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Occupy Wall Street and the Ghost of Democracy

Photo credit: Nina Matzat

Photo credit: Nina Matzat

In retrospect, the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Millions of hopeful people flocked to the ballot box in hopes of reversing decades of pro-corporate, pro-wealth, anti-ordinary people policies, only to realize that they had voted in what they thought they had voted out.  Progressives who had dedicated themselves to being The Opposition during the Bush II era discovered that they are still The Opposition, even with a nominally Democratic president.

Tthe 2006 and 2008 elections showed us just how hopelessly broken our electoral system is.  Even after two landslides handed Democrats all the executive powers of the White House and 60 votes in the Senate, nothing really changed.  The 1% still get all the breaks and bailouts (but occasional harsh words which hurt their feelings), while the 99% get half-measures at best, and the shaft at worst.

OWS is a logical outgrowth of the understanding that our corrupt, money-poisoned electoral system is designed to preserve the status quo, not fix it.  It’s asymmetrical class warfare waged by the people who can’t compete on the battlefield of five- and six-figure campaign contributions.

If we had a functioning government where elected officials were responsive to the needs of all their constituents instead of just their biggest donors, OWS would not be necessary because the 99% would already have representation.  But they don’t, and that’s what they want: A government that works for them, not just the 1% who can afford to buy it.  For the 99%, democracy in America is dead, and like a ghost or a guilty conscience, they are haunting its killers even as they struggle to bring it back to life.

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