In November, New York magazine published a fascinating article that didn’t get the recognition it deserved. Titled Why Some Protests Succeed While Others Fail and filed under its Science of Us blog, the story contained mind-blowing revelations about how best to cultivate and direct the anti-Trump energy that arose after the election.
First, let’s list the takeaways from the piece, as identified by the writer, Jesse Singal. These boil down to:
Use Trump to draw people in, but don’t make him your lasting focus. Otherwise, your energy and your momentum will evaporate along with him when he goes.
Welcome everyone who wants to protest with you, and make them feel welcome.
Don’t be violent.
The mind-blowing bits appear in the section where Singal discusses the second point, about the value of making people feel welcome. He cites the work of sociologist Ziad Munson, who has studied why people join and become increasingly active in causes such as the pro-life movement. Here are the mind-blowing bits, quoted in full (bold is added by OTYCD):
One of the key things he’s found, over and over and over, is that people often get involved in movements without having particularly strong ideological commitments to them.
Take the anti-abortion activists who were the subject of Munson’s book The Making of Pro-life Activists: How Social Mobilization Works. “I went back and I tried to determine what were their beliefs about abortion the first time they were involved in some kind of pro-life activity,” whether a protest in front of a clinic, the March for Life, or whatever else, he explained. “At that moment, only half of them would have considered themselves pro-life.” Moreover, a quarter “would have openly said they were pro-choice.” So why do they get involved? Someone asks them to. In one instance, for example, a woman’s eventually intense, long-term involvement in anti-abortion causes began simply because her doctor, whom she respected a great deal, asked her to come to an event. Prior to that, it just wasn’t something she had thought of.
Why is this mind-blowing? It shows you how much power you have.
You’re doing so much good work to push back against Trump. You have one more task to add to your To-Do List: Ask someone to join you in pushing back against Trump.
You don’t have to do it thisverysecond. But you should think about who you want to invite, and when, and what you want to invite them to do.
Maybe you ask them to go to a protest with you. Maybe you ask them to go to a League of Women Voters’ meeting with you. Maybe you ask them to phone-bank for a Democratic candidate with you. Maybe you ask them to go to a member of Congress’s next local town hall meeting with you. Maybe you ask them to write and stamp postcards with you.
Whatever works. Whatever makes sense. Just do it.
Then keep doing it. Keep inviting other people–especially those who like you and trust you–to join you in pushing back against Trump.
Keep doing it until Trump is gone and we’ve cleaned up all the wreckage he’ll leave behind.