Edwin Amenta Reviews Party in the Street

Fabio Rojas and I are truly grateful to Edwin Amenta for an exceptionally generous review essay on Party in the Street in the journal Contemporary Sociology. The title of the essay, “Raising the Bar for Scholarship on Protest and Politics”, gives you a sense of how kind he has been. An excerpt is available here:


The ungated full text is available here:


Party in the Street reviewed in the Journal of American Studies

Party in the Street was reviewed by Say Burgin in the August 2016 issue of the Journal of American Studies.


Here is the review:

Heaney and Rojas provide a compelling way of understanding how the post-9/11 antiwar movement marshalled itself, framed its demands, and fizzled. In examining what they theorize as the “party in the street,” “the interaction between political parties and social movements” (7), they convincingly suggest that the extent of overlap, the strength of individuals’ or organizations’ partisan identification, and the level of support shown by politicians can spell promise or doom for movements.

At the crux of their study are two related suggestions: that political parties generally offer more effective points of identification than social movements, and that within the contemporary context of “high partisan polarization” (239) partisanship will often frame social-movement actors’ views of policy. Thus the fact that a Republican in the White House initiated the invasion of Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan meant that Democrat-identified organizations and individuals helped to grow the antiwar movement. Between and , peak years for the movement and Republican control of the White House and Congress, partisan identification was a primary motivation for roughly a quarter of antiwar protestors. However, this percentage was halved in – as Democrats took control of Congress, and during –, coinciding with President Obama’s first year in office, it dropped to percent. Thus “partisanship manifested as opposition to the Republican Party, rather than support of the Democratic Party” (107-8).

Despite the fact that Obama’s policies towards Iraq and Afghanistan represented continuity with rather than departure from Bush’s – a notion that people who strongly identified with the movement clearly saw – that Democrats began making decisions about the ongoing occupation of Iraq and war in Afghanistan made it more difficult for Democrat-identified persons to reconcile their antiwar and partisan sentiments. More so than individuals, coalitions like United for Peace and Justice and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism sought to capitalize on the Democratic capture of Congress, so partisan motivations were still strongly at work in organizations in 2007-8. Within the crowded context of antiwar networks, Heaney and Rojas’s research found that “four majority. Democratic groups” (MoveOn, Code Pink, the Democratic Party itself, and Impeach Bush) (142) were especially effective in these years. Yet with Obama’s election, Democrat-identified groups also “made decisions to pull back their antiwar involvement” (171).

Key to understanding why these demobilizations occurred, Heaney and Rojas suggest, is that any “party in the street” constitutes “intersectional” identities. When one’s party and movement interests (and identities) align, movements can make big gains. However, when these interests diverge, it becomes difficult to reconcile these conflicting aspects of one’s identity (e.g. how to be a Democrat dove and oppose Democrat-supported wars). Generally, the authors maintain, political parties win out. Hence Democrats threw a large “party in the street” in the mid-s but helped to ensure that the party of the following years was much smaller.

Compelling as this claim is, I was not convinced by the use of the concept of intersectionality here. Indeed, I fear the authors misused this concept because their discussion largely centered on competing and multiple identities. Intersectionality helps us to understand how relations of power “interlock,” to borrow the Combahee River Collective’s term, and how the process of such interlocking comes to shape individuals’ lives. However, Heaney and Rojas essentially distill intersectionality into the presentation of choice, the ways in which competing interests compel activists to decide which aspect of their identity is more important. In their analysis, “intersectional identities…were critical lenses through which actors interpreted events and decided where to focus their energy” (229, my emphasis). It is not that intersectionality, as a theoretical framework, dismisses notions of agency; it doesn’t, but it is reductive to distill it to such. So while it is crucial that we understand that activists choose to leave movements, it seems more apt to discuss this as a phenomenon of competing identities.

One of the most impressive aspects of Party in the Street is the sheer volume of research it entailed – “the largest survey of participants in a single social movement ever conducted” (103). Surely this feat is in part a product of Heaney and Rojas’s interdisciplinary teamwork, and they rightfully call for “more active collaboration between political scientists and sociologists” (242) to further elucidate the connections between party politics and social movements. I would urge that historical specificity also be taken into account. For while Heaney and Rojas’s account provides an important overview of the relationship between partisanship and movements, it also took on a timeless quality that ignored the character of the particular presidencies and parties that drove so much mobilization and demobilization. Surely such attention can only further our understanding of the significance of any party in the street.

University of Leeds

Say Burgin

Review by Réjean Pelletier in the Revue Française de Science Politique

Party in the Street, my book with Fabio Rojas, was reviewed by Réjean Pelletier in the Revue Française de Science Politique.

Here is the review:

Au cours des années 1990, on a souvent relié
le déclin du militantisme dans les partis
politiques à la montée des nouveaux mouvements
sociaux. Les militants des mouvements
sociaux, estimait-on, préfèrent défendre sans
compromis une cause unique, comme l’environnement,
plutôt que de s’impliquer dans un parti
politique où s’impose la nécessité de faire des
compromis face à la multiplicité des causes à
défendre. L’ouvrage du politologue Michael
T. Heaney et du sociologue Fabio Rojas s’inscrit
dans une démarche complètement opposée.

Party in the Street se définit essentiellement
comme le lieu des interactions, dans un espace
social, entre un mouvement social et un parti politique.
Plus précisément, ceux et celles qui s’identifient
à un parti politique et qui s’identifient en
même temps à un mouvement social forment le
« parti dans la rue ». Les auteurs ont donc voulu
analyser ces identités en interaction au sein du
mouvement anti-guerre aux États-Unis après les
attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Ils entendent montrer
que, dans cette période d’intense polarisation
entre les deux grands partis politiques qui dominent
la scène politique américaine, l’identité partisane,
démocrate en l’occurrence, a finalement dominé
l’identification au mouvement anti-guerre.

Le déclin du mouvement est tout simplement
le produit d’une multitude de décisions
individuelles d’activistes présents dans différentes
organisations coalisées dans le mouvement
d’opposition à la guerre. Comme l’identité
partisane l’a finalement emporté sur l’identification
au mouvement, ce dernier a commencé à
décliner avec l’élection d’une majorité démocrate
au Congrès à l’automne 2006 et, surtout, avec
l’élection du président Obama à l’automne 2008.
Pour le dire autrement, le déclin du mouvement
est dû aux démocrates qui quittent le mouvement
et non pas à des activistes anti-guerre qui
délaissent le Parti démocrate. En outre, le déclin
s’est amorcé avec le changement de parti au pouvoir
et non pas à la suite d’un changement de
politiques à l’égard des guerres en Afghanistan
et en Irak.

Ces conclusions jettent un éclairage nouveau
sur les liens entre l’identité partisane et l’identification
à un mouvement social. À la suite de nombreuses
enquêtes menées dans différentes villes
américaines parmi les opposants à ces deux
guerres, les auteurs ont pu tester différentes hypothèses.
Selon eux, l’identité partisane, essentiellement
démocrate, a joué un rôle important dans
le mouvement anti-guerre. Qui plus est, ces
démocrates étaient beaucoup plus motivés par
une antipathie à l’endroit des républicains et du
président Bush que ne l’étaient les non-démocrates.
C’est pourquoi, après l’élection d’une
majorité démocrate au Congrès américain et, surtout,
après l’élection du président Obama, lorsque
l’identité partisane et l’identification au mouvement
anti-guerre ont pu entrer en conflit, c’est
l’identité partisane qui l’a emporté chez ces démocrates
opposés à la guerre, et ce, même si la politique
extérieure du président Obama a été loin
d’être limpide à ce sujet. Ce qui fait dire aux
auteurs que plusieurs des acteurs du mouvement
anti-guerre ont alors considéré un changement
partisan comme synonyme d’un changement de
politique, ce qui n’était pas nécessairement le cas.
Cette domination de l’identité partisane chez les
activistes démocrates a conduit à une démobilisation
au sein du mouvement anti-guerre à partir
de 2007 : ces démocrates se sont ensuite mobilisés
davantage pour défendre des enjeux de politique
intérieure, comme la politique de santé du président

Délaissant les individus pour s’intéresser à la
coalition d’organisations qui composait le mouvement
social opposé à la guerre, les auteurs ont
pu montrer que les organisations liées au Parti
démocrate ou qui s’identifiaient à ce parti ont
joué un rôle important au sein de la coalition
anti-guerre, sans y avoir cependant exercé un
leadership prépondérant. Certes, la participation
des individus et des organisations était si profondément
intégrée qu’il était parfois impossible
de les séparer clairement. Cependant, les auteurs
ont pu montrer que les partisans démocrates
désireux de s’impliquer dans le mouvement ont
atteint un sommet en 2004-2005. Ce qui fut le
cas des organisations en 2007-2008 seulement,
soit au moment même où l’importance des
manifestations contre la guerre avait commencé
à décliner. Ces organisations identifiées aux
démocrates, après avoir gagné du terrain à la
suite des élections de mi-mandat de 2006, se sont
retirées de la coalition après l’élection du président
Obama. Pour ne citer qu’un exemple, le
désengagement de l’organisation MoveOn, liée
au Parti démocrate et emblème même de ce
qu’était le « parti dans la rue », a été un catalyseur
important de l’effondrement du mouvement
social en 2009.

Il en est de même au sein du Congrès américain
où ce sont les élus identifiés au Parti
démocrate qui ont composé le noyau de tout le
réseau opposé à la guerre, si bien que l’élection
d’un président démocrate a conduit à l’effondrement
simultané de l’opposition à la guerre aussi
bien au sein du Congrès que chez les activistes
et au sein des organisations, conduisant alors le
mouvement social à sa dislocation et à sa disparition
des écrans médiatiques.

Au total, cet ouvrage traite de la formation
et de la dissolution d’une alliance entre un mouvement
social et un parti politique durant une
période d’intenses polarisations partisanes aux
États-Unis. Surtout, il a montré que, lorsque
l’identité partisane et l’identification à un mouvement
social entrent en conflit, c’est l’identité
partisane qui l’emporte et qui conduit le « parti
dans la rue » à servir les intérêts du parti avant
les intérêts du mouvement social. Les auteurs ont
documenté abondamment dans leur ouvrage le
fait que l’effondrement du mouvement antiguerre
a été le résultat du désengagement des
activistes, des organisations, des élus et des
bailleurs de fonds, tous identifiés au Parti

Cet ouvrage apporte un éclairage nouveau, à
la fois théorique et empirique, sur la montée et le
déclin d’un mouvement social et nous force à
revoir les liens entre un parti politique et un mouvement
social, plus exactement entre les activistes
et les organisations qui sont liés à un parti et qui
se retrouvent en grand nombre dans un mouvement
social. L’identité partisane l’emporte-t-elle
toujours sur l’identification au mouvement
lorsque surviennent des changements politiques
importants ? C’est la question qu’on peut se poser
au terme de cette lecture. D’autres recherches
dans d’autres pays devraient apporter une réponse
plus définitive à cette question par-delà les
conclusions de cet ouvrage, par ailleurs fascinant.

Réjean Pelletier –
Université Laval (Québec)

Party in the Street reviewed by Lisa Leitz

Many thanks to LisaAnn Leitz for a wonderful review of Party in the Street (with Fabio Rojas), which appeared in the latest issue of the journal Mobilization: An International Quarterly (Vol. 21, No. 1, March 2016: 135-136).

Here is the review:

Most definitions of social movements involve distinguishing movements from political parties and advocacy groups or PACs. This holds true even though movements and these other political entities often engage in the same tactics (such as lobbying and voter registration), movements require parties to make state-level changes, and many participants work within both of these two fields. Understanding the ways that movements affect and are affected by formal politics is at the crux of much of the work examining political process/opportunity theories. Little of this work, however, has examined individuals (and organizations) as simultaneously identified with both types of organizations. Those who identify with a political party and a social movement constitute the “party in the street.” By considering movements and parties as identities, Heaney and Rojas examine these fields as not only competing over resources and issues, but also over loyalties from their shared members. Party in the Street puts forward “partisan mobilization theory” to illuminate why the election of elites supportive of movement goals leads to movement decline rather than success as political opportunity theory would suggest.

By examining the case of the antiwar movement in the United States after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Heaney and Rojas demonstrate the important role of Democratic Party affiliation in the growth and decline of antiwar activism. While the antiwar movement agenda and Democratic Party interests allied during the years of a Republican controlled Congress and President Bush’s presidency, Democrats’ gains beginning in 2006 led to a dramatic drop in both protest events against American military force used abroad and in the numbers of people who engaged in the antiwar movement. Movement leaders later used broad tactics and mobilization strategies during the “surge” in Iraq. However, political polarization about issues, candidates, and parties had reduced the proportion of Republicans in the antiwar movement and the ability of liberals to work with conservatives, even if they agreed about opposition to the war. All this led to movement decline. This was true even as public opinion about the war deteriorated. Heaney and Rojas demonstrate the decline occurred because individuals and organizations closely aligned with the Democrats left the movement and the activists that remained were divided between giving the Democrats a chance to make good on their promises about Iraq and a more radical element, whose messaging was less palatable to the public.

The sheer volume of hypotheses tested and the many methods used to address Party in the Street’s research questions are impressive. Heaney and Rojas expertly utilize interviews, participant observations, media and organizational materials, and surveys that allowed network and regression analyses to make the case that while people care about issues and their identification with social movements matter, so do their connections to traditional politics. As the authors explain, in the U.S. the strong two-party system limits the effects of movements, and many people have their feet in both party politics and movement activism in an effort to forward change. While the bulk of the analysis focuses on the antiwar movement in the U.S., they also provide suggestive evidence of links between movement mobilization levels for the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party that coincide with political party power variations.

Early chapters demonstrate that those invested in particular social or political issues have a right to be tired of the duplicity of politicians and party elites. The data presented here sadly demonstrates that, although many Democratic politicians professed an opposition to the Iraq War, their actions when in power were not different from Republicans on foreign policy. This supports a pessimistic view of politics where politicians lie to get votes, are incapable, due to bureaucratic and policy intricacies, to do anything on an issue, or simply unwilling to waste their political capital on the issue. Political optimists have reason to take heart in at least some of the books conclusions as well. While voter participation has declined in the U.S., people see their political actions as going beyond the ballot box and elections and are using the additional range of tactics, typically used by movements, to make their voices heard.

Heaney and Rojas are careful to address a wide variety of alternative explanations for many of their conclusions. However, there are a few places where critical readers may leave with more questions than answers. One of the questions that stayed with me, is whether they really have the data to conclude that identity salience was the deciding factor for declining attendance at and existence of antiwar actions. In their analysis of people who at any point identified as both peace activists and Democrats, the variables to represent each identity, declining involvement in antiwar activities and whether a person remains in the Democratic Party, are not equivalent. A decline in actions may or may not correspond with a decline in identity salience. Like research that breaks new ground, Party in the Street highlights issues worthy of further study. The defining conclusion of this book is that authors looking to examine social movements should not attempt to understand mobilization/demobilization—and likely most other movement factors—without examining organizational, coalitional, and individual ties to political parties (and other intersectional identity categories).

The compelling questions and clear, engaging style of this book could appeal to a wide audience of activists, politicos, and students in addition to scholars investigating social movements, democracy, and American politics. Individuals seeking political or cultural change must grapple with the competing allegiances that develop due to intersectional identities, an area still ripe for further research. This book suggests the need to further develop and test nuanced social psychological theories of mobilization and political decision making.

Review of Party in the Street by Pamela Oliver

A new review of Party in the Street is available now at the Journal of Politics. Thanks much to Pamela Oliver, Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for writing the review.


The punch line of Party in the Street is important and easy to state: much of the protest opposition to the war in Iraq and the broader US “war on terror” policies was fueled by Democratic Party partisans who stopped protesting after Democrats won significant electoral victories. This claim is important politically and empirically for people specifically interested in current peace politics, and it is important theoretically for people interested in the broader matter of the relations between social movements and political parties.

A collaboration between Michael T. Heaney, a political scientist, and Fabio Rojas, a sociologist, is particularly well suited to address this issue. Too often sociologists of social movements ignore party partisanship, while political scientists studying partisan identification too often ignore the role of sociological movements. Overall, this is a very fine book. It is well written, it thoughtfully engages a wide range of research and theory, and it subjects its arguments to hypothesis tests and investigations of alternative hypotheses. It links qualitative historical materials with quantitative analyses of survey data. It would be an excellent book to assign to graduate students (or even advanced undergraduates) both for its cogent theoretical arguments and for its methodological example of how to integrate multiple sources and types ofdata into a coherent argument.

The title, besides being a play on words, is meant to extend V. O. Key Jr.’s classic distinction between the party organization, the party in the electorate, and the party in government (Key 1942). The party in the streets is the party in social movements. Parties and movements need and useeach other, but they also have different imperatives. The core of the theoretical argument is that many protesters had dual identities: they were both antiwar activists and Democrats. Between 2002 and 2006, these identities reinforced participation, but after 2006, the identities conflicted and reduced participation.

Much of the empirical analysis in the book has appeared in print elsewhere but has been substantially rewritten and integrated for the book. This results in a cohesive whole that is more than the sum of its parts, as it demonstrates the tension between party and movement identification across several different realms.

Chapter 1 poses the question of the relation between movements and parties and provides a brief historical overview of both party development and antiwar movements in the United States. Especially relevant to the subsequent discussion is its demonstration that there was a low level of partisanship affecting antiwar sentiment in the 1960s and other earlier eras. Chapter 2 maps the empirical patterns around partisanship and antiwar politics in the 2000s, showing both that there was partisanship in antiwar sentiment among candidates and voters and that antiwar protests dropped precipitously after Democrats gained power, even though most of the war policies continued.

Chapter 3 develops the theoretical arguments about identities, drawing from the sociological literature on intersectionality that has been developed in the context of race, class, and gender dynamics but is here fruitfully modified to apply to this new setting. I found this chapter to be clearly written and accessible and also theoretically satisfying as it carefully explains the similarities and differences between concepts—for example, between intersectionality and crosspressures— and responds to potential objections to the arguments.

Each of the empirical chapters interweaves quantitative data with qualitative historical discussions, and each sets up hypotheses derived from the theoretical exposition which are tested with data, including descriptive statistics, simple multivariate regressions, and network analyses. Chapter 4 uses surveys of activists at antiwar rallies to explore individual level correlates of popular participation. The data show that initially high proportions of protesters both identified as Democrats and stated that opposition to Republicans was a significant motivation for protesting. The data also show a strong decline over time in the proportion of protesters who say they are Democrats and in anti-Republican sentiment as a motivation, with timing shifts that coincide with shifts in the partisan control of the federal government.

In chapter 5, Heaney and Rojas examine organizations, again using the lens of identity, but this time, organization identity. They classify organizations by the strength of ties to the Democratic Party and show how the coalitions and network structures of the movement changed over time. Four case studies reveal the dynamics of the decline period, in which activist cadre continued to try to mobilize protest but received less response. Organizations with close ties to Democrats pulled back on their antiwar involvement, partly in response to the right-wing opposition to the Obama presidency, which they did not want to amplify. Chapter 6 examines the legislative agendas (bill cosponsorship) of members of Congress, again showing that Congressional opposition to war policies was high when there was a Republican president and almost vanished in Obama’s presidency.

Chapter 7 briefly applies these ideas to other movements, including the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Tea Party was closely tied to the Republican Party and ebbed and flowed with Republican electoral success, while the Occupy movement lacked a strong partisan affiliation and the timing of its decline was uncorrelated with elections. Chapter 8 is a discussion and reflection on the broader issues of the study around how social movements fit into a landscape characterized by intense partisan polarization.

The general pattern of a decline in protests when “your” party is in power and a rise when “your” party is out of power is, I think, fairly well recognized among those who follow the ebbs and flows of protest waves in the United States and elsewhere but has not previously been theorized well, especially in light of the general idea of “political opportunity,” which would seem to predict the opposite pattern. Heaney and Rojas’s use of concepts like intersectionality to talk about the importance of both partisan identities and movement identities is an important theoretical contribution to untangling these relations.


Key, V. O., Jr. 1942. Politics, Parties, and Pressure Groups. New York:
Thomas Y. Crowell.