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I've long been critical of a common way of framing backlashes as an automatic, inevitable response to demands for social equality because this framing removes the agency of people who choose to participate in backlashes. A thread on why this matters for history and today. /1
President Trump is doing his best to foment a white backlash but, thus far, it doesn't appear to be happening in spite of what might be the largest social movement for African American equality in our history. /2…
In seeking the cause of backlashes, we should grant agency to those who participate in them. Why do they do so? Under what conditions? /3
But too often in the past, commentators assigned causality not to the backlashers but to movements for social equality which supposedly "set them off." /4
Here's an example from 1967 in which "civil rights marches" supposedly "sparked a white protest."/5
Here's an example from 1984in which a reporter claims that Jesse "Jackson's voter registration efforts in Florida sparked a white backlash."/6
And here's a thread I wrote last year about the general problems with this framework which claims that Civil Rights activities "sparked" backlashes./7
Things could, of course, change. But the current moment, I think, is proving my point. Demands for African American equality don't _cause_ backlashes. And even politicians efforts to foment backlashes, as Trump has been tirelessly doing, don't inevitably work./8
For a backlash to work, what is needed, above all, is for there to be a large number of people willing to engage in them. And we are not seeing that right now. Trump is trying to call for a backlash party but, at the moment, only small numbers of are choosing to participate./9
As I showed in @TheAtlantic recently, the dynamics of the "white backlash" have long constrained politics in the United States. /10…
To see massive support for the Movement for Black Lives alongside an unpopular president actively attempting to foment a white backlash but (thus far) utterly failing is heartening proof that backlashes are not inevitable. /11
This set of tweets is inspired in part by @jbouie's recent smart thread (in dialogue with @nils_gilman and @DamonLinker) about the absence of a "reactionary backlash." /12
Postscript: Today’s @washingtonpost says that “Obama’s election produced a backlash,” which suggests that his election was the causal agent.
An alternative formulation: Many people, including GOP politicians, engaged in backlash politics after he was elected, or even before./13
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