Hayward makes many good points, but overlooks two key factors that power public policy campaigns. First, Downs points to the fraction of the population affected as a key factor. The larger, the deeper the hold of the issue in the public’s consciousness. Issues such as feminism and pollution remain salient over generations because they affect so many of us.
The second is equally important, but ignored by Downs: how activists conduct their campaign. Some go for flash and fast impact, such as Black Lives Matters, Occupy Wall Street, and the Tea Party Movement. These tend to burn brightly and briefly.
Better led movements gather resources, build broad bases, and occupy the high points of society. Slow but powerful. Environmentalists and feminists have done this, becoming textbook quality case examples of effective political movements. Both are entrenched in government agencies, university faculties and administrations, corporations, and the media. Both movements have had ebb and flood tides, but steadily advanced over time. Their institutional strength allows them to outlast periods of public disinterest and then swiftly, even brutally, exploit opportunities.
Radical feminists were considered old news many times – such as after the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment and their backing of Bill Clinton over his victims (and refusal to respond when Bill’s DNA proved that one told the truth). Their attempts failed to start moral panics over the America’s “rape culture” and the “campus rape crisis.” But they succeeded with the #MeToo campaign. We cannot yet see the end of this wildfire.
Each round of successes makes lasting changes in American society. It is a ratchet.