Juan Cole has a couple of really interesting posts up at the moment. In them, he argues that street protests are completely ineffective. Beyond a symbolic value, I tend to agree. However, he also puts forward his analysis of how the system works, and thus what effective action actually would be. In a nutshell, this is forming monetary lobby groups to challenge the wealthy/powerful single issue lobby groups currently operating unopposed. He argues that we need to target funding to those who will support our positions so that they can survive in the political environment. The bit that interests me is he takes as his model the fundraising of Obama, MoveOn.org, etc – open source, net based, lots of little contributions from real people to match single large contributions from front groups.
This relatively informal quote captures the perspective:
The US Senate and the US House of Representatives are not afraid of street protests in San Francisco. And why should they be? What sort of threat is it to them, that we say if they don’t change their legislation we will . . . walk in the street? Their response would be, “Make sure you have comfortable shoes; now, I have to see this nice lobbyist in my office in a thousand dollar suit and alligator shoes who has an enormous check for my current political campaign.”
The representative would say to us, “I want to be reelected. You cannot stop that by walking in the street, nor can you help me win by doing so. This televangelist from an Israel lobby, in contrast, is going to help me buy loads of television commercials dissing my opponents in the next election. And, if I don’t help the gentleman out, he’s threatening to give the money instead to my rival and unseat me. So you’ll forgive me if I turn my back on you and wish you well with your, uh, walking. But I’ve got an election to win, rather than to lose, and you are irrelevant to that task.”
His case study/prompt is the Israel lobby, and his numbers come from the American setting, but yeah, anyone interested in this area should check these posts out. (Here are links to the first post, and the followup.)
The point is, these things don’t exist, but they could easily exist.