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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.