The power of public protest has had a much more significant impact on the American social structure and cultural consciousness than offered by James Beach in his article “Conservatives May Be Wrong; But They Do It Right” (Daily Nexus, Feb. 11). Beach mentions how left-wingers just protest on Saturday mornings while right-wing interest group members dedicate their career for their political agenda. Most of us actually have to work. It’s hard to materially recognize the change caused by protest in contrast to an interest group donating money. However, protest does have its effects.
Beach supports the politicians who have “slowly bided their time, slowly working their way up the social ladder and are now in power and ensuring the country is being run the way they would like it to be.” These political people who have supposedly pulled themselves up from by their bootstraps have had a huge difference in opportunity compared to most people. Many big-time politicians including our president, Dick Cheney and even John McCain have some extraordinary backgrounds. They all happen to be white men with wealthy families and a college education. Our president didn’t slowly work his way up the social ladder. He was born into the Bush mega-family where his daddy was president and head of the CIA, and his granddaddy had strong ties with some of the U.S.’s largest companies and secret societies. While President Bush is an extreme political example, many politicians and their support network of interest groups and bureaucratic organizations have had military, political or business history in their family past.
The men in power have wielded this power since the days of slavery and will continue to dominate for who knows how long. Call them the Marxist bourgeois landowners, or the conspiratorial Skull and Bones secret societies; I simply think of them as the ones who got lucky first, and maintained their power through exploitation of others. They didn’t gain their political power from hard work. They gained it from having others work for them.
While protesters might not be completely engrossed in politics, they do make a difference. During Vietnam, public protests helped the nation understand the problem of going to war without clear goals and an exit strategy. The social workers, professors and protesters who informed others about the problems in Vietnam gave shape to a national opinion. Public opinion mobilizes under conditions of protest. That’s why Nixon ran under a plan to stop the war.
Protests by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, sit-ins, marches on Montgomery, Alabama, and even riots in inner cities had a huge influence during the civil rights movement. Protests opened the eyes of the world to the images of police brutality against innocent nonviolent protesters. These protests led to a change in both people’s awareness of racism and the legislation behind it. Protesting helps make a difference. This difference is not always easy to measure in any direct link between protest and policy change, but sometimes society has an influence on political institutions instead of the other way around.
So when James Beach says, “It is time we learn from the successes of the right wing and begin to use the ways and means they have so carefully set up to help,” we need to not forget that these means are set up to help ensure that these people remain successful. For those who are not as fortunate to be born so heavily invested in the system, protest proves to be another method of creating social change.
Travis Galdieri is a senior business/economics major.