Occupy Wall Street Phase II

November 28th, 2011

You cant evict an idea

Last week, when the NYPD kicked the tents out of Zuccotti Park and Occupy protests were staged in 50 states across the country, Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow had some great coverage on the question I had been asking since the beginning: What’s Next?

As I noted before, Occupy Wall Street has already had a significant effect on national politics, by changing the national conversation away from deficits and austerity and back to what has been the American people’s true priority since the economic collapse: the economy and jobs. Still, what started as a protest against the undue power of corporations and income inequality now risks becoming bogged down in a series of conflicts between local authorities and campers in public parks. Melissa Harris-Perry made the point on Rachel Maddow’s show that the focus on the “right” to camp out in public parks had pitted Occupy Wall Street against big city mayors who, after all, often share a goal that that many of the protesters are in favor of: trying to provide social services in the face of dwindling budgets. In effect, these people are the 99% as well, and to get drawn into a protracted series of battles with the local police forces misses the point. 

It’s not about the parks and it’s never been about the parks. It’s about something bigger.

Not only does the focus on the parks tend to distract from the larger message, but the continued presence of the camps has the possibility to turn public opinion against the movement, effectively neutering it and in the process taking down the only people who can enact their agenda, the Democratic party. Greg Sargent has had some of the best analysis of this possibility, pointing out the importance of working class swing voters to the election results in the 2008 and 2010 elections and drawing attention to the most high profile attempt to use Occupy Wall Street as a wedge issue: the Republican attacks against Elizabeth Warren in her Massachusetts Senate race. This is a familiar strategy that Republicans have used successfully since the late 60′s: appealing to working class white voters on the basis of culture. The argument in this case sounds something like this: “those people in the streets might be fighting for your economic interests, but you don’t want to join in with those liberal city folk, do you? Wouldn’t you rather stay with the party of Law and Order, Guns and God?” 

Of course, this is a ridiculous argument, but these cultural arguments have worked wonders for Republicans through the years and recent polling shows that they may be working again. As clashes with the police have become more frequent, Occupy Wall Street’s poll numbers have fallen, with many beginning to turn against the movement, despite the fact that they continued to support many of their goals.

The day before Occupy Wall Street’s tents were evicted from Zuccotti Park, one of the intellectual fathers of the Occupy Movement, suggested a tactical retreat might be in order:

We declare “victory” and throw a party … a festival … a potlatch … a jubilee … a grand gesture to celebrate, commemorate, rejoice in how far we’ve come, the comrades we’ve made, the glorious days ahead. Imagine, on a Saturday yet to be announced, perhaps our movement’s three month anniversary on December 17, in every #OCCUPY in the world, we reclaim the streets for a weekend of triumphant hilarity and joyous revelry.

We dance like we’ve never danced before and invite the world to join us.

Then we clean up, scale back and most of us go indoors while the die-hards hold the camps. We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum so that we may emerge rejuvenated with fresh tactics, philosophies, and a myriad projects ready to rumble next Spring.

Perhaps more important than whether this movement continues to camp in public parks is the question of what it proposes to do about the conditions that it has drawn attention to. It has now been over two months and the movement has come a long way, but if it’s not clear what you want to do, then it’s difficult to get people to join you. To this end, sometimes spokesman for OWS, Jesee LaGreca offers the following on Daily Kos:

It is time to TAX THE RICH

It is time to END THE WARS

It is time to restore Glass-Steagal

It is time to repeal Citizens United

It is time to get the money OUT OF POLITICS

It is time to invest in infrastructure and education

It is time to STOP busting labor unions, whether private or public

It is time to defend Medicare and Social Security tooth and nail from phony reforms or baloney cuts

It is time to STOP the spending cuts and start investing in America, and if we have to raise taxes on the rich and corporations in order to force them to invest in America, then so be it.

It is time to make higher education affordable, to offer students debt relief, and to provide funding for education, and stop blaming honest teachers and educators and for the failures of an underfunded system.

It is time to STOP the racist and discriminatory practice of “Stop and Frisk” and other tactics of racial profiling

It is time for civil rights for ALL, and that means equal rights for LGBT Americans to serve our military and marry whom ever they will

It is time for ACCOUNTABILITY for the men who lied us into war and crashed our economy

It is time for immigration reform that does not punish workers, but provides a clear pathway to citizenship for everyone

It is time for investigations that lead to prosecutions on Wall Street in response to the crimes that have been committed in the last decade.

It is time for a serious discussion about the Federal Reserve and it’s role in this economic disaster

It is time for universal health care that everyone can afford. It is time to talk about Single Payer Health Care.

It is time for alternative green energy instead of Oil and Coal.

It is time to protect our civil liberties and our constitution.

It is time for a discussion about free trade and how it has undermined the working class while enriching only the wealthiest among us.

It is time to end corporate personhood.

There are sooooo many things that need to be fixed, reformed and addressed, and this short list does not do justice to the many grievances that the 99% have, but we must accept the fact that the GOP only serves the rich and the Dem Establishment only serves to cave to the GOP. They are NOT going to help us. We are going to have to do this ourselves.

Not only is the agenda De LaGreca proposes a righteous agenda, it also has the benefit of being in the mainstream of American political ideas, and thus potentially achievable. 

Ultimately, Occupy Wall Street will choose its own agenda and what they do is not for me to decide. What I can say that is that I, and millions of other Americans, will be with them if they adopt an agenda that resembles this, and together we can change America.

Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to “Occupy Wall Street Phase II”

  1. shona Says:

    Phil for President.