Protesters must win the hearts of the “silent majority”

I went to the first day of the protest on the Palestinian campus of UW-Madison, partly out of solidarity, but partly to see for myself the nature of the protest.

For the record, I saw no anti-Semitism. I’m sure this is present in some rallies, but I also think it is amplified and used as an effective strategy to muzzle protests.

What I saw were students, several hundred of them, protesting fervently, even angrily, against the atrocities committed daily in Gaza. I agree with the protesters on their overall political and moral viewpoint, but I question their tactics. I fear that these protests can be too easily dismissed or caricatured.

I’ve had similar feelings about other protests, from Vietnam to George Floyd. Anger is understandable but it is not a viable political strategy.

I think protests should be about winning the hearts and minds of what Richard Nixon once called the “silent majority.” I would like to see more teaching and democratic work – less singing.

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In the context of the violent ethnic cleansing in Gaza, I realize that my preference for more thoughtful protests is perhaps naive, but also, I think, realistic.

Protesters should keep their eyes on the long term.