The Force of Decency Awakens

Political scientists have a term and a theory for what we’re seeing on #MeToo, guns and perhaps more: “regime change cascades.”

Here’s how it works: When people see the status quo as immovable, they tend to be passive even if they are themselves dissatisfied. Indeed, they may be unwilling to reveal their discontent, or to fully admit it to themselves. But once they see others visibly taking a stand, they both gain more confidence in their dissent and become more willing to act on it — and by their actions they may induce the same response in others, causing a kind of chain reaction.

Such cascades explain how huge political upheavals can quickly emerge, seemingly out of nowhere. Examples include the revolutions that swept Europe in 1848, the sudden collapse of communism in 1989 and the Arab Spring of 2011.