The middle class is shrinking. Those in power have run up enormous debts on public credit while shoveling most of the money into private pockets. The corporations that have benefitted from this borrowing binge, meanwhile, leverage the global trade system to transfer their profits beyond the reach of national governments.

Meanwhile, we have been told lies by Democrats and by Republicans, divided into artificial camps and led into debates that are either irrelevant or so dramatically scripted that we fail to realize every choice leads to the same result: the dismantling of the social framework that defined and sustained the opportunity of the last century. National mobilization of resources has given way to radical individualism under a narrative that, in the wealthiest nation in the world, we must always expect less.

In this tumultuous time, we search for a way forward - a new Square Deal for the American people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The End of the Beginning

This morning, shortly after midnight, riot police established a perimeter around Zuccoti Park, the site of the Occupy Wall Street encampment whose establishment more than two months ago kicked off what has become a global Occupy movement.  They set up bright lights, turned on loudspeakers, and told the Occupiers that they had to leave immediately.  Some left.  Others demurred.  Police moved in, and a short time later, the camp was gone.

Precisely what happened is difficult to say.  As in other recent police actions against Occupy encampments in Oakland, Salt Lake City, and Portland, reporters -- the "free press" of the American Republic -- found their First Amendment rights granted little consideration.  Members of a profession that has observed pitched battles in time of war were prevented from watching what police did to American citizens on American soil. 

Thankfully, in the case of the Wall Street action, there appear to have been no substantial clashes.  Most protesters left with what belongings they could muster; about 100 "core" protesters refused to leave and were arrested as their tents, aid stations, computer center, and infrastructure were sliced apart and thrown into garbage trucks.

Zuccotti Park (Liberty Plaza) is indeed now clean.
The move against Occupy Wall Street was ostensibly prompted by a need to "clean the park."  Indeed, crews moved in behind police to sweep, wash, and collect trash.  With the park cleared on the Occupiers and their tents, it must have looked cleaner immediately.  Never mind that much of the "trash" was the remains of a carefully constructed camp reduced to sudden ruin by the police themselves.  It's all gone now.

We should not pretend that "cleaning" was the true reason for the removal of Occupy Wall Street, or that  Occupy Salt Lake City was dismantled to ensure that the homeless could get "needed services."  We should not pretend that after 18 shootings that occurred in Oakland with little concern, one shooting near the encampment there prompted such concern for the "safety" of the Occupiers that hundreds of riot police moved in to help protect them in a city apparently to unsafe for human habitation.

As James Downie from the Washington Post put it, "This morning’s action may not be what a police state looks like, but it’s certainly how one begins."

Now, over the last several months, we have heard considerable grumbling from conservative activists like those who consider themselves part of the Tea Party that the Occupy encampments should be raided, everyone arrested, etc.  I doubt it can come as a surprise to anyone reading this that conservative activists do not like the Occupiers.  As recently discussed, the Tea Party is similar to the Occupy movement in that both are a manifestation of disillusionment with our political situation, but the two want different things, the former championing a rugged individualism while the latter calls for social justice.  Both of these are valid views; the tension between them is unavoidable.

But look at the places where these camps have been cleared, harassed, or threatened. 

Oakland?  Mayor Quan is a Democrat. 
Philadelphia?  Mayor Nutter is a Democrat.
Mayor Chicago?  Mayor Emanuel was President's Obama's Chief of Staff!

Sure, Michael Bloomberg switched parties in 2001 to run on a Republican ticket, then left the Republican Party to run as an independent, yadda yadda.  He'd been a Democrat his whole life; I doubt many people saw his label-swapping as a sudden epiphany.

When you look at what is happening to the Occupy encampments, don't be fooled by the red-herring of Republican activism.  Republicans loathe the Occupiers, but they're not the ones bringing them down.  It's the Democrats who are doing that.

And why?  For decades, Democrats have laid claim to the mantle that they were the "party of the people," guardians of the progressive legacy.  But what have they done

All of the problems that we have today may well have started in the Bush years, or the Clinton years, or the Bush years, or the Reagan years, or the Carter years, or in whatever years.  But one thing is unavoidable: in January 2009, a Democrat was in the White House and there were Democratic supermajorities in both houses of Congress.  To claim that anything left undone was left undone because of "Republican obstruction" is as silly as to hear Republicans claim straight-faced that they have ideas to improve healthcare that, somehow, didn't make the cut for action during the six years when they held their own lockstep control of government under George W. Bush.

The camps are being pulled apart with increasing speed and force because those in power are afraid of what happens when the sheer ineffectiveness of their governance is called out for public scrutiny.

It won't work.  Like the Tea Party, the Occupiers understand that the people they've been told are supposed to represent their interests have actually been representing their own.  But the Occupiers have it worse.

Republicans genuinely want to dismantle the government and the whole social safety net, and they were only sidetracked by their overriding desire to shovel taxpayer money to the plutocratic bankers.  Given prodding from the terribly midguided Tea Party agenda, they'll be able to follow through on the deconstruction with the groupthink and discipline typical of modern conservatism.

For all of their talking points, meanwhile, Democrats do not want to pursue a progressive agenda.  Most of those in office are either old-school liberals or Clintonian "New Democrats."  The former are beholden to labor unions and other power structures of the past; the latter worship at the altars of the "job creators" and deregulation just as do their conservative counterparts.  We remember the Clinton years favorably only because of the coincidental rise of the Dot-Com bubble, which was not due to Clinton's policies.  Clinton's true legacy contributions were the repeal of Glass-Steagall (1999) and the passing of Permanent Normal Trading Relations with China (2000), neither of which has been favorable for the American people.

The people who support the Occupy movement -- and there are a lot of them, far more than one sees at the encampments -- are starting to understand this.  Defining a debate as a contest in who can make the most concessions the fastest to a conservative narrative might "energize" people on the right, but whatever might be popular on right-wing talk radio, at least half of the country supports a generally progressive agenda (even if they have been taught to dislike the word "progressive").  They see that there is no one really willing to challenge the entrenched financial interests that manipulate our currency and economy for their own gain.  They see that a vote for Barack Obama turned out to be little more than an ineffectual hand-wringing variation of sponsoring the Republican agenda of tax cuts and service cuts as their lives get worse and their futures bleaker.

In 2008, Americans voted for change and have gotten only a different stamp on the same overall agenda.  The encampments can be torn down, but the anger can't.  There will be new ways forward.  For now, the Occupy Wall Street crowd is occupying the corner of Canal St. and 6th Ave.

This is only the end of the beginning.

Despite a court order, NYPD is keeping the park closed.
 Update: At 8:15 a.m., New York Justice Lucy Billings issued a temporary restraining order requiring the NYPD to allow the protesters back into the park.  At issue apparently is that the park's owners put in place many additional rules after the Occupy Wall Street group arrived, rules that were not in effect previously. 

Because Zuccotti Park (formerly Liberty Plaza; OWS still uses that name for the space) was built under a 1968 arrangement in which the park was a condition of a variance that appproved a higher-than-otherwise-allowed office building, it is privately owned but falls under aspects of city regulation.  Justice Billings apparently wants to hear the merits of the two sides before ruling, and in the meantime, she has affirmed that the protestors may not be removed or banned from the space, nor may their belongings.

Surprisingly, Mayor Bloomberg has apparently chosen to ignore this temporary order and continues to prevent people from re-entering the park pending "clarification" (of something quite direct).

1 comment:

  1. Deeply, deeply disturbing.

    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." -JFK