Changing politics: New issue acceptance and the American way
I examine how political challengers help to make new political issues into common touchstones that can define mainstream political discussion, thereby increasing their chances to affect political change. I argue that the potential for political change is significantly rooted in mainstream democratic discourse and specifically in the acceptance of those issues by media, the public and elected officials. This is true to some extent for any group wishing to alter status quo distributions of rights and/or resources, but is especially important for grassroots challengers who do not already have a place of legitimated influence in the polity. I carry out my examination by scrutinizing two contemporary challenger discourses as they appear in the New York Times and USA Today—those concerning gay marriage and the living wage—as they appear in two major mainstream print media sources between 1994 and 2004. Using content analysis, existing survey data, and interview data I make the case that while gay marriage suffered many policy defeats during the time period and living wage experienced 140 policy wins, the overall impact that gay marriage had on changing American politics was much greater than that of the living wage.
0615: Political science
0708: Mass communications