The Associated Press has a story up today asking if the anti-Trump protests around the country will become a movement. The story itself suggests the answer is no:
At this early stage, the protesters who have taken to the streets to brand Trump a bigot and a sexist and chant “Not my president!” appear to be mostly venting their frustrations and do not seem to have coalesced behind overall leaders or a common set of demands.
Columbia University professor Todd Gitlin, who as an early leader of Students for a Democratic Society helped organize an anti-Vietnam War demonstration that brought thousands to Washington in 1965, said the anti-Trump protests by themselves “are not the makings of a movement.”
“A movement requires that clusters of people take responsibility for creating vehicles that can carry through, focus energy, develop priorities, strategize, recruit, figure out how to govern themselves,” Gitlin said.
The left is undeniably good at street theater but if recent history is any indication, it’s not very good at turning that energy into goals, much less actual change. In 2011 the Occupy movement was described as the most important social movement in decades. They generated lots of marches and lots of sympathetic media but the movement wound up being an embarrassment to its own cause with incidents of vandalism, violence, drug overdoses and even rape at various tent encampments. After a few months, city Mayors got tired of the problems and the filth and cleaned out the camps. Occupy made an effort to come back from the dead in the spring of 2012 but were once again embarrassed when the FBI arrested members who were plotting to blow up a bridge in Cleveland.
The next big left-wing movement was Black Lives Matter. This group has lasted longer than Occupy but has also embarrassed itself by embracing politically convenient claims that turned out not to be true (“Hands up, don’t shoot,” Sandra Bland was already dead when her mugshot was taken). As with Occupy, the movement hit a wall of public opposition after individuals who shared the group’s outrage about the treatment of black men by law enforcement (but who disdained the group’s peaceful protest tactics) resorted to violence. Five police officers were killed in Dallas and another three in Baton Rouge a few days later.
The anti-Trump protests are still gearing up. Their first peak of activity will likely come in January around the time of the inauguration. How long can they continue? That probably depends on how long it takes someone ideologically connected to the protests to take things too far. Already there have been scattered cases of people mentioning assassination on social media. If that anger boils over into an actual attempt on Trump’s life (again) then Americans will turn their backs on the protesters.