Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Occupy Wall Street A Potential Game Changer?

Something interesting is happening in response to a year of Republican austerity measures imposed by the 2010 elections at the state level and by House Republican blackmail over government shut downs and government debt defaults. A new wave of protests have emerged modeled on the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in NYC. The protests are spreading to cities across the country. What's more, while unions were not the initial driving force, they are quick to see the potential of allying themselves with these protesters. Several big unions are planning to join the protesters.

Here is why I think this is potentially a big deal. First, this seems to be a continuation of the anti-union busting protests in Wisconsin that lead to the recall of several Republican state legislators in that state and threatens to lead to the recall of Republican governor Walker. These kinds of protests are provoked by Republican policy overreach and have a record of have electoral consequences.

Second, and this may be more important, both the Wisconsin protests and the Occupy Wall Street protests are changing the nature of the anti-elite populism that the Tea Party has tried to tap. Where the Tea Party directs their ire at government and intellectuals, these protests are defining the elite in terms of wealth. Instead of calling high school teachers "communists" or railing about homosexuals, immigrants and "librul elites" these protests are zeroing in on the mega wealthy at the top of corporate America. In other words, the Tea Party now has serious competition for the leadership of the angry masses. If the new wealth-based definition of bad-guy elites takes hold, it will directly undermine the Republican 2012 political campaign and find an obvious ally in the Democratic party which is already pushing for more transfer of wealth from the mega rich to the middle class and poor.

Finally, the single greatest fear of the Republican party is a high turnout election in which large numbers of middle and low income people vote based on their rationally identified economic self interest. So long as this segment of the population can be distracted by "Guns, Gays, and God" or by the Tea Party's cartoonishly ideological rants, the GOP can survive the fact that their policies are actually likely to have a negative impact on the clear majority of voters' lives. These protest threaten to put the focus of the 2012 elections on income disparity and tax fairness. If those become the dominant themes of 2012, it gives the Democrats and inherent advantage. It also gives Democrats something to rally their otherwise demoralized base around.


USwest said...

I am glad you posted on this. I logged in to do just that.

I think your observations are dead on. I also find the way these protests are happening interesting. It has a bit of a "1960'sness" about it. They are turning these into Utopian communities where there is poetry, art, and music. These are things that speak of a people tired of money as a motivator. Americans have been viewed as nothing more than consumers. And what these people demonstrate in giving up comforts to stay in the park and by displaying art is that they are not mere consumers who buy whatever is placed in front of them. They don't want to fight with each other.

The X generation and the millennials are people who are not enamored with STUFF. For awhile, several people around me were quitting good jobs to pursue crafts and what would normally be called "hobbies". But they found new, more interesting ways to make money doing constructive things. We want a quality of life and a certain equitable distribution of resources. We've been asked to sacrifice, and we have yet to see the reward or feel any fulfillment from the sacrifices. I think these protests are giving voice to that frustration. They are also a sea change from the "me me" generation to the "let's share" generation. What these protests are to me is more than a political statement; they are a new generation asserting itself on the stage- declaring that on our watch, things will be different.

Raised By Republicans said...

I have a friend who jokes about writing a book called, "Boomers and X'ers: How the Generation of Me Screwed You."

USwest said...

Great title!
There are those who do believe in 80 year generational cycles. And I wonder if there isn't something to it. After watching Ken Burns "Prohibition", the notion was confirmed. As a new generation grew up into the 1920s, there was a nascent women's lib movement where they drank and had free, bohemian sex. This ultimately resulted in the election of Democrats across the board and the real of the 18th amendment.

The whole thing gives me hope.

Well, to some extent, Michael Lewis' collection of books tells just that story.

The Law Talking Guy said...

To me, the "occupy Wall Street" seems to be just another version of the puppet people that have been dogging WTO and G-8 summits for years. For an economy with grinding unemployment especially among youth after all the mortgage related fraud was revealed, this is a pretty tepid, stale reaction. I wish it were more, but I don't think so. We are so very far away from any movement that might effect social or political change. All that has happened from a PR perspective is that at least there's now some anger both on the left and the right to put on TV at night.

Raised By Republicans said...

I respectfully disagree about the "Occupy Wall Street" movement vs the standard WTO/G8 protests. The longevity of these demonstrations is one distinguishing factor. Also, while these demonstrations do include the usual bongo banging Phish groupies, there are also more mainstream participants - unions included. And the unions that are getting involved are some of the same unions that were active in Wisconsin (teachers unions etc).

All that said, in principal, I agree that we should take one signal away from a protest that includes only the usual cranks and hippies. But when school teachers and firefighters are joining the protest, we should be prepared to take a different signal from the protests.