By David S. Meyer, University of California, Irvine
For those of us who study protest movements, to paraphrase Dickens, the Trump presidency represents both the best of times and the worst of times. For scholars of political contention, Trump’s election immediately presents an upsurge of activism across many social movements that offer us massive amounts of empirical material and no shortage of analytical challenges. Like the paleontologist visiting Jurassic Park, those of us who write about movements can watch our preferred theories of contention being shredded—or not—in real time. Public attention to protest has also surged, and journalists, activists, and neighbors are more likely to express interest in the stuff that occupies our imagination most of the time. Regular people are paying attention!
The sense of urgency and possibility is exhilarating, but there is a downside: I have to live here. Donald Trump represents an urgent and unusual threat to democratic institutions in general, and in particular, a direct threat to the pursuit of science and the institutions which support it.