Ben and Jerry’s became the first corporation to officially endorse the nascent Occupy Wall Street movement. Republicans still refuse to confirm the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created in response to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and Elizabeth Warren, who would have headed that Bureau had it not been for the unreasonable obstinacy of bought politicians, has just raised 3.15 Million dollars in her Senate campaign for Massachusetts.
So what is going on with this Wall Street movement? Is Wall Street paying attention? More importantly, are the American people paying attention? The unfortunate death of Steve Jobs captivated the media attention recently; in doing so it may have distracted some from realizing that Occupy Wall Street has spread all across the country, or that more protestors have been arrested than the amount of individuals officially charged with corporate malfeasance responsible for getting us into this mess. Of course the rank and file members of the 1% will dismiss the movement as a “mob” that “hates freedom” like Eric Cantor and Sean Hannity, exploiting the usual ad hominem tactic of labeling opponents anti-American. In an effort to restore sanity last week Jon Stewart took a shot against the hypocritical Tea Party and mainstream media’s blatant censure of the movement, outrageously questioning how “to rage against duly elected government is patriotic, quintessentially American, whereas rage against multinational shareholder-accountable corporations is anti-American.”
You don’t need a PH.D in Political Science to know that money matters in the plutocracy that is the United States, just look at the Republicans, then look at all of Democrats, not just the progressives—let’s not forget that it was at the behest of Democrats like Max Baucus that the public option was killed. Of course there are fringe political parties like the Green Party, but in the current political climate 3rd parties don’t really have a chance.
But between the debt ceiling fiasco and the failure of democrats to capitalize on Obama’s tenure in office, the cynicism once eroded by Obama’s eloquent speeches and campaign slogans of hope and change have once again re-surfaced. There are legitimate doubts and concerns over whether Democrats have completely departed from their core ideals. Even if the Democrats are truly committed to the 99 percent, right now they seem to lack enough political capital. The unfortunate reality is that in the aftermath of bailing out banks that are currently making record profits, with taxpayer dollars, and awarding unlimited corporate influence in public elections, thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, the two-party political system in America is indeed too big to fail.
What does this have to do with Occupy Wall Street? If our current political system is too big to fail, and it is evidently failing, what happens next? The media has done a fantastic job at asking questions intended to invalidate the movement. Instead, they should ask more thoughtful questions: With an electoral system designed to both keep out radical voices and evade substantial reform can it really be a surprise that Occupy Wall Street has been able to appeal to such broad-based discontent? With an ineffectual government unresponsive to popular demand, yet seemingly obliged to the whims of the super-wealthy, hasn’t history taught us anything?
Right now Occupy Wall Street is a motley crew. It ranges from anarchists keen on smashing the state and destroying neoliberalism once and for all to Ron Paul Libertarians that want to abolish the Federal Reserve. It consists of a variety of democratic socialists and a number of disillusioned progressives, and probably most accurately it includes a great deal of individuals that don’t necessarily identify with a party or rigid political ideology but are in agreement that the status quo is simply unsustainable. Personally, I think juvenile slogans like “attack the rich” are vapid and counterproductive; they distract from the larger picture at hand. Wall Street isn’t responsible for all of the world’s problems, but targeting Wall Street and identifying the movement as the 99 percent versus the 1 percent is an extraordinarily effective strategic tactic given a political climate ignorant and unreceptive to a growing demand for economic and social justice.
I can’t forecast the outcome of Occupy Wall Street or begin to predict the movement’s political consequences, but I can tell you that the mainstream media’s insistence on undermining the growing movement under some notion that they don’t have organization or specific demands simply belies the reality of what this movement is really about: A general consensus—that there is a need to change the political discourse in this country, and that this is not a nation of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent, but one that must stand for, represent, and champion the interests of ordinary people.