Journalist and Nation Institute fellow Jaffe debuts with an in-depth account of the wave of populist anger driving “a new era of protest and activism” in the United States.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, many Americans have sought to wrest control of their lives through political movements like the tea party and Occupy. “For the people taking part in them,” writes the author, “it is not a question of left or right, but of the powerless against the powerful.” United in their anger at wealthy elites and both major political parties, people in economic distress have been protesting and striking over issues from the minimum wage and labor bargaining to home foreclosures and student debt (more than $35,000 for the average student in 2015). Through richly detailed reporting, including more than 100 interviews, Jaffe shows how protest movements over these and other issues (including racism and immigration reform) have grown into a larger fusion movement in which activists have recognized the connections among such disparate arenas as the Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, and immigration reform. She illustrates the intersections for individuals like Ivanna Gonzalez, a Moral Monday protester in North Carolina, who realizes, “being a woman, a student, an immigrant, and a worker were all parts of her life.” Even as students go into debt to earn college degrees, notes Jaffe, many are likely to end up in the service industry, where the median annual income is $20,000. Her insights offer a new context for understanding seemingly random events—such as Wal-Mart strikes, student debt strikes, and the Chicago teachers’ strike—and the strong sense of solidarity underlying them. She suggests many participants discovered shared concerns when brought together in occupied spaces of the Occupy movement. Her book even makes sense of protests that have linked the tea party in partnership with the teamsters and the NAACP.
An essential guide to forces shaping our nation and the 2016 presidential election.