The Hope of Occupy Wall Street

by A. Jay Adler on October 5, 2011
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I don’t mean by that title the hope of those who have organized the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. In some respects that isn’t clear, in others all too clear. The people behind the effort – Anonymous “hacktivists” and other left-libertarians and anarchists – are people with whom I share no allegiance. I was disdainful of “occupation” plans when I first read about them, and of much of what I hear and see, I still am.

The hope I speak of is the hope, now that the demonstrations appear to be inflaming some wider liberal, union, and middle class kindling (probably thanks to bad New York City policing) that the the demonstrations can become a wider movement – that they can be, in fact, co-opted. To look at the symbolism and carnival parading of many protesters, to listen to the Utopian rhetoricizing of people and documents is to be reminded of how out of touch they are with the nation in which they live. They simply do not see that they are not representative. In all their righteous belief in their superior political insight, they do not understand that most Americans, actually seeing and hearing them directly, will be put off by them.

Whatever the reasons, however – brutal policing and the fundamental protest against American plutocracy – the protests are growing and spreading. The anger against the three-decade conservative and institutional attack on the economic lives and political influence of ordinary Americans appears to have required an opportune accelerant. It is not the cultural resentment and anti-federalism of the Tea Parties disguised as economic populism. It is the genuine recognition that with the 2008 economic crisis and the quick and arrogant comeback of craven and criminal financial institutions, crony capitalism – “Wall Street” – finally went too far.

This might be a brief flare up, easily doused, soon to die out. The next weeks will tell. But if more organized liberal forces – unions, established operators on the left – can take the simple message  from the originators and advance it with discipline and realism, there might be a real fire by the time of the 2012 election. It could get Obama reelected, maybe win back the House, which could be the basis for getting some change. It won’t be a revolution – beware of hoping for that – but lives would be better, better than wearing masks and looking ludicrous.

AJA

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