Gender Attitudes, Gendered Partisanship

Libby Sharrow, Dara Strolovitch, myself, Seth Masket, and Joanne Miller are pleased to announce the publication of our article “Gender Attitudes, Gendered Partisanship: Feminism and Support for Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton among Party Activists” today in the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy. The link is available here:

An ungated .PDF is available here:

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:

Quoted in Several Media Outlets About Conventions and Protest

Over the past two weeks, I attended the protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.  I spoke to many reporters about my observations and research.  Here are the articles that quoted me:—@kaxqOa4AlpGiX8ZvLoHVA/

Three Articles about the U.S. Party Conventions

I’ve recently published articles about the U.S. party conventions in the Washington Post (Monkey Cage) and Vox (Mischiefs of Faction).

Check them out 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.