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Identity-Based Appeals: Explaining Evolution in the Strategic Rhetoric of Social Movements Open Access

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Current social movement literature does not adequately analyze how a movement's strategies may change once a member or even leader of that movement assumes the country's highest office.  Movements, especially those in which identity plays a key role, gain the tool of identity-based appeals once their leader takes office, that is, claiming that the new leader should act favorably to the movement because of their common characteristics.  Analysis of the Bolivian indigenous movement shows that since indigenous leader Evo Morales has assumed the presidency, the movement has used this tactic toward various audiences in response to Morales' incomplete meeting of their policy demands.  The movement first appealed directly to Morales, but has since shifted its focus to the public, attempting to increase agitation by emphasizing the contrast between Morales' discourse and actions.  This case shows that contrary to assumptions made in the ethnic parties literature, an ethnic leader will not necessarily favor his base uniformly once he takes office.  Rather, the movement continues, but now with a different type of "target" - one which had previously been an ally.  The relationship between the Ecuadorian indigenous movement and president Rafael Correa also demonstrates how a movement targets appeals first at the president and then at the public.  Analysis of the women's movements in Argentina and Chile, on the other hand, highlights two factors that can cause identity-based appeals to deviate from this pattern: a leader not embracing his or her shared identity with the social movement, and a leader facing policy constraints from other actors, respectively.

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