Have you noticed all the huge antiwar demonstrations in the last twelve months? Yeah, me neither. It turns out that a lot of the energy for the movement seems to have been provided by Democrats who are a lot less worried about wars conducted by Democratic presidents. Or at least who believe that advancing the Democratic agenda is much more important than trying to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is by no means the whole movement–but it was enough that once a Democrat took office, both the numbers at the demonstrations, and the organizational capacity of the movement as a whole, dwindled away to near-nothingness…

Overall, this work seems to hold out pretty dismal hopes for the transformative power of mass movements, at least when partisanship is high. Movements that lose steam whenever the White House changes hands are unlikely to effect any lasting change. For one thing, it means that the protests are exclusively targeted at people who are very unlikely to care (because the people at the protests are, by and large, the people who would never vote for them anyway.) And a presidency–or what’s left of it–is a pretty short time to achieve meaningful shifts in policy.