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George Lakey – Why Campaigns, Not Protests, Get The Goods

After the election there will be many things to protest, no matter who wins. This is the time to figure out how to amplify our power and maximize the chance of winning victories.

To do that, we can start by freeing up the energy devoted to one-off protests, rallies and demonstrations. When I look back on the one-off protests I’ve joined over the years, I don’t remember a single one that changed anything. The really spectacular failure was the biggest protest in history, in February 2003. I joined millions of people around the world on the eve of George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. We did get a huge front-page headline in the New York Times, but Bush only needed to wait until we went home.

The Times said the protest indicated a “second global superpower,” but the Times was wrong. A one-off protest is for venting, not for exerting power. I realized even at the time that the protest wouldn’t prevent Bush’s war, because the protest’s leadership didn’t tell us what we could do next, and how we would escalate after that.

Bush had a plan to persist. We did not. The peace movement never recovered in the years since, despite the American majority’s fairly consistent opposition to the war. Because of the poor strategic choice to mount a one-off protest, discouragement and inaction followed.

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