The issue of the Democratic Party trying to co-opt the growing “Occupy” movement has become a topic of establishment media conversation. It is being discussed through the lens of whether this movement will do for Democrats what the Tea Party did for Republicans in 2010. It is also being discussed in terms of how to use the broad-based anger and energy to advance Democratic policy proposals in Congress.
The media is watching closely to see how this impacts the political landscape. For example, on “Hardball” on October 11, Chris Matthews focused attention on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s email calling for 100,000 people to stand strong with Occupy Wall Street. He spoke with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee. Matthews asked her if she really thought the angry and frustrated Americans in the parks were going to support Democrats:
MATTHEWS: Can you list the things that you would do as a member of Congress and a leader of the party that’s going to make them happy? What are you doing to win their support? From what I understand, the people in the streets are so alienated right now, so angry, they don’t like either political party. It’s not a place where President Obama, for example, could go up and get a big applause from showing up or he’d be there now. [Schultz nervously laughs.] How do you make them see you as the good guys?
SCHULTZ: For starters, we’re pushing to get Richard Cordray, the president’s choice for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to be approved by, as his nominee, by the United States Senate. The Republicans are blocking that. So, continue to advocate for the full implementation of the consumer protections of the Wall Street reform legislation, that’s a way to help address the concerns of Occupy Wall Street. But, we’ve already accomplished quite a bit. The Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights law that passed and was signed into law by President Obama that really makes sure that credit card companies can’t jack up interest rates arbitrarily, that focuses on the needs of consumers that are credit card holders. And there’s more that we should be doing but we’ve got to balance the scales here. The Republicans want to put all the weight on the side of the wealthy most fortunate Americans in corporate America. Mitt Romney even said that corporations are people. Democrats believe that people are people.
Democrats may believe “people are people” but they certainly haven’t done anything to address the issue of corporate personhood in America. The passage of the Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights is nothing to tout. As William Greider of The Nation wrote, it basically consisted of regulatory rules that had previously been adopted by the Federal Reserve. It gave the industry nine additional months to “gouge” customers before the new rules went into effect. And, Visa and MasterCard, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase were “free to raise future interest rates to the sky–without limit.” Additionally, Schultz must be lunatic if she thinks this group is going to coalesce behind the nomination of Richard Cordray, whom Obama picked because he didn’t want to upset his Wall Street donors and push for Elizabeth Warren to be nominated.
Following Schultz’s appearance, Ron Reagan appeared on “Hardball.” This is what he had to say about the Democrats plans for Occupy Wall Street:
REAGAN: This is a movement that has a broad-based anger and the challenge it seems to me for the Democratic Party if they want to somehow join the movement or co-opt the movement, however you want to put it, is that these folks are just as mad at them as they are with the Republicans. The Republicans may be more egregiously in the hip pocket of Wall Street and the bankers but the Democrats are too. There are plenty of Democratic congressmen and senators who have staked their whole careers on providing tax loopholes for the richest 1%. They’re not the natural allies of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, let’s not forget the Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House at numerous times in our lifetime and they didn’t fix the tax system when they had all the power in the world.
The New York Times reported some Democrats are wary to support the occupations because they are afraid there could be violence. Reagan reacted to this notion by noting that the Tea Party had in fact shown up to rallies with guns, something no occupier has been caught doing. He restated the core problem for Democrats:
REAGAN:The problem is, again, that these people are angry at a system that has been rigged by both parties to serve moneyed interests. The Democrats have been complicit in that just as the Republicans have been complicit in that. Your question to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, “What are you going to offer these people?” is exactly the question. What are the Democrats going to offer these people? Are they going to throw some bankers in jail? Are they going to close the loopholes for the richest 1%? I’m not so sure that all the Democrats are on board with that.
MATTHEWS: I wonder if both parties aren’t hoping for colder weather to come soon because then they can say what a great demonstration of unhappiness and how wonderful it’s over because then we don’t have to worry about it anymore.
That seems to be the expectation of people in power, that the weather will bring an end to the culture of dissent that is being fueled and nurtured by Occupy Wall Street and the various occupations springing up around the country. Mayor Bloomberg predicted the snow would end all this at some point.
The power elite do not want to have to respond to those participating in occupations. The power elite do not understand how disgruntled and resolute people occupying parks across the country happen to be. These people have shown they are willing to put themselves in situations and risk arrest. They have shown in Boston, Sacramento and Seattle that they are willing to confront police and have their camp raided if that is how city government wants to handle their presence. That is because they understand they are part of a grand moment and must be willing to put their bodies on the line if they truly want to grow and sustain a climate for making real change in this country.
Other Americans are realizing how police and other security forces are used to defend city and state governments from the masses. They are witnessing how political leaders in cities all over the country respond to people peaceably assembling and protesting. They are finding out that if police crack down on an encampment people will come together and regroup and they will be stronger in the aftermath because a more people will join in support.
The people’s ability to influence power has been neutralized by corporate and special interest money. It has been neutralized by bureaucracies whose existence in government is more important than the damage they do to liberty and justice in society. And, it has been neutralized by two parties who give Americans the illusion of choice and cite the other party’s most frightening and upsetting features to intimidate citizens into perpetuating and reinforcing the worst aspects of the system.
The people have woken up. They won’t go to sleep because they realize the last option they have for improving their lives and the greater society is public rebellion. Everything else is futile.