Occupied with Occupy Wall Street

So, what do I think about “Occupy Wall Street” and the copy-cat protests starting up around the country? The same thing I thought about the Tea Party protests originally: I’ll wait and see. While I did attend a Tea Party rally a few years ago, it was probably a good six months after the Tea Party first started making its presence known, and by then it was a bit clearer what they were for (and against).

So Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is going to have to gain some coherence before I pay too much more attention to them. Right now they seem to have divergent, even contradictory aims. One protester said she was there to protest the cozy relationship between corporate America and Washington and the influence-peddling that goes on. If that’s what OWS is about, sign me up! I’m tired of all this political cronyism.

But if it’s about some of the demands another protestor posted online, then I’ll have to avoid OWS like the plague. This “brilliant” young man wants to close America to imports, raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour, pay the unemployed $20 an hour (When I was unemployed I was unemployed 24 hours a day!) , and provide everyone free health care and free education, not to mention completely opening America’s borders. This unfortunate person could use a free education–that or the one he got was worth exactly nothing.

There is a certain amount of irony about the Left’s response to OWS, however. I’ve seen lots of excited conjecture that this, at last could be the Left’s answer to the Tea Party! Now, I haven’t been paying full attention here, but hasn’t the Left spent the last three years denigrating and demonizing the Tea Party? And now they want one of their own? They want their own “violent, racist, hate-group”?

Which, it appears, is as true of OWS as it is of the Tea Party, though the media seem to show as fanactical a lack of interest in this with OWS and they had interest in it with the Tea Party. Where are the tutting and head-shaking over the lack of minorities? Where is the denunciation of violent rhetoric on signs, such as the calls to “kill the rich”? Where are the charges of “astro-turfing” over unions busing in scores of their own people and claims of some hiring minority people to pose as protestors?

You see, to be fair, a few bad apples shouldn’t spoil the whole bushel. I’m still willing to give OWS the benefit of the doubt here. But that’s more than a large number of people have been willing to do for the Tea Party. At the heart of the OWS movement is a core I can at least sympathize with, if not support. That’s because at the core of the movement OWS is not really all that different from the original core of the Tea Party. Both groups are fed up with what they see going on in Washington and Wall Street, and they both want change. Certainly they can disagree on the exact nature of the problems and the necessary solutions, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a significant overlap.

But here is the acid test: Will they be able to make the transition from a mere protest to taking effective political action? Because that is what the Tea Party did that makes them extraordinary. When they found that no existing organization fully championed their views they transitioned themselves into a political action group and made themselves heard at the ballot box. Until OWS can do the same they’ll never be “the Left’s answer to the Tea Party”. At the end of the day America doesn’t need another protest group. We’ve already got so many of those that no one really listens to any of them any more.

Unfortunately, the unions are rushing in to support OWS. I don’t think they realize (the unions or OWS) that by so doing they will kill OWS, or at least any chance it had of achieving Tea Party status. Whether intentionally or accidentally, the unions will co-opt OWS and turn it into an extension of the unions. OWS’ leaders–if it has them–would do well to tell the unions “Thanks, but no thanks” and fight to retain their unique identity.

It may be too late. And that’s too bad, because I think OWS had a respectable chance of becoming something I could have supported.

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