You need action to get a backlash
For one thing, the British protests are in reaction to cuts that are actually being implemented. I'm currently studying abroad at the University of Cambridge, and while there are frequent, well-attended protests against tuition hikes and other cuts, that's because students are actually having their tuition hiked. Similarly, it's worth noting that the Tea Party only got going after its most hated policies – namely, TARP and the stimulus – had already been passed. The policy effects of the GOP House will be real enough soon, but for the time being, conservatives haven't gotten cuts passed that can upset people enough to spur demonstrations and the like.
What's more, their ability to get them passed hinges on negotiations with the Democratic Senate and White House. So even if unpopular cuts do get passed, it's hard to see the resulting movement won't be a backlash just against policies implemented by conservatives.
But the main reason the Britain analogy fails is that the protests in Britain have not worked. Nor will they, in all likelihood. The British system of government has basically no veto points. If the governing coalition in parliament wants to enact a policy, the policy gets enacted. Individual members are expected to vote the party line in all but the rarest of cases, so if David Cameron (pictured) wants there to be budget cuts, there's very little anyone can do to stop him.
There's obviously a lot more one can do to stop a proposal in the United States. Take the $32 billion in budget cuts proposed by Paul Ryan yesterday. If liberal activists wanted to block them, they could lobby individual GOP House members whose districts would be hard hit, or get the Senate leadership to pledge to block any cuts, or push Obama to pledge to veto a cuts package. There are a number of strategies that could work, but they're all strategies particular to the American system. There's not a lot to be learned from Britain when formulating them.
Dylan Matthews is a student at Harvard and a researcher at The Washington Post.
Photo credit: Associated Press
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