How did inequality gain such prominence on the democratic party agenda?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In recent years there has been a dramatic expansion in both the number and scope of policy proposals explicitly intended to reduce inequality proffered by policymakers in the Democratic Party. In the following, it is argued that this state of affairs is the result of a complex series of developments triggered by the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests. OWS dramatically enhanced both the salience and the politicization of economic inequality. These developments altered the strategies of elites and organizations within the institutional left and advantaged elite movement allies within the Democratic Party. In combination, these indirect and elite-mediated responses resulted in antiinequality positions becoming integrated into both the partisan identity and the platform of the Democratic Party. Despite the Occupy movement being relatively shortlived and explicitly eschewing reliance on institutional politics, it nonetheless had a significant impact on conventional politics. By significantly shifting the political discourse around the issue of inequality, the movement reshaped the political landscape in a manner that created new opportunities and openings for political actors. As organizations within the Democratic Party’s coalition increasingly adopted antiinequality messaging this both pressured and incentivized establishment Democrats to fully embrace an antiinequality agenda. This account is consistent with a theory of political parties in which the key actors are activists and interest groups, not party leaders, and social movement research that suggests that movements are often more influential in the earliest stages of the policymaking process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationResearch in Political Sociology
PublisherEmerald Group Holdings Ltd.
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameResearch in Political Sociology
ISSN (Print)0895-9935


  • Agenda
  • Democratic party
  • Inequality
  • Occupy wall street
  • Social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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