Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider
The political and cultural Oktoberfest known as Occupy Wall Street has become a Rorschach test.Since there was NO official list of demands when things started rolling along, this is truly a Seinfeld movement as These New Times contributor Paul Bianco pointed out: a demonstration that’s really not about anything. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
Our friend Bruce Krasting went on a field trip to Zuccotti park over the weekend and concluded that “There was no mob. There were no professional provocateurs. There was a festive attitude. There was no anarchy.”
Bruce was reminded of 1967’s “Summer of Love” in San Francisco which was “a hell of a party. And yes, there was not much relevance to the whole thing.”
He makes the further point that “three years later a million people marched on D.C. and it altered the outcome of a war. It also tore the country inside out.”
Bruce is a thoughtful commentator and a successful student of the markets. His conclusion is that “It would be a big mistake to dismiss what is going on in Zuccotti Park. Whatever is happening there, it’s not going to go away. It’s going to get bigger.”
On the other hand, Paul Bianco views those gathered at the OWS event as “self indulgent, self absorbed, wannabe radicals.” His take away is that “They are being co-opted by Democrat operatives, hard eyed union thugs and the left wing media. They are merely pawns in a larger game.”
Over the weekend Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he was “increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.”
In reply, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi went on the record and said “I support the message to the establishment, whether it’s Wall Street or the political establishment, that things have to change.”
Obama himself cautiously tried to encourage the protesters last Thursday when he said “I think people are frustrated. And the protestors are giving voice to a more broad based frustration about how our financial system works.”
So far, OWS seems to offer something for everyone. Tens of millions of Americans are out of work, suffering hard times, unsettled about the future and disgusted with the country’s direction. Even the most conservative among us may find themselves surprised at the things they have in common with the OWS crowd, such as distaste for the bank bailouts and the non-denominational (if ill conceived) calls to “End the Fed”.
The crowd in Zuccotti Park might be similarly surprised to find that their Tea Party opposites share their disaffection with Ben Bernanke and think George Bush spent too much money.
Unrepentant baby boomers, the young, and the left are always looking for Woodstock moments, where they can sloganeer, break out the body paint, and generally indulge themselves in a variation of the great party of the last century. Messy and unhygienic though that may be, the public is usually tolerant of such mischief, and are the more so now since most all Americans have been affected by the events of the “Great Recession”.
To date the Democrat establishment has kept their distance, but now seem to believe that if they can co-opt and get in front of the OWS demonstrations, they’ll be able to take credit for what they hope will be a movement as organic and powerful as the Tea Party which destroyed their majority in the House in the last election.
In a fundraising email sent out Monday night entitled “@Stake: Occupy Wall Street”, Robby Mook, the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee went all in:
Protesters are assembling in New York and around the country to let billionaires, big oil and big bankers know that we’re not going to let the richest 1% force draconian economic policies and massive cuts to crucial programs on Main Street Americans… Sign our petition right now and help us reach 100,000 strong standing with #OccupyWallStreet protestors across the country.
This will end badly for the Dems. The Tea Party folks are generally middle class Americans with clearly defined goals and a belief in the country’s founding principles who clean up after every demonstration.
The OWS crowd may be colourful and fun loving, but human nature being what it is, some of those party goers will cross the line (many already have) and the more the country sees of that, the less sympathetic they will be. Whatever they may be, the colourful crew in Zuccotti Park, and now the thugs enforcing union discipline at the events in Chicago are not the 99% majority they would like us to believe they are.
Should violence erupt at any of these demonstrations (which is not unlikely given some of the anarchist types that tend to lurk at events like this), the Democrats will rue the day that they tie their future to this free floating block party masquerading as political theatre.
One of the Dem’s smartest polls is former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and he seems to understands the danger of this approach.
“The Rich Trumkas and all those people should be talking to the protesters and saying, ‘Look, you made your point, you don’t think… you’re going to bring about change in law by just sitting here,” Rendell said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show on Monday. “No legislative body is going to be blackmailed.”
Rendell also said it makes no sense for the protesters to continue “occupying” public spaces, as real change will not come without a political strategy.
“I mean the guys in Philadelphia said they’re going to be here all winter,” Rendell said. “Well that’s silly. You’ve made your point, you’ve gotten about all the publicity you’re going to get. Now get on with your lives and if you really care about this stuff, organise at the ballot box.”
Rendell also made a sharp distinction between the OWS protesters and the Tea Partiers.
“We can yell and scream about the tea party, but the tea party folks understood how to make change in 2010,” Rendell said. “They got out and voted.”
There is at least one other clear voice speaking out at a national level on the events in New York and around the country. Protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement are “jealous” and “playing the victim card,” Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain said on his Sunday appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week Cain said, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”
“These demonstrations, I honestly don’t understand what they’re looking for. To me, they come across more as anti-capitalism,” Cain added, saying that his parents had taught him to avoid envying those better off than him. “It is not a person’s fault if they succeeded, it is a person’s fault if they failed.”
“They are not working on the right problem,” Cain said at a conservative event in Washington on Friday. “Wall Street didn’t write those failed policies. Wall Street didn’t spend a trillion dollars. You can demonstrate all you want on Wall Street, the problem is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Which do you think is the message voters will remember in the ballot box next November, especially if and when events spin out of control?
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