For two years, Barack Obama got the benefit of the doubt from fervent supporters — I’d bet that many of those in Lower Manhattan during these weeks went door-to-door for him in 2008 — and that support explains why no one occupied Wall Street in 2009. Now, as Jeremy Varon, a historian at the New School, said of Zuccotti Park: “This is the Obama generation declaring their independence from his administration.”
By allying itself with the protest, the left at large is telling the president that a campaign slogan that essentially says “We’re better than Eric Cantor” won’t cut it in 2012. “We are the 99 percent” would be more like it. If President Obama takes this direction, the movement’s energy may be able to power a motor of significant reform.
That raises the question, though, of whether the inchoate quality of the Occupy Wall Street movement can continue. Probably not, since an evolving alliance demands concrete goals, strategies and compromises. But perhaps something of the initial free spirit can flourish. There is plenty of public sentiment to nourish it. It doesn’t take public opinion polls to detect American anger at the plutocracy and the impunity with which it lords it over the country.
The culture of anarchy is right about this: The corporate rich — those ostensible “job creators” who somehow haven’t gotten around to creating jobs — rule the Republican Party and much of the Democratic Party as well, having artfully arranged a mutual back-scratching society to enrich themselves. A refusal to compromise with this system, defined by its hierarchies of power and money, would be the current moment of anarchy’s great, lasting contribution.
Until now, fury at the plutocracy and the political class had found no channel to run in but the antigovernment fantasies of the Tea Party. Now it has dug a new channel. Anger does not move countries, but it moves movements — and movements, in turn, can move countries. To do that, movements need leverage. Even Archimedes needed a lever and a place to stand to move the world. When Zuccotti Park meets an aroused liberalism, the odd couple may not live happily ever after. But they can make a serious run at American dreams of “liberty and justice for all.”
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Channeling the Fury Against the Plutocracy
Todd Gitlin, former 60's radical and now analyst of the Left, writes in the NYT about the 'Occupy' movement and its potential to be an effective movement on the Left: