Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scorning Voting, Protests Surge Globally

At New York Times, "As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe":
MADRID — Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheer a rural activist on a hunger strike. Israel reels before the largest street demonstrations in its history. Enraged young people in Spain and Greece take over public squares across their countries.

Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.

They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.

“Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,” said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. “We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.”
That's a really significant statement, for if voting is considered worthless by whole generations, it could signal a larger shift against democracy itself. Frightening on the one hand, and reflecting a spoiled ignorance on the other, it perhaps signifies a pop cultural fascination with the activist street. What explains this? It's not like we've had a particularly long period of economic dislocation. And the European situation is more drastic than what's happening stateside, so maybe that's not the best example of a widespread trend. Notice for example how the Wall Street protests drew scant participation, compared to the Wisconsin anti-Walker campaigns of earlier this year, as I noted: "The Revolution Does Not Appear to Be Brewing."

In any case, we've got the all-knowing political science establishment to the rescue. See Dan Drezner, "Do networks transform the democratic political process?" (At Memeorandum.) It's transnational issue activism.