Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street to Save Main Street

I'm not sure if it's funny or tragic to use the word "occupy'" since so many people are having trouble finding occupations these days, but this movement is important and inevitable. Others can dissect its relative strength and tell the stories of the protesters.

I'm going straight to the hypocrisy.

The Republican response to the protests has ranged from predictable to outlandish, and displays the same political blindness that Democrats showed at the outset of the Tea Party movement. In Eric Cantor says Wall Street protesters are ‘mobs’ as Democrats offer support, we get the Virginia sage's view that the protests are populated by "growing mobs." This is, of course, a comparison to the sober, respectable opposition that Tea Party followers exhibited when confronting their representatives over the health care bill in 2009.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also weights in, saying that "You can't have it both ways," the mayor said during a radio appearance. "If you want jobs you have to assist companies and give them confidence to go and hire people."

Hiring people would be a wonderful thing to do, Your Honor. If the Republicans had a program to do that we wouldn't need protests. But sitting on the jobs bill is only making things worse. And perhaps the Mayor missed this news nugget from Yahoo! that discusses prohibiting companies from discriminating against people who have been out of work for an extended period of time. Oh, wait! That's part of the jobs bill! What a coincidence. Passing the bill would create jobs and end discriminatory hiring practices. Let's kill it.

Then we have the one-two punch of actual Tea Party legislators instructing the Occupiers in the art of protests in Allen West And Steve King To Occupy Wall Street Protesters: Clean Up, Find A Message.

In the 1960s, Alabama Governor George Wallace became famous by saying of anti-Vietnam War protesters, "You need a good haircut. That's all that's wrong with you. . . There are two four-letter words I bet you folks don't know: 'work' and 'soap.'"

Today we have West saying,  

"The differences we have are that I don't know of any member of the Tea Party that's been arrested," he said. "They are a peaceful group of people that could just as well be the folks at my church picnic.

"And they clean up after themselves. Let's see what kind of mess Wall Street is when they leave," King continued, before offering a few suggestions. 

"That'd be my advice to them if they want to be like the Tea Party: Don't get arrested, and clean up after yourselves," he said. "And by the way, see if you can find some constitutional underpinnings to support an argument -- whatever it may be. I challenge them to do that."

I didn't realize it was so simple. If the Occupy Wall Street protesters would only clean up, then the Tea Party would support them. As for the constitutional arguments, when the Tea Party comes up with something other than, "We Want 1790!" then wake me up. Since when is economic inequality, protecting the wealthy and sitting on billions of dollars in taxpayer money related to the constitution?

What stuck in my craw was the comment about being arrested. Maybe West and King should walk over to Georgia Representative and Civil Rights Movement hero John Lewis's office to discuss that issue. Lewis can talk to them about going to jail to desegregate the lunch counters and being beaten for trying to integrate interstate busses (I'm sure they know that both protests were successful). He might also point out that West and King would not have political careers if not for those protesters who put heir lives and reputations on the line to achieve necessary change.

West also questions the protest's legitimacy. "I don't see what the point is, and I think it's going to backfire because when you peel the onion back, you find out who's behind it and who's financing it -- it's not a true grassroots movement. It's not a true statement."
As if the Tea Party protests weren't backed by the Koch brothers and other right wing organizations.

I'm glad that West mentioned the grassroots aspect of the movement because it's true that protests and social movements need to have both electoral and moral legitimacy. That brings me to an article in today's New York Times, Judge Finds Manipulation in Recall Vote in Arizona. It's the heartwarming tale of... well, I'll let the story speak for itself:

At first glance, it had the makings of a spirited election: the leader of Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration facing off at the polls with an immigrant from Mexico who believed that the state had gone too far. 

But the immigrant, Olivia Cortes, a retiree who filed papers in July to challenge the State Senate president, Russell Pearce, disappeared from the political scene last week just as quickly as she had appeared. Ms. Cortes’s candidacy for a legislative district in this working-class community east of Phoenix, it now appears, had been a dirty trick. 

Critics of Mr. Pearce’s hard-line approach to illegal immigration collected enough signatures to force him into a recall election in November. But allies of Mr. Pearce, who is one of the state’s most powerful politicians, did not take that humiliation lightly. They recruited Ms. Cortes in what was an effort to split the anti-Pearce vote, particularly among Latinos, a judge later found. 

Greg Western, a Pearce ally who is the chairman of the East Valley Tea Party, was a central figure in the scheme and became Ms. Cortes’s campaign adviser. Soon, signs promoting Ms. Cortes’s candidacy appeared on street corners, bearing the motto made famous by Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers: “Sí, Se Puede!”

Spotting Tea Party hypocrisy makes shooting fish in a barrel look like an Olympian challenge.

Occupy Wall Street is shining the spotlight exactly where it needs to be: on the conglomerates, banks and businesses that are the recipients of government largesse and the protectors of a system that rewards the accumulation of wealth at the expense of the middle and working classes. The point is not to overthrow, but to achieve fairness.

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