Court Justice. Here, she's talking about the effect of the people, as expressed through mass movements, on the Supreme Court, but precisely the same thing is true of Congress. It is the people who make change, not the Court and not the Congress.

Stay in the streets!

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    Eli Stephens
    Left I on the News
    "Stand Up, Fight Back!"

    by elishastephens on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 10:29:21 AM PDT

  •  It's (0+ / 0-)

    not a question of negativity, if someone's striving to seem like a 'positive' person at any cost, they're likely to miss appropriately cynical details like revolution sells.

    What's going to happen when this isn't sexy anymore, and people aren't getting the results they expected in two weeks (about the current media cycle for a 'big' story)?

    Will the disillusionment carry over into the election?

  •  Union busting (0+ / 0-)

    There were pretty massive protests in Ohio after the statehouse Republicans passed a union-busting bill earlier this year. We got over 1 million signatures for a ballot issue to repeal that law and are on track to repeal it about 5 weeks, come election day.

    These protests were made up of a broad cross-section of the population (unlike current "occupations") and many more signed on to the effort.

    So there's one example where it (fingers crossed) will play out for the good.

  •  As Daniel Ellsberg Points Out, While Mass Protest (0+ / 0-)

    did not end the Vietnam war, it did convince Nixon to stop preparing to nuke the north.

    But it's also worth pointing out that moral protest has never been a major populist force in bringing change. Most of the activity from periods of protest was seriously impolite, including people forcing their way into unjustly forbidden places, boycotts, strikes, and denials of service.

    Moral protest if it ever pushed a cause over the top, was icing on the cake.

    Broad liberal governance beginning with the New Deal was not brought about by people protesting or striking for such a deep change in governing philosophy. They disrupted foreclosure auctions, they struck or rioted at factories, the marched on Washington demanding their World War bonuses early.

    It was elites in elected government who crafted that broad liberal governing response to many kinds of individual popular demands and actions.

    Our problem today traces to elites changing their minds and steadily repealing liberal governance as a broad practice across many areas of the economy, but that leaves no obvious points of attack for strikes, boycotts and such. Unions are picketing and petitioning where they face specific government attacks, and we see minorities occasionally march or strike when a focused threat faces them.

    This is where society is broken in a way it's never been been in living memory, the fact that there are no longer enough elites in the power structure in sympathy with the people.

    So for real masses of people to take to populist action, life is going to have to return to being very severe for most of us in order to recreate target injustices that are obvious and straightforward to attack.

    I wish I could see something more optimistic; maybe people will come along who can find a way to generate more populist force, or elect more sympathetic representatives.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 10:54:44 AM PDT

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