when protesting citizens have enough political power, they demand and win democracy instead of just redistribution. In this way, democracy is a commitment device, ensuring that non-elites get to decide policies even after they have demobilized from the streets.
If one admits that de jure U.S. politics, while democratic in form, has certain parts of it (e.g. monetary policy, financial regulation, tax policy) captured by elites regardless of the politician in power, then this democratization model becomes pretty applicable. Perhaps it took Obama’s election and subsequent ineffectiveness to really communicate the extent of elite capture of U.S. politics, although the evidence has been accumulating for decades.
In any case, many of the folks in Zuccotti square think that electoral politics is completely run by the rich, and so it takes street politics to force reform.
The problem is, as in Acemoglu and Robinson, that mobilization is generally temporary: you don’t get people protesting on the streets for years. A lasting victory would depend on converting this mobilization into institutions and durable policy gains.
From Suresh Naidu, Columbia economics professor slash street organizer. (You know, just like all the other Columbia economics faculty.)