Following hard on the surprising election of Donald Trump, marches and protests have taken place across the United States and, indeed, across the world. Beginning with the Women’s March, which took place the day after the inauguration, and which saw record crowds in almost all the areas in which it took place, most of these marches have been buoyed by a spirit of hope and connection. The march in Nashville, Tennessee was described by the Tennessean as follows:
“About 15,000 people marched in downtown Nashville Saturday in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. Middle Tennesseans marched for one mile from Cumberland Park to Public Square in support of a myriad of social justice issues, including women’s rights, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, environmental justice and access to health care.” The Tennessean, Jan. 21, 2017
Since that march, other events have taken place, including town hall meetings with legislators, such as the one held on February 21, 2017 with Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R).
The question for me is this: Does any of this matter?
Andreas Madestam, Daniel Shoag, Stan Veuger, and David Yanagizawa-Drott say that it does. In a paper quoted below, “Do Political Protests Matter, Evidence from the Tea Party Movement,” the authors suggest the following:
Can protests cause political change, or are they merely symptoms of underlying shifts in policy preferences? We address this question by studying the Tea Party movement in the United States, which rose to prominence through coordinated rallies across the country on Tax Day, April 15, 2009. We exploit variation in rainfall on the day of these rallies as an exogenous source of variation in attendance. We show that good weather at this initial, coordinating event had significant consequences for the subsequent local strength of the movement, increased public support for Tea Party positions, and led to more Republican votes in the 2010 midterm elections. Policymaking was also affected, as incumbents responded to large protests in their district by voting more conservatively in Congress. Our estimates suggest significant multiplier effects: an additional protester increased the number of Republican votes by a factor well above one. Together our results show that protests can build political movements that ultimately affect policymaking, and that they do so by influencing political views rather than solely through the revelation of existing political preferences.
- Madestam, et. al. The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2013) 128 (4): 1633-1685
The authors’ analysis shows that protests increased the turnout in the following congressional elections. Thus, protests and marches DO affect legislators and affect turnout. Keep on marching – but don’t forget to do the work of organizing and getting out the vote!
About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:
Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.” Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com
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