Politics  •  January 24, 2017

Do Public Demonstrations Still Work?

Public demonstrations, like the Women’s March that took place last weekend, may no longer have the same impact they used to. They are appealing because they can inflate the impact each person can make. By uniting, through the effect of synergy, the overall impact of a public demonstration becomes greater than the sum of its parts. This has worked well in the past but the last election changed it.

The excitement over the Women’s March is reminiscent of the excitement over the prospect of the first female president in 2016. People were so excited that everyone assumed Clinton’s victory, not just the Democrats, the Republicans too. Trump himself apparently assumed; he wasn’t prepared for the victory party. Since a public demonstration or media hype is not a formal or official political process, its impact is limited to the emotional and psychological realm. After the official counting of the votes, we realized that the excitement was grossly overestimating Clinton’s strength. That is, we learned how badly we can get carried away by emotional excitement.

If we learned our lesson from that, we should know better now than to get carried away again by a public demonstration no matter how exciting it may be. Given that even the Republicans were fooled by the excitement over Clinton, they now have a legitimate reason to ignore any emotional excitement in public demonstrations or the media.

So, what are we to do?

What we need is a technology-driven direct democracy. If we can vote directly on all the major issues, bypassing the politicians, there is no need for public demonstration or display of emotional excitement. We just take out our phones and vote. We would then know what people want.

Given how easy it is to disseminate and collect information, it makes no sense in this day and age to cede our power to a representative who votes against our interest on many issues (because it’s a package deal). When we vote for politicians, we end up voting for their personalities, not for the issues.

For us to be politically effective today, we cannot just keep repeating the same tactics that have worked in the past. I think we need to imagine a boldly different strategy.