Ed Driscoll

WRM: OWS, RIP

Veteran public speaker Cavett Robert was fond of telling newcomers, “Don’t be in too much of a hurry to promote, until you get good. Otherwise you just speed up the rate at which the world finds out you’re no good.”

The Tea Party was born spontaneously in early 2009 but, with the exception of CNBC’s Rick Santelli, received little public support from the MSM (almost entirely the opposite, and that’s understating the case, as we all know). Unfortunately, Occupy Wall Street had far more ink than it knew what to do with in its early days last fall, thanks to an overwhelming superfluity of promoters in the legacy media who, along with Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and other Democrat politicians, were desperate to have a Tea Party-style movement of their own. Well, besides, as Glenn Reynolds noted last year, “the Coffee Party, the Brownbaggers, The Other 95%, A New Way Forward, the One Nation Movement— am I leaving any out? I can’t remember.”

Walter Russell Mead (who reminds us that he much prefers his tea “tasted with pinkies appropriately extended in the proper, traditional way”) pronounces OWS RIP today:

To some degree, it was killed by its “friends.” The tiny left wing groups that exist in the country jumped all over the movement; between them and the deranged and occasionally dangerous homeless people and other rootless wanderers drawn to the movement’s increasingly disorderly campsites, OWS looked and sounded less and less like anything the 99 percent want anything to do with. At the same time, the movement largely failed to connect with the African American and Hispanic churchgoers who would have to be the base for any serious grass roots urban political mobilization. The trade unions picked up the movement briefly but dropped it like a hot brick as they found the brand less and less attractive.

It is as if the Tea Party had been taken over by the Aryan Brotherhood and delusional vagrants while failing to connect with either evangelical Christians or respectable libertarians. The MSM at one point was visibly hungering and thirsting for exactly that fate of marginalization to happen to the Tea Party, and the MSM did its klutzy best to tar the Tea Party with that kind of Mad Hatter extremism. The Tea Partiers by and large (not always or cleanly) escaped the fatal embrace of the nutters and the ranters on their side of the spectrum; OWS was occupied by its own fringe, and so died.

OWS’s popularity continues to plummet. Many pollsters haven’t even bothered to ask the public about OWS since the protestors were kicked out of Zuccotti Park. The NBC/WSJ poll, one of the only reliable indicators of OWS support these days, shows OWS’s popularity has dropped by half since November. Over the same period NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg’s popularity has remained steady months after closing the sad and futile encampment at Zuccotti Park. No backlash there.

Of course, as Jonah Goldberg has written, what Occupy really needs (needed?) is a Republican president to protest against. At least during the mid-1960s, the nascent new left railed against LBJ, causing him to ultimately resign. If any Occupiers called for Obama’s resignation, I missed it; perhaps sensing that they would only speed up the preference cascade against him, the legacy media, despite going all in (and I mean, all in) for OWS, certainly didn’t play up any quotes along similar lines. Instead, we had the first “revolution” raging for the machine.

Speaking of OWS’s rage for the machine, Mead adds:

The ideas behind OWS are more important than the movement; questions about the legitimacy and the consequences of liberal capitalism are going to be part of the political discourse as long as markets produce socially disturbing and morally questionable results. It is natural and healthy for young people to question society and to explore the alternatives to the intellectual status quo. Many youthful protesters grow up to play important parts in the social organization they once denounced; others end up writing blog posts about the futility of exactly the kind of protests their younger selves would have joined.

But again, the mindset of OWS is precisely that of the college professors who have taught them (some of whom would join their former students last fall in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere); it’s the Tea Party that dared go against the grain of the establishment and what they were told in early 2009 about the Brave New World our young Colossus-like president was singlehandedly about to usher in. Perhaps because so many “liberals” consider themselves free of ideology (this topic is thoroughly explored in Jonah’s Tyranny of Cliches book), so few realize that they are now, as it was invariably capitalized in the ’60s, The Establishment, having long ago occupied (heh) the high ground of Hollywood, academia, the news media, politics (at least in many states), and at least until Obama brought the pitchforks (to borrow from his own Alinsky-ite vernacular), a wide swatch of Wall Street itself.

Which brings us to this passage from a recent Vanity Fair article on “The Big Flip” — while you can question many of its premises, you at least see the (twisty-shaped Al Gore low-wattage fluorescent green) light bulb go off that the left is now as hidebound as older liberals were in the 1960s, when the then-new left rose up against them:

In recent decades the Republican Party has become something it really has not been since the Civil War: a radical insurgency bent on upending the prevailing practices of the national government seemingly at any cost. For most of its history the Republican Party was something else entirely: a steward of the status quo. It was the Democrats who were historically on the barricades in the fight for radical change. But the Democrats these days have turned into the stewards—beleaguered defenders of the government and country we have evolved into. The two great national parties have, in some fundamental sense, switched roles during the past 50 years. This inversion—the Big Flip—isn’t neat or exact, but it’s a substantial reality and it’s substantially complete.

If the author isn’t firmly convinced that his ideology isn’t the very definition of The Establishment, he need only watch The September Issue on Netflix, a documentary that focuses on the 2007 edition of the big annual issue produced by Vanity Fair’s sister publication at Condé Nast publishing. He’d quickly get a sense of the plutocracy of modern liberalism, and how deeply entrenched the bourgeois half of David Brooks’ Bobos formula has truly become.

If Occupy had decide those vanities needed a (rhetorical) bonfire or two, it might have been fun to watch — but why would this ultimately toothless “revolution” want to bite the hand that fed them?

Update: A journalist in the London Guardian writes, “Russia’s Occupy movement is not up to the task — It may be fun, but it’s ultimately futile. Trying to copy New York under this authoritarian and repressive regime won’t work.” But why would an Occupier complain about an authoritarian and repressive regime?

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)