In a previous post, I addressed the question of why protest might ever bring down a government. Here, I turn to an important follow up question: having successfully brought down a government, what do we expect protesters to do in the future? Will they return to the streets if they are dissatisfied with their new government? Or is it likely that what we just witnessed in Egypt – even as it appears to be spreading throughout the Middle East – might turn out to be a “one shot deal”?
In the heat of the moment, it seems unimaginable that what is going on in Egypt couldn’t be the start of something new. After all, commentator after commentator has described the dawning of a “new day” in Egypt (here, here, and here, for example). The Egyptian people have risen up to take control of their own fate, and will no longer tolerate oppressive governments. Any attempts by future governments to oppress the Egyptian people will obviously meet a similar fate from a now emboldened population. After all, they took to the streets today: why wouldn’t they take to the streets tomorrow?
And yet, we’ve heard this story before, and the ending isn’t always so happy.