Activism comes in all shapes and sizes

  1. Environmentalism: In recent history, environmental movements have grown rapidly in numbers and membership as climate change becomes an increasingly worrying issue. These groups have consistently lobbied against actions that would potentially disturb the environment, e.g., Dakota Access Pipeline, Keystone Pipeline, and deforestation. With seemingly conflicting events such as the election of Donald Trump (whose policies and cabinet appointees in general seem to oppose environmentalism) and the Paris Agreement, environmentalist movements face a unique challenge moving forward.
  2. Black Lives Matter: Though America has gone through significant milestones regarding race relations such as the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racially charged conflicts still are commonplace in news cycles. In response to a number of African-Americans being wrongfully treated and in many cases killed, the Black Lives Matter movement arose and has since found itself embroiled in controversy due to radical methods and misunderstood messaging.
  3. Tea Party Movement: Shortly after Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the Tea Party arose as a political movement, taking its namesake from the Boston Tea Party in 1773, an event in which a few revolutionaries dumped British tea in response to Britain’s taxation without representation policy. The Tea Party initially arose in support of fiscally conservative policies and opposition of Obama’s more liberal policies, most notably the Affordable Care Act. In the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party proved itself to be very influential, with numerous Tea Party-backed candidates being elected into the House of Representatives and the Senate. At this time, the Tea Party was a significant force in American politics: the Republican Party seemed to be splitting into sects and large protests attracted the attention of many.

    The recent election of Donald Trump seems to suggest a repudiation of the Obama Administration’s work, as Obama’s chosen successor, Hillary Clinton, was not able to win a majority of the electoral college. Due to the divisive and controversial nature of the Trump campaign, many liberal-minded Americans are considering their options for how to prevent Trump’s vision for America from coming to fruition. One common saying calls for congressional Democrats to take a page from the “Tea Party playbook” and show the same strength of opposition to Trump that the Tea Party showed to Obama. I became interested by this saying – what exactly might one find in the “Tea Party playbook”? The calls for Democrats to mimic the Tea Party imply the success of the Tea Party in accomplishing their goals, so I am also interested in identifying exactly what goals the Tea Party movement has and what results did they obtain through their strategies. Moreover, I am interested in contextualizing the Tea Party in the myriad of activist movements. Tim Jordan defined an activist movement based off of two ideas: transgression and solidarity. Through my research, I would like to explore how these two ideas relate to the Tea Party and how the Tea Party might differ from or resemble more “traditional” activist movements.

  4. Slacktivism: On social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, billions of users are exposed to the concerns of their friends and followees. Often times, these websites are used as a megaphone to convey opinions and spread messages; many activists have done this, changing profile pictures to show solidarity with a group or posting statuses to spread awareness of an issue. Yet fundamentally, slacktivism is an indirect method as tweeting support for Standing Rock does not provide any capital that the people of Standing Rock can immediately use. Social media messaging can reach wider audiences, however, if used by celebrities and politicians. Thus, the effectiveness of social media activism is a spectrum – how effective is it really to change my profile picture?
  5. Activism on college campuses: In American history, I would most commonly hear about activism in the context of Vietnam War protests on college campuses in the 1960s. College students in this time period took up numerous other activist movements such as the civil rights movement. One possible explanation of the uprising of student activism is counterculture – a desire to “stick it to the Man.” Today, student activism remains incredibly popular. For instance, Stanford University has student organizations such as Fossil Free Stanford, Who’s Teaching Us, and Students for a Sustainable Stanford.

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