It’s easy to mock the street protests going on now in New York (Occupy Wall Street) and other cities—soon to come to a city near you. (Occupy Austin is scheduling its protests here for Thursday, October 6.) Datechguy declares them to be an “epic fail,” and, as he points out, on Twitter they make great fodder for jokes:
It’s no Tea Party. The protests certainly seem ridiculous; the aims are vague (“to end the monied corruption of our democracy”) and, if taken seriously, would seem to be pointed in the wrong direction, since the Obama administration, itself heavily indebted to Wall Street for campaign contributions, has funneled hundreds of billions to its Wall Street and green energy supporters, and since unions are much larger campaign contributors than private enterprises and a much greater source of “monied corruption.” Van Jones defends the “October Offensive” movement, but never explains what means it advocates for achieving its ends.
I think these protests are nevertheless worth taking seriously. It may be that they are a shakedown, meant to keep Wall Street contributing to the Democratic Party. It may be that they are an attempt to ignite a mass popular movement, a leftist equivalent of the Tea Party. (See the “Taking Back the American Dream” conference that started today.) It may be that they are trying to focus media attention on the leftist narrative. I don’t see how attacking Wall Street gathers its support; I don’t think there’s any movement to ignite beyond a relatively small number of activists (though I don’t doubt that some of those activists think they’re starting the revolution). And I don’t think the media needs excuses to tell the narrative the leftist way. So, these aren’t my worry. I think there are two reasons for taking this seriously that bother me much more.
The first is what it portends about the shape of the Democratic Party. The conference sponsors are a Who’s Who of leftist organizations and unions with immense power in the Democratic Party but also with strong ties to the Communist Party and other extremist groups. I suspect that the failure of Obamanomics and the resulting collapse in the President’s poll numbers and in the ratings of Democrats in Congress are scaring many Democratic insiders back toward the political center. These protests may be muscle-flexing on the part of leftist groups to indicate that they won’t back away quietly. They intend to fight to keep control of the Democratic Party.
The second is the prospect of Obama’s political revival. I smell a “Sister Souljah” moment in the autumn air. The leftists and their street protests dominate the news cycle for the month of October. Finally Obama emerges to yell at them. The protests end, Obama looks like a centrist again, regains the support of moderates, and rides to victory on 2012 on his renewed pragmatist bona-fides.
UPDATE: Watch this video of the few people involved in the “Occupy DC” protest. Not much there there.