It seems that some commentators can barely contain their excitement at the prospect of the Occupy Wall Street protests becoming a counterpart to the Tea Party, or an American Fall riposte to the Arab Spring. On paper, it seems like they’ve picked a winner. And in theory, the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests should have the support of a large segment of the American public. Having dealt with three years of foreclosures, job market stagnation, and belt-tightening, this public eruption of unhappiness might seem to represent a genuine display of frustration with the political and economic climate.
But the protest actually consists largely of recycled left-wing fare. Daniel Indiviglio picks apart some of the myths being promoted by the protest about itself, specifically its claim to be the vanguard of 99 percent of Americans, either statistically or philosophically:
What the OWS either fails to grasp or refuses to admit is that most Americans genuinely like the current system. They believe in capitalism. They are okay with the arrangement that some people can get much richer than others, even if that means wealth inequality. Ultimately, they believe that the incentive to work hard and innovate is worth the tradeoff of having some people who are much wealthier than others.
As Indiviglio points out, not only are the positions espoused by Occupy Wall Street simply not the kinds of views held by a vast majority of people in this country, but the problems they claim as their starting point are not even close to being universal.
It may be the case that any such movement can easily fall into stereotypes or lend itself to caricature (such is probably the nature of any group that wishes to march through the streets demanding changes), but the difference is that, by and large, successful ones think small. They not only clearly identify their allies and enemies, but state comparatively few specific demands, and establish rapport with a plurality of the public. In short, these groups are believable manifestations of certain segments of popular sentiment. They may have a broader cultural vision, but they dont try to do it all at once. Even the Tea Party, no stranger to sweeping pronouncements itself, has managed to parlay its force into a coherent political agenda: cutting the deficit.
Occupy Wall Street’s organizers, in contrast, seem to have an irresistible tendency to lump every one of their favored causes together. Youd think the Manhattan protest’s demands might center around calls for concrete solutions for the financial crisis: a clear demand for new regulation, for instance, or a call for a jobs program to lower levels of unemployment. Those issues are there, but so are a smorgasbord of other, tangentially-related ones, at least in a ‘draft proposal’ of the movement’s demands : “across the board debt forgiveness for all,” police brutality awareness, environmental pollution, the reversal of Supreme Court decisions, “open borders migration,” and a racial and gender equality amendment to the Constitution. Serving bankers their just deserts has turned into something like an out-of-control potluck dinner.
Though the protests leaders claim their action is both non-ideological and laser-targeted, the ubiquity of things like explicit references to socialism and drop-by visits from Hollywood celebrities put these claims under further suspicion. And now that labor unions have become involved in the protest, the tent is sure to get even bigger.
The organizers of this protest are not only overplaying their hand but leaving the game altogether. In attempting to transcend specific groups interests by including everything and everyone, they give in to the old temptation to envision a utopian Answer to Everything. As the lobbyists these protesters disdain demonstrate, blatantly representing one interest group is often a surer path to victory than claiming to be an umbrella for 99 percent of the population.