In this week's Time magazine, Bill Bradley has a column. Bradley was a three-term US senator, ran against Al Gore in the 2000 presidential primary, was a Rhodes scholar, plus he was some type of athlete. Smart guy. You can read his full column here. I agree with parts of it, disagree with others, and was struck by this:
The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street offer contrasting examples of citizen involvement. The Tea Party promulgated a very specific objective — roll back government — and immediately converted its energy into electoral politics. The result was that in 2010, 49 Tea Party Republicans won election to Congress. Through their leverage in the Republican caucus, they almost forced the country into bankruptcy during the debate on the debt limit in the summer of 2011. That's how quickly things can change. That's how easily the status quo can crumble. Occupy, on the other hand, while full of passion and solidarity and armed with a catchy slogan — "We're the 99%" — failed to have much of an impact on policy because it had no specific objective. (Emphasis mine.)
Think about it: one election, one group, all that power. And it's more extreme than Bradley counted, if you include the state governments in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, just to name a few. If you doubt the power of a few, remember that yesterday, Jan Brewer signed legislation effectually banning Planned Parenthood, which Rick Perry did in Texas (now struck down by the courts), and that today marks the Democratic primary to challenge Scott Walker next month, and where Amendment 1 will likely pass in North Carolina.
I don't know that Bradley's conclusion about Occupy is correct: the teabag contingent was already a movement without a name prior to their rising against the ACA in 2009. The people who comprise the teabaggers are the same racist, homophobic, anti-choice, anti-Semitic, gun-toting, poorly-educated, climate change deniers they've always been. The teabag banner just gave them a clubhouse they could all share with their vitriol.
Occupy, on the other hand, is relatively young, and has not yet gone through a legitimate election cycle: we'll see whether or not the power of that voting bloc can be harnessed in November. And it is incumbent on us, the Democrats, to reach out and bring them into our tent. It may be a transient location. In France this past weekend, Sarkozy was ousted and much of his party replaced by Socialists who realize that "austerity" is a disaster, and government spending is the only way for Europe to recover from the sins and excesses of the right wing and their bankers. By 2014, Occupy may well be organized enough to be fielding candidates who legitimately embrace the money-out-of-politics, and related, goals. This year, their choice will be to join us, or sit out the election, possibly causing further inroads on the part of the far right.
It's an "ich kreplach" moment for Occupy. (If you don't know "ich kreplach", it's after the jump.) The idea is that they hate the influence of corporations, their money and their power, on elections, politics, and sadly, democracy. They see both parties as having fallen into the grasp of that money pit. If you ask them about individual issues, Occupy identifies with the mainline Democratic positions: gay marriage, cap and trade, more money for education, etc. In the end though, many do not want to vote because they don't see enough difference between the two major parties, and consider them both equally corrupt.
It is up to US as individuals, to move them from that spot. Bradley's conclusion is different than mine, he thinks the answer lies in expecting more from our politicians, and making them give concrete answers. His conclusion fails in the fact that it's easy to lie, get elected, and change sides. Or just be Mittens and have a position for everyone, given the time of day. My conclusion is that we must realize that the GOP, circa 2012, is the problem, and vanquishing them is the solution. Through any non-violent way possible.
A shout out to John McCain, who is the last Republican to have done something decent. Yesterday, Mittens was faced at a town hall by a woman who said that Obama should be charged with treason. Like all Republican candidates faced with idiocy and racism on the part of an audience member, he just ignored it. Back in 2008, in the single best moment of his campaign, McCain was faced with a woman who said all sorts of nasty things about Obama in a similar forum. McCain took the mic back and said that while he disagreed with Obama on a number of issues, Obama was a decent man, and an American.
Mic check: Vanquish the GOP at the voting booth. Bring everyone you know. It's our only chance.