It’s hard to argue that our country is working great right now. We have high unemployment, a lack of shared sacrifice, two wars (at least for now), and a political system that isn’t addressing basic issues for most of the people. This is, one would think, the time for the Occupy movement to gain strength, recruit candidates for public office, and build momentum for an agenda. Or at least define and promote an agenda.
But this has not happened. The Occupy Wall Street movement has, to its credit in many ways, eschewed a leadership structure. Part of the ethos of the movement is that no one leads and no one follows. Unlike the Tea Party movement, Occupy is not engaging the electoral process. The preference is to create awareness and a bow wave that pushes the system to inevitable change.
But that's not how the system works. And there is a good reason for this. Most people believe the U.S. Constitution and the political system works pretty well. Yes, they will complain about it, like they complain about their families, but most don’t want to riot in the streets or even skip dinner to hold a sign downtown.
And here is where the Tea Party is more effective than Occupy, even though they probably have a smaller number of sympathizers. The Tea Party has organized at the ground level to support candidates for political office. People like Marco Rubio in Florida have benefitted from their support. And he may be vice president or even president someday. It’s hard to imagine an Occupy candidate getting anywhere near that level.
And Tuesday (May 1) in Seattle we were treated to a big reason why. Through no fault of the Occupy organizers, a bunch of thugs, dressed in black with their faces covered, broke windows throughout downtown. As the cameras rolled and the cops were nowhere in sight, a dozen or so “anarchists” broke windows and created chaos for no apparent reason. And the sad thing is that those who want to preserve the status quo will simply roll the tape over and over and the average person will associate the Occupy movement with violence and stupidity.
The anarchists who break windows will never be happy. Their joy is derived from negativity. Some will grow up and realize their errors. Others will be forever bitter and unhappy. Forget them.
It’s not fair. But if the Occupy movement is ever to become a real movement, it needs to change from being a tactical exercise to a strategic one. Meaning: What is the legislative agenda, and how many votes are needed?
I was on a panel with Occupy organizers last year. I didn’t agree with everything that was said. But like most Americans. I would like to live in a country where fairness, shared sacrifice, and an efficient and accountable government is expected. We are fortunate in that we don’t have far to go to realize a “more perfect union.” The tools are right there in the Constitution. If the Occupy movement is to succeed, they need to use them.