Posts Tagged Occupy Wall Street

This is What Terrifies Progressives

Corporatism.

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is the merger of corporate and state power.” ~ Benito Mussolini

There are only two real parties in American politics, but perhaps not the ones you think. Our system promotes a two party state because of the mechanics of our elections. The winner take all system that we employ causes any major third party challenge to split votes off from the dominant party who’s views most closely match their own, thus throwing victory to the party most opposed to their views. This is why it is extremely unlikely, and exceedingly rare, to have a third party candidate win. I’m all for making changes to the winner take all system, but while we have this method, we need to figure out how to deal with the reality of how it works in order to elect more progressives.

Simply put, our issue is that we have one party that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporations and another is a partially owned subsidiary of corporations. It’s not so much the Republicans and the Democrats as it is the Corporatists and the Progressive-Populists. Or as Alan Grayson put it in reference to Occupy Wall Street on Real Time with Bill Maher:

…they’re complaining about the fact that wall street wrecked the economy 3 years ago and nobody’s held responsible for that. Not a single person has been indicted or convicted for destroying 20%, 20% of our national net worth accumulated over the course of two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that wall street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly owned subsidiary of wall street, and the other party caters to them as well. That’s the real truth of the matter…

http://cdn1.whosaystatic.com/app/025.7056/flash/VideoPlayer.swf?videoId=77327&vanityUrlRoot=BillMaher&width=620&height=346&adSupport=false&embed=true
Bill Maher on WhoSay

This is why even when we get reform, it’s usually watered down and full of corporate welfare (wealthfare). The much hyped and touted Affordable Care Act with its individual mandate is a huge giveaway to the health insurance corporations that are the problem in the first place. Yes, there are some good parts of the law and in the long run it may help move us toward a Medicare for All type solution, but with 60 Senators, a solid 257 seat majority in the House, and the Presidency, why couldn’t Democrats pass something better? Likewise, why was there such a struggle against creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? Why were the Dem’s so vexingly ineffective at creating real, lasting, and substantive change as a majority party? And why was 2010 such a bad year for D’s at the ballot box?

The simple answer is because the Corporatist still outnumbered the Progressive-Populists. Corporate Democrats like Max Baucus and the thankfully retiring Joe Lieberman (who was so Corporatist that the party activists kicked him out of the party in 2006) join with Corporatist Republicans (is there any other type?) to prevent progress. Progressive legislation is not only good policy, but good politics. When you pass popular legislation, people vote for you. I specifically refer to Progressive-Populists as such because it is the combination of popular ideas (ie. Populism) and ones that contribute toward social and economic justice, or progress, for the large majority (99%?) of regular people (ie. Progressivism) While this is a fairly simple idea, many Democrats either don’t get it, or are so busy collecting campaign donations from their corporate backers that they just don’t care.

This gets at one of the root causes of the problem. That we have a system that requires candidates to raise obscene amounts of cash in order to be heard allows those with obscene amounts of cash to simply buy the candidates. Generally speaking, the group of those with obscene amounts of cash include those in the top 1% and corporations. Corporations are mechanisms to aggregate wealth and therefore, the largest corporations usually have huge treasuries. With Citizens United v. FEC (pdf) giving corporations the ability to spend unlimited sums from their corporate treasury, the Corporatists will only become harder to beat. This is why we not only need a constitutional amendment making it clear that corporations are not people and overturning this atrocious ruling, but one that also allows for the creation of a publicly funded election system with matching funds, like Arizona’s original system before it was struck down by the Supreme Court.

This would not completely solve the problem, but it would go a long way toward that solution. One of the consequences of the publicly financed system in Arizona was that because it opened the doors to just about anyone to run for public office, it allowed a lot of extreme right wingers to take control of the state. There are three reasons for this, the first is that the right was/is more organized than the left in Arizona, the second being that legislators are paid a paltry $24K salary making it hard to recruit quality candidates, and the third is that most of the legislative districts are drawn in a way that whomever wins the primary in one party or the other will prevail in the general. This combination of factors allowed the right wing of the Republican party to take over that party and the state government because they found extremists who would be happy to make $24,000 that they could run and get elected in the primary and subsequently the heavily partisan general. The left has not been so organized as to take advantage of the system in a way that pushes their partisans to take more progressive stances. They have also had a hard time recruiting candidates in many areas that are winnable. Arizona has a system whereby each Legislative District elects 1 Senator and 2 Representatives. While doing some elections research, I came across many examples of elections when the Democratic party won a State Senate seat, but did not even contest the corresponding House seats. This has lead to occasional control of the Senate, but decades in the minority in the House. In fact, because online records only go back as far as the 1974 election, I can’t tell you when the Democrats last controlled the House.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, however, represents a new hope for Progressive-Populism. Many people have cautioned about outside forces, such as labor unions or Democrats, co-opting the movement, but why shouldn’t the movement co-opt the Democratic party?

It should. The party is ripe for a takeover. In poll after poll, large majorities agree with the policies advocated by OWS, yet many occupiers shun traditional politics, opting only to protest rather than protest and vote. Many believe it is time for a complete revolution, but the public is not ready for this and pursuing this path would be deleterious, leading to a 70’s style fizzle out. As Daniel Quinn put it in Ishmael in reference to the movement of the 60’s and 70’s:

“The revolt hadn’t been put down, it had just dwindled away into a fashion statement.”

OWS should still rally and protest in the streets, but in order to stay relevant and powerful, it must transition into the political arena. If the OWS movement funnels its energies into taking over the Democratic Party at the precinct committee person level and running its own candidates on the Progressive-Populist platform it espouses, it can take real political power to make the country over as it sees fit. Alternatively, OWS could endorse candidates and hold them accountable to their values. This will require taking on (and taking down) incumbent Corporatist Democrats who stand in the way of progressive reform and winning in places that are not currently thought of as winnable for Progressive-Populist Democrats. With the right candidate and the Progressive-Populist message, Democrats can win in every district in the country. While there aren’t many who’ve tried, I can point to bold progressives like Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson as examples of Progressive-Populist Democrats winning in heavily Republican territory. It may not be as dramatic as occupying Times Square, but occupying the chambers, halls, and offices of congress carries much more power to fulfill our common values of Justice, Liberty, and Equality.

Cross posted at Daily Kos

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Occupy Democrats, Occupy Republicans & Occupy PAC

The 1% has been busting our camps as they’ve busted our chops for years with economic warfare and “divide and distract” politics. Well, if they’re not going to let us occupy the parks, we’ll occupy houses. However, there are still a couple of houses we must occupy with committed 99%ers…and one senate. I suppose we actually need to occupy a set of these in every state.

Its high time that we, as a movement, start transforming our power into the political arena. We need to find qualified and committed people to run for office on all levels who subscribe to the first Declaration of Occupy Wall St. and any subsequent Declarations from the movement. Click through to Vyan’s recently recommended diary for details on a continuing discussion on the grievances of the occupy movement and a proposed process for composing a more formal document and action plan.

In the meantime, how do we start organizing politically? How can we take this decidedly street based, internet savvy movement from the parks to the halls of power? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure, but I have some ideas. Follow me below the fold to hear my thoughts and please and get your thinking caps on to help brainstorm in the comments.

We’ve been double crossed and flat out lied to by our political leadership so many times that its sickening. But this isn’t just some “throw the bums out” rant. I think most of us here agree that we’re not just sick of Republican corruption, but also that of Democrats. Democrats sold us a bill of goods in 2006 and 2008, but social and economic justice have not been forthcoming. They have passed weak legislation where they’ve been able to pass anything at all. The health care law was a give away to insurance companies. There has been no accountability for the ruination of the economy, let alone the war crimes committed under the Bush Administration. Heck, Obama has continued many of the criminal policies of the Bush Admin. And while many of us feel righteous anger at the deceit of those in charge of our government, we often feel powerless to do anything about it.

Unless we’re going to prepare for a full scale revolution, which I don’t advocate and I don’t think has the support to succeed, we must take the reigns of political power through the electoral system. In order to do this, we must challenge Democrats and Republicans who support profits over people and the 1% over the 99%. We must find and support primary challengers to Democrats who are not supporters of the 99%. We could even help fund Republican 99%ers where it is currently impossible for Democrats to win. There are simply too many people locked into supporting one political party or the other for us to win certain districts without infiltrating both political parties.

The idea of creating a third party does not appeal to me because the current system is a winner take all system. The problem with creating a “99% Party” or some such is that it would probably pull much more from the left (and therefore the Democrats), allowing the solid Republican base to put crazies in many more districts that would ordinarily vote for the Democrat. If we run people in primaries on both sides, it doesn’t split the vote, it just endangers the sick bastards on both sides who have kissed the corporate ring and subscribed to “neo-liberal” aka “neo-conservative” views.

Challenging Republicans in the primary would allow someone to take the message directly to the Republican base, who doesn’t actually agree with the policy that Republicans tend to vote for. It would potentially put places like Utah and Idaho in the mix for a take over by the 99%. Once in congress, they could caucus with other 99%ers across the aisle to implement the agenda of the Occupy movement.

Okay, so now the fun part. IMHO, we need to form a PAC or SuperPAC (?) to funnel the energy generated by this movement into supporting candidates who support our cause. I would love to do that, but I’ll need some help. I am writing this diary to see if anyone out there is interested in being that help. I’m not sure how to go about doing this, but perhaps others do. A recent poll found that 58% of Californians agree with the ideals of the movement, another recent poll found 41% of Massachussetts residents “approve” of the movement. While the numbers have been up and down and generally all over the map, the point remains that there is a large sector (30% to 60%) of the American public that agrees with Occupy. If you look at the Tea Party and the amount of damage they did in the last election by organizing and mobilizing with PACs, there is something to be said for the far more popular ideas that are espoused by the Occupy movement.

We can do this, but we need to work together and work quickly.

Cross Posted at Daily Kos

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Progress, Occupy Wall St. & the Need to Keep this Leaderless and Without Demand

I just read that Geithner has proclaimed that “dramatic enforcement actions” will be taken against Wall St. wrongdoing. Although I’m in the ‘believe it when I see it’ camp, it is certainly progress to have a top administration official even threatening to take an action that the 99% would love to see.

In the last couple of weeks, the constant chant from the mainstream media has been “what are their demands?” The fact that without demands, the administration is moving toward a more just position simply reinforces the notion that we don’t really need demands. Our demands are voluminous, too prolific, too robust to state in a simple list; we want social and economic justice. Creating a list of demands would hem the movement in, make it containable and do more to harm the it than all the police in NewYork, Boston and Denver combined.

By keeping the demands of the movement general it allows more people to feel comfortable with the message. The message, we are the 99%, means we are the people, we are united, and we’re fed up with our unjust and unfair system. It also provides no help to policy makers who then must flail about for answers to our call for a more just and equitable system. If they end up arresting banksters, fantastic. We didn’t have to demand that. If they believe that maybe we want to see increased financial regulation that will actually work and go about implementing that, excellent, we didn’t have to demand that either. Maybe they’ll think, gee, this movement really wants us to tax the wealthy more and they’ll raise the top tax rates. Again, we won’t have to specify what will appease us.

This is the truly interesting and beautiful part of this movement, the fact that it is leaderless and lacks any specific set of proposed demands. This allows the utmost in flexibility and in the innate inability for a decapitation. We’ve seen movements in the past that were halted by the assassination of their charismatic leader. Not having a leader is a great solution to this. It also prevents us from being pinned to something one person says or feels that may not be representative of the vast majority of us. The same goes for having no written demands. If demands were created, they would inevitably alienate a segment of the movement or supporters thereof. While this may sound counter productive to many who have worked on social and economic justice causes in the past, allowing the vast majority to claim allegiance to the 99% can only further the cause.

Keeping the pressure on while not enunciating the specific solutions we want keeps the movement from fracturing and forces the policy makers to attempt anything and everything to make us happy. We should use this to our best advantage by keeping it going and growing. Maybe they’ll decide we want medicare for all, maybe they’ll decide we want strong global warming/environmental legislation, maybe they’ll decide we want full equality for LGBT citizens, maybe they’ll decide we want comprehensive immigration reform, maybe they’ll decide we want a new WPA/CCC/TVA/etc., maybe they’ll decide we want a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood, “maybe they’ll settle for publicly funded elections?, an increase in the minimum wage??, lowering the social security retirement age while removing the cap??? No? Perhaps they want us to break up the monopolies??!?, or some vague notion of “liberty and justice for all”!!!?!?!!!. What the hell do you people want anyway?!??!?!?!”

Maddening? Crazy like a fox.

Lets keep ’em guessing and keep ’em relenting on issue after issue.

Cross posted on Dailykos

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