Late Night FDL: Occupy Wall Street and the Overton Window
David Dayen, October 6, 2011:
The New Bottom Line, the coalition of bank accountability groups, chose LA as the launch pad for a new wave of anti-bank direct actions that have been playing out all week (even despite some rainy weather today). Officially known as the Refund California campaign, local LA community organizers, homeowners and activists have put on public pressure in street actions this week aimed at making the banks pay for the wreckage they’ve caused to the economy.
On Monday, activists with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment held a teach-in on the extent of damage caused by Wall Street banks, with about 70 attendees – in the lobby of a Chase Bank downtown. On Tuesday, the California Bankers Association met in Los Angeles, and over 100 activists crashed the meeting. They took to the stage and rattled off a list of demands to make banks pay for the crisis and provide relief to homeowners and a rebirth to blighted neighborhoods.
Today, more direct actions are planned, with home visits to executives included. This culminates tomorrow with a big march at the California Plaza downtown. Over 1,000 activists are expected. The organizers have been in touch with the Occupy LA movement, and there’s a possibility that the two groups will march together tomorrow.
Even if they don’t, the vibrant spirit that characterizes the #Occupy protests is animating the bank accountability movement, you can definitely see that. The left has finally begun to mobilize and engage with a multiplicity of voices and strategies. And when facing as powerful a force as the finance lobby, there are advantages to that. As Peggy Mears, one of the leaders of Refund California, said in a statement, “Like the people occupying Wall Street right this minute, we all know that we have to stand up to the power of the Wall Street bankers with the power of the people.”
Here’s Wendy Davis, MyFDL, October 11, 2011, talking about her 94-year-old rock-ribbed Republican father:
We talked about the total corruption of our government, and the fascist nature of it now, and Obama’s complicity in selling out the 99% so cravenly, or worse. He read a couple of my diaries that mentioned revolution, and he even asked more about one key exchange between Robert Alexander Dumas and me in the comments section. He loved the Sweet Honey in the Rock videos I’d posted, and we dug up more for him on youtube.
At the breakfast this morning we talked some more; after a pause in the conversation, he cleared his throat a little and said, “You know; for about a year I’ve been thinking about revolution, and the fact that it seems to be the only chance we have to turn all this around.”
David Dayen, October 11, 2011:
It was just a week ago that Republicans tried to denigrate the Occupy Wall Street protesters as a “dangerous” “mob” who needed to “get a job” rather than “pit Americans against Americans.” Then they must have gotten the polling. So now, they’re changing their tune. Here’s Mitt Romney:
I don’t worry about the top one percent. I don’t stay up nights worrying about ‘gee we need to help them.’ I don’t worry about that. They’re doing just fine by themselves. I worry about the 99 percent in America. I want America, once again, to be the best place in the world to be middle-class. I want to have a strong and vibrant and prosperous middle-class. And so I look at what’s happening on Wall Street and my own view is, boy I understand how those people feel…The people in this country are upset.
And then, the distributor of the “mob” comments, Eric Cantor:
“People are upset, and they are justifiably frustrated,” Cantor told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing. “They are out of work. The economy is not moving. Their sense of security for the future is not clear at all. People are afraid, and I get it.”
The greatest value so far (and possibly in the long run as well) of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been not so much in the shaping of electoral politics — though it’s already starting to influence that somewhat — but in its shoving the Overton Window away from the far right end of the spectrum, far enough away to make talk of meaningful solutions possible, which is the first step towards making them politically viable. Putting a surtax on the rich and/or letting the Bush tax cuts finally expire was considered politically verboten as recently as a month ago. Then Occupy Wall Street got started, and suddenly surtaxes on millionaires start becoming very much discussed indeed.
The Occupiers, so long as they are free agents not committed to a feudalistic fealty to a particular party (and that includes the Green Party, which in our current voting system can unfortunately be nothing but a tool for Republicans seeking to split non-Republican votes, which is why Republicans for many years have backed Greens over and over and over and over, again), can exert a lot of leverage. This is something that many key portions of the Democratic coalition, such as unions, have recently discovered: Allowing people like Barack Obama to take your support for granted, without your making it crystal-clear that backstabbing you will be politically costly, is the surest route to your group’s demise. History is filled with examples of people who enhanced their power, or the power of their group or country, through a strategic use of their unaffiliated status. Look at how the first Queen Elizabeth, who her advisers had wanted to get quickly married off to some European prince much as her older sister and royal predecessor Mary had been, played off the various crowned heads of Europe against each other; by the time advanced age had taken her off the marriage market, England had gone from a bankrupt near-backwater to setting the stage for a global empire. See also how Tito managed to not only keep together a fractious Yugoslavia, but keep it free from either Soviet or American domination throughout his years in power — a skill his successors grievously lacked.
Stay unaffiliated, stay in the headlines, have a multitude of strategies, and make your power felt that way.