Parties, not protests, drive social change
RE: Greg Fingas “Early protests act like light in the darkness”
When I read Greg Fingas’s opinion piece, “Early Protests Act Like a Light in the Darkness,” I was reminded of David Brooks’ column two days earlier in the New York Times. He too acknowledged that the women’s marches protesting Trump’s inauguration were a success and an important cultural event, but he goes on to remind us that although sometimes social change happens through grassroots movements — the civil rights movement being an example — most of the time change happens through political parties, and without the discipline of political parties social movements devolve into mere feeling. People march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. They have a social experience with a lot of people and fool themselves into thinking that they are members of a coherent and demanding community. Such movements descend into the language of grievance and mass therapy. In short, identity politics is too small to address the gravity of our political predicament.
Brooks cites a complimentary piece run in the NY Times on Nov. 18, 2016, “The End of Identity Liberalism” which became one of the paper’s most read articles. In it, Mark Lilla calls for a post-identity liberalism to focus attention on the main political responsibility in a democracy: to form committed citizens aware of their system of government and the major forces and events in our history. Political parties do just that. They are social but demanding of members to debate policy and most importantly to work in the electoral process to win a place at the legislative table. It’s not as sexy as taking to the streets and demanding licence to scream at the top of your lungs.
There is a byelection pending in my riding of Meewasin. I will be door-knocking in support of the Liberal candidate, who also happens to be the party leader, Darrin Lamoureux. Some of my neighbours will be on either side of my political stance and their doors will close pretty quickly, but there will be conversations and probably some civil debate too. There won’t be any shouting. Michael McAteer, Saskatoon