Par­ties, not protests, drive so­cial change

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - OPINION -

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

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