Matt Yglesias on modern political protests:
At root the issue is that large contemporary protests have become these carnival-like escapades. It is accepted -- and, indeed, encouraged -- for as many people as possible to show up, whether or not they agree with the United For Peace and Justice platform, know what the UFPJ platform is, or even know what UFPJ is. As a result, it's hard to know what protest attendance signifies.
Matt says this like it's a bad thing. That's a framing error. The RNC protests are a triumph by a diverse coalition united in their opposition to the Bush administration.
United for Peace and Justice chose the tagline The World Says No to the Bush Agenda. UPJ was the largest and best organized of many groups protesting this weekend.
Pundits have been doing a lot of back-of-the-envelope demographics on the protests. The exact ratio of street theatrics to earnest sloganeering and stolid citizenry is irrelevant.
There is a common denominator: all of the protesters are fervently anti-Bush. At first I bristled at that description, but, upon reflection, it's fair and accurate. It doesn't really matter whether the half million people united for peace and justice shared a single conception of peace and justice, let alone that advocated by the leaders of United For Peace and Justice. All these votes count the same. There's plenty to dislike about this administration.
The Republicans figured out how to get small-c conservatives fall in with evangelicals and big business. The Democratic base has a lot more in common than opposite number. If nothing else, the RNC demonstrations should show the Democrats that must cultivate analogous alliances.