The Meaning of 'Occupy Wall Street.' The Confusion on the Left and the Right

The “Occupy Wall Street” protests have created a major problem for the Obama administration and the Democrats. Undoubtedly, the occupation and protests have been encouraged by the constant refrain of the need to “tax the rich” and the calls to have “millionaires pay their fair share” that have come regularly from the White House. Having heard the president and his team engage in regular rounds of class warfare, we should not be surprised when scores turn out and act like taking over public space with signs attacking the wealthy will somehow lead to a resolution of the very real problems facing our country.


Nevertheless, as of Obama’s remarks yesterday, the administration has not decided whether  to really stand behind the demonstrators. At most, what the president said is that “the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works…we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow.” That is a rather soft comment that is not exactly a strong endorsement.

What the administration prefers is to leave overt support to the most radical of its supporters, like the socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who told CNN that he stands behind them. Yet, as a shrewd report in the Wall Street Journal makes quite clear,

[M]any in the Democratic Party remain studiously silent on the growing crowds, wary of embracing a protest movement whose aims and goals are unclear, some Democratic congressional aides said Thursday. Moderate, middle-class swing voters, as well as wealthy Democratic Wall Street donors, may be turned off by the demonstrators’ rougher edges.

And those rough edges are there. Watch any of the video reports on MSNBC, which has virtually camped out there during its evening prime time coverage by the likes of Ed Schultz and the rest of its left-leaning team, and you will see a conglomeration of younger people in their 20s and 30s. There is also a strange amalgamation of leftover hippies from the ’60s and some who appear to be truly bizarre, as well as scores of extreme left radical groups from organizations as diverse as anarchists, members of the Industrial Workers of the World (whose heyday was in the early 20th century), and, of course, an assortment of every remaining communist and socialist grouplet with their own signs and propaganda.


There are also many younger highly tech-savvy people. CNN’s Erin Burnett interviewed one unemployed software engineer, who, as she pointed out, was sitting  with his laptop Apple computer and other varied products from the late Steve Jobs’ company. Dan, who seems to be a nice young man, was asked by Burnett whether he included Apple among the corporations he was protesting. Surprised by the question, Dan answered that their “design is elegant.” Undoubtedly, he seems unaware that Apple trades at close to $400 a share on the very stock market he is protesting.

Writing at the New York Post, columnist John Podhoretz noted that Steve Jobs did more than the Obama administration and its stimulus ever did to create jobs, and that rather than the “collective action” that the president says will save America, it was the business acumen of Jobs, a single individual and visionary who had the power and took the effort to build and rebuild a company on his own initiative, that truly helped the country. As Podhoretz points out, “As of September 2010, 49,400 people in the United States (and probably twice as many abroad) work for Apple to create its products, sell them, deliver them and help people use them.”

Ironically, Jobs was a product of the counterculture of the ’60s, a man who swore by LSD, dated Joan Baez, and considered himself something of a liberal. But in his practice and his life, everything he did promoted the individual effort in which he built a company from the bottom up, beginning with a small investment on a borrowed $1500.00. His life was not spent engaging in “community organizing” and attacking banks and investors, but rather, using their funds and help to actually create a company whose small portion of the PC market made Apple one of the titans of Wall Street.


Now, the Democrats and the leftist movement are seeking to channel the protest into an organized form meant to pressure Obama to turn to the left. Led by Van Jones and company, they will do all they can to get the protestors to join forces with their operation at the Center for American Progress think tank. One remaining centrist Democrat, Matt Bennett of a group called Third Way, told the WSJ that he feared “a rowdy and inchoate movement that could alienate independent voters Democrats needed next year. ‘Swing voters are watching carefully, and we’re not convinced this kind of messaging will resonate,’  he said.” Indeed, those once Reagan Democrats in states like Michigan and Ohio, watching the antics of the “Occupy Wall Street” folks and the public sector unions joining them at the demonstrations, are likely to run helter skelter to the Republican Party each time they see a demonstrator carrying signs calling for revolution and socialism.

Hence the ambivalence of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, whose own tepid response is quite different from the endorsement from Bernie Sanders. Schumer, who supports the so-called millionaire tax, is also a favorite of the New York banks and the Wall Street community whose coffers fill Democratic campaign chests. Democrats, Schumer says, should not vilify the rich, even though he supports the current Obama policies that do just that. So in public statements, Schumer says: “‘Populism has sort of a negativity toward the high end, and that’s not our intention,’ he said. ‘Our intention is to do things to help the middle class.’” It might not be Schumer’s intention, but he and his party have played right into it, and by now, it is becoming more than difficult for the Democrats to pretend otherwise.


Schumer and others are obviously not too happy when they read reports like that in the WSJ on what it found in yesterday’s Washington, D.C. mobilization:

At a protest off Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., it was unclear what the protesters stood for, much less if they’d accept political support from the Democratic Party. A man on stage beat on a drum while reciting free-verse poetry lines such as “Revolution is the solution,” and “then we can all sit down and have a lollipop.” The group at one point participated in Yoga stretches.

So where does our country go? Peggy Noonan notes the response of focus groups of middle-American women who shop regularly at Wal-Mart. Here’s what these women think:

Who are the culprits behind our economic calamity? “The banks and the people who took the loans.” But more the banks, because they had, as one woman put it, “the authority.” When they gave out the loans, people thought “it must have been OK.” People were “lured in” by the banks—don’t worry, home values will keep going up—which pocketed the fees and kept walking.

People lampoon the Occupy Wall Street movement as a bunch of marginal freaks, but these women from the heart of the country shared a basic resentment: The banks got bailed out, everyone else was left holding the bag.

Indeed, they have it right. The banks do bear responsibility. When a Republican candidate like Herman Cain says, as he did last night, that those without a job are responsible themselves for their plight because they could become employed if they try harder, and they should “go and get rich,”  he only shows his ignorance and stupidity about the plight regular people are in. For once, a man I usually do not agree with, Ron Paul, answered Cain and showed he understands much more what the real issue is. Speaking to Wolf Blitzer, Paul showed that the wealth is going from the poor to the wealthy as a result of the bailout and a “flawed economic system.” The “average person who wants a job” is not responsible, Paul said. It is the result of dependence on “Keynesian economic policy.”


So the problem of the Left is not only that it presents as an answer to the problem a move towards a second stimulus that would fail and leave us further behind. It also wants to move beyond that towards a formal social-democracy based on the failed European model, one that would before long put America in the position Greece is in today. And who would then bail us out — China?

So I hope that Mitt Romney, who might be the Republican nominee, comes to understand the plight of regular people, and will turn Washington away from the self-defeating policies of the current White House occupant if he is elected our next president.

If he is not, and President Obama has another term in office, get ready for our future — and look at the riots and strikes occurring in Greece today.


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