Tag Archives: political entrepreneurs

Mobilization in the Trump Era

Over the course of this last year, I worked on a paper titled “Elites, Policy and Social Movements” now published in Research in Political Sociology. In short, the paper is about how challengers, over the long run, develop ties to political elites and political entrepreneurs and how the networks they create shape policy change. Like some of my other work, I focus on the insider-outsider relationship among actors working on similar social change projects.

I started writing this paper during the heated Democratic primaries when Hillary Clinton was fighting to secure her place with Democratic voters and seeking to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters. A particular exchange between Clinton and a BlackLivesMatter activist left a lasting impression. Continue reading

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The tortoise and the hare: institutions, policy and social change

I have been working on a project about policy innovation in the U.S. (even though it’s often considered “reluctant” or a “laggard” especially in social policy).  The case I focus on is disability rights. The idea that the U.S. is a policy leader has become difficult to sell in light of the countless articles and media reports about the 113th Congress being the most unproductive in decades and the partisan conflicts and gridlock characterizing Congress.  Not to mention the fact that about a year ago, the Senate failed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (see my December 2012 post “Is anyone really against persons with disabilities?”). Ironically, the language of the Convention was based on the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act – thought of by many as the most important piece of civil rights legislation enacted since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The rights language of the ADA also subsequently informed similar laws in Australia and the U.K.

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But it is not the only policy area in which the U.S. is a leader rather than a laggard. I’d like to thank Maureen Eger for pointing me to a recent New York Times article by economics professor Tyler Cowen (Dec 21, 2013). Cowen argues that despite the emphasis on congressional gridlock which either leads to policies nobody wants or no policies at all, the U.S. is better characterized as having periods of “creative ferment” followed by periods of controversy, conflict and retrenchment more akin to a lunging and lurching than political immobility or gridlock. When it comes to handling the financial crisis, environmental policy, intellectual property, and national security/defense, the U.S. has acted rather swiftly. Conflict that may prohibit effective policy implementation typically occurs after bursts of attention and initial legislative output. Continue reading

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Has the abortion issue been reopened in Canada and what does this mean for social movements?

Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals legalized abortion and homosexuality in the late 1960s. The last time abortion was a serious political issue in Canada was twenty years ago when the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney introduced a bill that would limit abortion. The bill passed the House of Commons but was defeated in the Senate. Since then, abortion has hardly made an appearance in Parliament nor has it been a central feature of political campaigns. However, in the last few years, a growing unrest among mostly Conservative, but also a small minority of Liberal Party members have pushed to reopen the question of abortion. According to a recent Dec. 21st Globe and Mail article, a Conservative backbencher, Stephen Woodworth, is seeking to reopen the issue of abortion. However, the question does not directly implicate “abortion” and in the press, it seems the term is largely avoided. Rather, as Woodworth stated in a press conference, “… the Canadian statute that defines a human being as someone who is completely separate from the mother’s body has its roots in British legal treatises written in the 17th century. The important question, he said, is whether a 400-year-old law is supported by 21st-century medical science and principles of human rights.” Continue reading

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