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Snapshots of the Anti-War Movement

chicago dyke's picture

(updated with some interesting numbers about Republicans)

Sometimes I really wonder about the Academe...This study seemed shockingly mundane in its conclusions, but a couple of points are worth talking about.

The survey results from demonstrations in 2004 and 2005 showed that “40% of activists within the antiwar movement describe themselves as Democrats, 39% identify as independents (i.e. they list no party affiliation), 20% claim membership in a third party, and only 2% belong to the Republican party.”

I'm one of those "independents" because as much as I vote for Democrats (which is right now about 99.9999% of the time) I sit outside the party, happily, because it allows me to remain properly critical of it. Shy's formulation is my mantra: I am a progressive committed to progressive goals and values, not a party loyalist committed to electing Democrats. I suspect that's true of the 39% of those in the movement who are independent. I know that to meet my goals, I must first and foremost oppose the Republican party, but that doesn't mean I'm always happy with the Democrats I help elect.

Likewise, the researchers found that Democratic members of Congress “are more likely to meet with antiwar lobbyists than are Republicans, other things being equal.... Members of Congress who had previously expressed high levels of support for antiwar positions were more likely to meet with lobbyists than those whose support had been weak or nonexistent.”

The signature of the authoritarian Republican: don't sully your hands with actual contact with the Little People. Obey's recent faux pas was not that he failed to understand the supplemental bill or why it's our "best hope," it's that he was dismissive of those who wanted to work with him towards the goal of ending the war. Progressive get really, really pissed off when "progressive" Democrats act like authoritarian Republicans.

Other results were more interesting. Protestors who belonged to “at least one civic, community, labor, or political organization” proved to be 17 percent more likely to lobby. People who turned out for the demonstration after being contacted by an organization were 13 percent more likely to lobby – while those who found about the event only through the mass media were 16 percent less likely to go to Capitol Hill.

Academics are so amusing some times. Ahem, activists Yes, I spend a lot of time sitting on my butt in front of a computer, but I also make phone calls, go to meet ups and planning sessions, give time and money to groups working towards my goals, and go to protests when I can afford to. Ha ha, my roomate had to put me to bed last night, as I fell asleep in front of her TV, and I joked that it was the mind-numbing power of that medium which caused me to drift off in the chair instead of making it to bed. The purpose of the "mass media" is to put people to sleep, to make them feel happy and comfortable, and safe in the knowledge that the only thing they have to "do" is consume.

The contemporary antiwar movement has a “distinctly bimodal” distribution with respect to age. In other words, there are two significant cohorts, one between the ages of 18 and 27, the other between 46 and 67, “with relatively fewer participants outside these ranges.”

Each birthday added “about 1 percent to an individual’s willingness to lobby when all other variables are held at their means or modes,” report Heaney and Rojas in a paper for the journal American Politics Research. “We did not find that sex, race, or occupational prestige make a difference in an individual’s propensity to lobby.”

In conversation, Heaney also mentioned a provisional finding that they are now double-checking. “The single strongest predictor of lobbying was whether an individual had been involved in the movement against the Vietnam War.”

I'll use a gay slur here, and point out that today's "breeders" are more harried than ever, and this is probably the reason they can't get out and take part in the anti-war movement. You don't just risk being lumped in with the "crazies," you risk your job and home and standing in the corporate order...taking time off to drive to a protest requires money and serious effort, if you've got a family and a 9-5 sort of existence. So it makes sense to me that the young and the mature are the core of today's movement.

The fact that sex and race, etc. aren't big factors in the movement is also logical to me- we're all paying the price of this war. Minorities are more likely to be members of the working class who turn to the military as a career, so of course minority communities are feeling the effects in a personal way. But so too are working and middle class whites for whom there is a cultural tradition of service. I chalk up the diversity of the anti-war movement to the fact that there are so many new sources of information, and what I wished they'd focused upon more here is internet use- I'd bet that is a highly correlated factor.

As Heaney elaborated when we met, a great deal of the organizing work of the antiwar “party” is conducted by e-mail – a situation that makes it much easier for groups with a small staff to reach a large audience. But that also makes for somewhat shallow or episodic involvement in the movement on the part of many participants. An important area for study by political scientists might be the relationship between the emerging zone of activist organizations and the informal networks of campaign consultants, lobbyists, financial contributors, and activists” shaping the agenda of other sectors of political parties. “If they remain well organized and attract enthusiastic young activists,” write Rojas and Heaney, “then the mainstream political party is unable to ignore them for long.”

Sigh. The academic resistance to the Open Source/Blogger political movement remains in force. Hellllooooo! We're standing right here, folks. There are quite a few of us, and in case you didn't notice, this whole "constitutional crisis" we having over Gonzales et al....Jay Carney himself credits us for bringing it to the fore.

I'm sure four or five years from now there will be an Important Paper about that.

...and on the other side, this interesting view from Pew:

WASHINGTON -- Public allegiance to the Republican Party has plunged since the second year of George W. Bush's presidency, as attitudes have edged away from some of the conservative values that fueled GOP political dominance for more than a decade, a major new survey has found.

The survey, by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for People and the Press, found a "dramatic shift" in political party identification since 2002, when Republicans and Democrats were at rough parity. Now, half of those surveyed identified with or leaned toward Democrats, while only 35% aligned with Republicans.

What's more, the survey found the public attitudes are drifting toward Democrats' values: Support for government aid to the disadvantaged has grown since the mid-1990s, skepticism about the use of military force has increased and support for traditional family values has edged down.

Those findings suggest that Republicans' political challenges reach beyond the unpopularity of the war in Iraq and Bush.

"Iraq has played a large part; the pushback on the Republican Party has to do with Bush, but there are other things going on here that Republicans will have to contend with," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "There is a difference in the landscape."

A key question is whether those trends signal a broad and lasting change in the balance of power between the parties or just a mood swing that will soon pass or moderate. It remains to be seen whether Democrats can capitalize on Republicans' weakness and gain a durable position of political dominance.

"This is the beginning of a Democratic opportunity," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "The question is whether we blow it or not."

Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster, said he believed the Pew poll exaggerates his party's problems and that the situation will improve as attention shifts to choosing Bush's successor.

"Once we have new nominees to redefine the Republican and Democratic party in 2008, then we will have a far more level playing field than we have today," Ayres said.

But other Republicans believe such poll results signal a clear end to the era of GOP domination that began with President Reagan's election, continued when the party took control of Capitol Hill in 1994, and helped elect Bush twice to the White House.

"There are cycles in history where one party or one movement ascends for a while and then it sews the seeds of its own self-destruction," said Bruce Bartlett, a conservative analyst and author of a 2006 book "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted American and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."

"It's clear we have come to an end of a Republican conservative era," he said.

The Pew poll measured the views of 2,007 adults from Dec. 12 through Jan. 9. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The study of long-term shifts in political attitudes and values is part of series of periodic reports dating back to 1987.

The gap between Republican and Democratic identification, which Pew measured by counting people who are leaning toward one party or the other as well as those with a firm allegiances, is the widest spread between the parties since Pew began since the studies.

Although the gap between Republican and Democratic allegiances speaks to the GOP's current troubles, Kohut said that the shift mostly reflects the defection of independents from the party rather than a more favorable overall assessment of the Democratic Party.

The proportion expressing a positive view of Democrats has declined since January 2001 by six points, to 54%. But the public's regard for Republicans cratered during the Bush years, as the proportion holding a favorable view of the GOP dropped 15 points to 41%.

Republicans seem to be paying a price for a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the state of the country during the Bush years. Three out of 10 people said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the country--a 25-point drop in the last seven years.

While Republicans rode to political power calling for smaller government, support for government action to help the disadvantaged has risen since the GOP took control of Congress in 1994. Back then, 57% believed the government had a responsibility to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves; now 69% believe that.

On the other hand support for Bush's signature issue--a strong, proactive military posture--has waned since 2002, when 62% said that the best way to ensure peace is through military strength. Now, only 49% believe that.

On social issues, the survey found that support for some key conservative positions has edged down: The people who said they supported "old-fashioned values about family and marriage" dipped from 84% in 1994 to 76%.

Support for allowing school boards to have the right to fire homosexual teachers dropped from 39% in 1994 to 28% in 2007.


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Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I am a progressive committed to progressive goals and values, not a party loyalist committed to electing Democrats.

The party has the same constituency issues that the elected politicians have. Party management want loyalists to be live stage settings for the politicians and of course to give money. Party activists see the party as the formal means by which we attempt to get our goals into policy. We pass resolutions, hold rump meetings, run candidates for party posts, refuse to contribute for noticeable periods after bad decisions, and generally try to save party management souls. No, not as effective as we'd like, but more effective than waiting for the party to set the policy table to our satisfaction without our participation or for a savior third party to rise from the streets.

The conservatives quite effectively argued that individuals should be too pure to actually join organizations to work towards common goals. I think it's a mistake.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I've been dealing with seeds a lot lately, and this kinda jumped out:

“There are cycles in history where one party or one movement ascends for a while and then it sews the seeds of its own self-destruction,” said Bruce Bartlett

I don't think Bruce has tooken his English lessons quite seriously enough. Either that or I should give up messing with this potting soil and go get out my needle and thread before sewing these seeds...

/grammar geek, now with *Extra* Spelling Obsession!

(yeah, yeah, I know it was probably the reporter who quoted him and this wasn't a written statement...but still, transfer the sneer to said reporter and his/her editor if any. Sheesh.)