Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mic Check! MIC CHECK!

The seemingly chaotic protest movement begun as "Occupy Wall Street" and now coming to a public park near you has met with a variety of reactions, mostly depending on what one's political and economic views are, coherent or not.  The conduct and appearance of the protestors have been a source of amusement for those who find the "demands" of the protestors to be ridiculous at best, while for many who are sympathetic, this is one of those "someone finally said it" moments.

Democrats and liberals in general have been suffering a large amount of distress over the rise of the Tea Party.  Pelosi and others at first tried to kill it by denying it existed, but once that failed the general approach to bringing the movement down has been slander and libel, mixed in with halting attempts to come up with an analogous movement from the left.  That the left feels a need for their very own special movement during the term of the most left-leaning President ever probably doesn't speak well for Obama's prospects for re-election.  In any case, with "Occupy Wall Street" leftists seem to have at last found a forum that allows them to unpack their grab bag of anger and discontent for all the world to see.

Though I think "grab bag" might be an inadequate description for the breadth of expression heard and seen from the protestors so far.  Just about every leftist and anarchist complaint since the Haymarket riot has been trotted out, seasoned with dashes of obscenity, defecation and creepiness that have come to characterize leftist demonstrations since the 1990s.  The sheer incoherence of it all has been both an attraction and a problem for the protests.  The conceit that OWS is a place where the "99 percent" can finally be heard has given rise to all sorts of complaints and demands, many of which are simply ridiculous, if not pathetic.  I have a Master's degree in (insert useless field here) and I can't find a job!  End capitalism! or Repeal all debt and mortgages!  Free college for everyone!  No property allowed! are arguments that just aren't going to gain much traction outside the coffeehouse scene, much less in the voting booths.  The lack of focus displayed in these protests so far makes me doubt we'll get from this crowd anything like the effectiveness the Tea Party movement has displayed, but that remains to be seen.

The reaction of the liberal political establishment has been a mixture of hopefulness and caution.  Democratic politicians up to and including the President have expressed their sympathies for, at the very least, the "frustrations" the protestors are expressing.  The extent to which these protests are in fact part of any liberal political strategy is something that is being hashed out in the background, with allegations being made that the originators of Occupy Wall Street somehow received funding from George Soros or that the protests are part of a broader labor union strategy for the coming election year.  That liberal politicians are hopeful this protest movement will help them in some way is clear, but I think they have been very cautious in their embrace, fearful of being closely linked with the protests if the more far-out elements begin to dominate and the whole thing gets too messy.  Mayor Bloomberg's soft touch in regard to the protesters clearly shows a fear of antagonizing the OWS crowd, but the news today that the city intends to clear the park this weekend for cleaning means to me that he's getting heat from his more natural constituency, meaning Manhattanites and ordinary New Yorkers, some of whom no doubt are invested in Wall Street.

I think the big questions at this moment about the future of these protests are: Will they survive the winter?  And will they become violent?  I think that if we do see serious violence coming out of this movement, Democrats will someday look back and wish all this had never happened.

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