Is it any wonder that Americans dislike Congress so much? It shouldn’t be a surprise because our representatives in Washington ignore public opinion. Gun control is the perfect example. A clear majority of people favors a ban on assault weapons (57 percent favor and 41 percent oppose, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll). But members of Congress can’t even agree on universal background checks which just about every living and breathing American favors. (91 percent according to ABC News/Washington Post.)
On economic issues, Washington is completely out of sync with public opinion. Seven in ten (or more precisely 71 percent, according to Gallup) Americans favor raising the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour but Republicans won’t even let the increase come to a vote on the House floor. House Republicans won’t even consider raising taxes on rich people even though a majority of Americans favor an increase in the capital gains tax to reduce the deficit (that would be 52 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed, according to survey conducted for CBS News). On the other hand, only one in six (18 percent, again according to CBS News) Americans want to cut Medicare but the president and Congress want to cut the spending for a program which is the only thing that keeps millions of seniors financially afloat.
The debate over the federal budget is just another example of congressional indifference to public opinion. For years, the debate over the federal budget has mainly been about the federal budget deficit to the exclusion of any meaningful discussion about job creation. When President Obama formally introduces his budget for the 2014 fiscal year on Wednesday, it will be business as usual. We’ll have a lot of talk about deficits but little debate about jobs.
Everyone in Washington talks about the deficit but Americans outside our nation’s capital worry about jobs. Not that anyone in Washington cares but the public disagrees with the tone of the budget discussion in D.C. A new Marist College poll shows that Americans want Congress to focus on creating jobs (62 percent of them anyway) more than they want deficit reduction (only 35 percent want that). If that doesn’t work for you, the national Election Day exit poll showed that a lot more voters were worried about jobs (59 percent) than they were the deficit (15 percent).
A focus on jobs instead of the deficit is good politics for Democrats but also good policy. Government programs create jobs and put money into the pockets of middle class families. People with jobs pay taxes and buy things, which in turn creates more jobs, and higher tax revenues. The title of Representative Paul Ryan’s budget “Path to Prosperity” should be the “Path to Austerity” which in turn is the path to poverty. The economy had been creating a lot of jobs for the last few months until the sequester kicked in last month. But spending cuts sucked money out of the economy and the wind out of job growth.
Congress has gone rogue and working families are paying the price.
In his new book, “Who Stole the American Dream?” Hedrick Smith writes that the big business lobby has become so powerful in Washington that it can get Congress to do its bidding. Unions used to counteract the corporate lobby but pro business policies at the state and federal level have weakened labor. In 2010, businesses shelled out $972 million in soft money contributions to party committees compared to $10 million for labor. Business PACs contributed $333 million to only $69 million for labor committees.
Members of Congress can safely ignore public opinion because most of them represent districts where there is little or no competition. And if a member does have a tough race, he or she can always count on big business political action committees to bail them out with large campaign contributions or independent expenditure efforts.
That’s why we are cutting funding for education and moving to limit spending on Social Security and Medicare while Republicans hold spending on oil company companies ($4 billion a year) and tax breaks on corporate jets ($3 billion annually) sacrosanct.
Education is a lot more important to America’s economic future than subsidizing oil barons and corporate jet setters but you would never know it if you follow the economic debate in Washington. The sequester means that 70,000 fewer kids will be able to enter Head Start this fall. That’s 70,000 children who won’t get a much-needed head start in the new world of cutthroat global economic competition.
Let’s talk about basic American values like opportunity and democracy. America should be the land of opportunity but it is getting harder for Americans who grow up in low-income households to reach the middle class than it has ever been before. America should be the bastion of democracy but Congress no longer considers the views of the public it should represent.
By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, April 8, 2013
Just two weeks after denouncing economic-justice protesters as an angry “mob,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) seemed to be shifting gears. Last Sunday, Cantor acknowledged the “warranted” frustrations of the middle class, and this week, was even poised to deliver a speech on economic inequality.
As it turns out, Cantor changed his mind. Yesterday, the oft-confused Majority Leader abruptly canceled, saying the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School invited the public to attend the speech, which meant Cantor would refuse to appear. The Republican appears to have been fibbing — university officials explained that the event had always been billed as “open to the general public,” and that Cantor’s accusation of a last-minute change in attendance policy simply wasn’t true.
That Cantor was afraid to talk about economic inequalities in front of the public is pretty ridiculous. That Cantor is making dishonest excuses makes matters slightly worse.
But let’s put all of that aside and consider what the Majority Leader intended to say if he’d kept his commitment and shown up. The Daily Pennsylvanian, UPenn’s campus newspaper, published the prepared text of Cantor’s speech, offering the rest of us a chance to see the GOP leader’s thoughts on the larger issues.
After having read it, it seems Cantor probably made a wise choice canceling at the last minute.
How would the Majority Leader address growing income inequalities? He wouldn’t. In fact, Cantor’s plan seems to be to discourage people from talking about the issue altogether.
“There are politicians and others who want to demonize people that [sic] have earned success in certain sectors of our society. They claim that these people have now made enough, and haven’t paid their fair share. But, pitting Americans against one another tends to deflate the aspirational spirit of our people and fade [sic] the American dream.”
This is just dumb. Asking those who’ve benefited most from society to pay a fair share isn’t “pitting Americans against one another” or “demonization.” (An actual example would be when Cantor and his ilk condemn labor unions, scientists, teachers, economists, trial lawyers, and community organizers.) What’s more, in context, didn’t use these tired platitudes as a transition to a substantive point; there were no substantive points.
“Much of the conversation in the current political debate today has been focused on fairness in our society. Republicans believe that what is fair is a hand up, not a hand out. We know that we all don’t begin life’s race from the same starting point. I was fortunate enough to be born into a stable family that provided me with the tools that I needed to get ahead. Not everyone is so lucky. Some are born into extremely difficult situations, facing severe obstacles. The fact is many in America are coping with broken families, dealing with hunger and homelessness, confronted daily by violent crime, or burdened by rampant drug use.”
And how would Cantor help improve these conditions, clearing the way for income mobility? He’d cut taxes on the wealthy again, and wait for wealth to trickle down. That’s his solution to the growing gap between rich and poor.
The Majority Leader went on to say, “We should want all people to be moving up and no one to be pulled down.” Tim Noah noted how misguided Cantor’s understanding of economics is: “Cantor’s income inequality solution is to elevate all of the bottom 99 percent in incomes up to the top 1 percent. That would shut up the Occupy Wall Street crowd for sure! A more practical solution — and one that doesn’t violate the laws of mathematics — would be to encourage mobility, by all means (the U.S. has actually fallen behind most of western Europe in this regard) but also to pay close attention to what happens to the people who don’t make it to the top. The bottom 99 percent contribute to prosperity too, and lately they haven’t had much to show for it. Cantor seems not in the slightest bit curious as to how that happened.”
How many policy ideas did Cantor present to address economic inequalities, in his speech about economic inequalities? None.
Keep in mind, this was a prepared speech, not comments made off the kuff in an interview. Cantor was able to take his time, think about the subject in depth, and rely on his staff to present a coherent vision with some depth.
And the intellectually bankrupt Majority Leader still couldn’t think of anything interesting to say.
By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 22, 2011
This afternoon President Obama announced that at the end of this year, America will withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq.
Obama began his campaign for president by forcefully, clearly promising to end that war. This afternoon he delivered on that promise.
The timing of his announcement could not have been more symbolically powerful. It comes just a day after the successful conclusion of the operation in Libya — an operation that stands in stark contrast to the disastrous War in Iraq.
The War in Iraq was the product of “bull in the china closet” Neo-Con unilateralism. The war cost a trillion dollars. Nobel prize-winning economist George Stieglitz estimates that after all of the indirect costs to our economy are in — including the care of the over 33,000 wounded and disabled — its ultimate cost to the American economy will be three times that.
It has cost 4,600 American lives, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. It created millions of refugees — both inside Iraq and those who fled to other countries.
The war decimated America’s reputation in the world and legitimated al Qaeda’s narrative that the West was involved in a new Crusade to take over Muslim lands. Images of Abu Ghraib created a powerful recruiting poster for terrorists around the world.
The War stretched America’s military power and weakened our ability to respond to potential threats. It diverted resources from the War in Afghanistan. It empowered Iran.
The War in Iraq not only destroyed America’s reputation, but also American credibility. Who can forget the embarrassing image of General Colin Powell testifying before the United Nations Security Council that the U.S. had incontrovertible evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction?
Contrast that to yesterday’s conclusion of the successful operation in Libya. That operation is emblematic of an entirely different approach.
Since he took office, Obama has fundamentally reshaped American foreign policy. In place of “bull in the china closet” unilateralism he has initiated a cooperative, multilateral approach to the rest of the world. The fruits of that approach are obvious in the Libyan operation where:
- The Libyans themselves overthrew a dictator;
- America spent a billion dollars — not a trillion dollars, as we have in Iraq;
- America did not lose one soldier in Libya;
- We accomplished our mission after eight months, not eight years;
- Most importantly, America worked cooperatively with our European allies, the Arab League and the Libyan people to achieve a more democratic Middle East.
Obama’s policy toward the Middle East is aimed at helping to empower everyday people in the Muslim world — it is a policy built on respect, not Neo-Con fantasies of imperial power. And it works.
Last month, I spent several weeks in Europe and met with a number of people from our State Department and other foreign policy experts from Europe, the Middle East and the United States. Everyone tells the same story. Since President Obama took office, support for the United States and its policies has massively increased throughout Europe and much of the world.
The BBC conducts a major poll of world public opinion. In March of this year it released its latest report.
Views of the U.S. continued their overall improvement in 2011, according to the annual BBC World Service Country Rating Poll of 27 countries around the world.
Of the countries surveyed, 18 hold predominantly positive views of the U.S., seven hold negative views and two are divided. On average, 49 percent of people have positive views of U.S. influence in the world — up four points from 2010 — and 31 per cent hold negative views. The poll, conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA, asked a total of 28,619 people to rate the influence in the world of 16 major nations, plus the European Union.
In 2007 a slight majority (54%) had a negative view of the United States and only close to three in ten (28%) had a positive view….
In other words, positive opinion of the U.S. had increased by 21% since 2007 – it has almost doubled.
Obama understands that in an increasingly democratic world, the opinions of our fellow human beings matter. They affect America’s ability to achieve America’s goals.
And Obama understands that it matters that young people in the Middle East, who are struggling to create meaningful lives, think of America as a leader they respect, rather than as a power with imperial designs on their land and their lives.
But, at the same time, there is no question that President Obama is not afraid to act — to take risks to advance American interests. The operation that got Bin Laden was a bold move. It was very well planned — but not without risks.
Obama is a leader who makes cold, hard calculations about how to achieve his goals. He plans carefully and then doesn’t hesitate to act decisively. And as it turns out, he usually succeeds. Ask Bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Gaddafi.
Obama received a good deal of criticism from the Republicans for his operation in Libya. But by taking action, he first prevented Benghazi from becoming another Rwanda — and then supported a movement that ended the reign of a tyrant who had dominated the Libyan people for 42 years and had personally ordered the destruction of an American airliner.
For the vast number of Americas who ultimately opposed the War in Iraq, today should be at day of celebration. And it is a day of vindication for the courageous public officials who opposed the war from the start. That includes the 60% of House Democrats who voted against the resolution to support Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
It is also a day when someone ought to have the decency to tell the Republican chorus of Obama foreign policy critics that it’s time to stop embarrassing themselves.
From the first day of the Obama Presidency, former Vice President Dick Cheney has accused President Obama of “dithering” — “afraid to make a decision” — of “endangering American security.”
Even after the death of Muammar Gaddafi, Senator Lindsey Graham criticized the president for “leading from behind.”
You’d think that a guy who two years ago traveled to Libya to meet and make nice with Gaddafi would want to keep a low profile, now that the revolution Obama supported there has been successful at toppling this dictator who ordered the downing of American airliner.
Well, as least Graham isn’t saddled with having tweeted fawningly like his fellow traveler, John McCain, who upon visiting Gaddafi wrote: “Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his “ranch” in Libya — interesting meeting with an interesting man.”
Let’s face it, with the death of Gaddafi, the knee-jerk Republican critics of his Libya policy basically look like fools.
Mitt Romney in the early months of the effort: “It is apparent that our military is engaged in much more than enforcing a no-fly zone. What we are watching in real time is another example of mission creep and mission muddle.”
Republican Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann: “President Obama’s policy of leading from behind is an outrage and people should be outraged at the foolishness of the President’s decision” and also asking “what in the world are we doing in Libya if we don’t know what our military goal is?”
Of course, the very idea that Dick Cheney is given any credibility at all by the media is really outrageous.
Here is a guy who made some of the most disastrous foreign policy mistakes in American history. He has the gall to criticize Obama’s clear foreign policy successes? Those successes allowed America to recover much stature and power in the world that were squandered by Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. Someone needs to ask, what is anyone thinking who takes this guy the least bit seriously?
Someone needs to remind him and his Neo-con friends that:
- The worst attack on American soil took place on their watch;
- They failed to stop Osama bin Laden;
- They began two massive land wars in the Middle East that have drained massive sums from our economy, killed thousands of Americans and wounded tens of thousands of others;
- They underfunded an effort in Afghanistan so they could begin their War in Iraq that had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist threat from Al Qaeda;
- They brought U.S. credibility in the world to a new low by lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, violating our core human rights principles and acting unilaterally without any concern for the opinions or needs of other nations;
- Through their War in Iraq they legitimated Al Qaeda’s narrative that the United States was waging a crusade to take over Muslim lands – and with their policies at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, they created recruiting posters for Al Qaeda that did enormous harm to American security;
- Through their recklessness and incompetence they stretched American military resources and weakened our ability to respond to crises;
- When they left office, American credibility and our support in the world had fallen to new lows.
Republicans in Congress supported all of this like robots.
With a record like this, you’d think they would want to slink off into a closet and hope that people just forget.
But Americans won’t forget. History won’t forget.
And generations from now, Americans will thank Barack Obama for restoring American leadership — for once again making our country a leader in the struggle to create a world where war is a relic of the past and everyone on our small planet can aspire to a future full of possibility and hope.
By: Robert Creamer, Huffington Post, October 21, 2011
The definition of “conservative,” “moderate,” and “liberal” are constantly shifting; they’re relative terms, and positions that were radical for one generation can be mainstream the next and vice versa. But the goalposts of American conservatism have shifted wildly almost overnight.
During the 2008 presidential cycle, Mitt Romney was touted by the movement leaders as the conservative alternative to John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Now, there’s a mad scramble to find someone — anyone — to run against him who’s more conservative. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who left office with sky-high approval ratings after two terms as governor of arguably the most conservative state in the union, is considered a raging liberal and struggling to rise above two percent in the polls.
Meanwhile, longtime conservative stalwarts are suddenly finding themselves outside the movement.
On his Wednesday show, which aired the day after the Republican economic debate, radio talk icon Rush Limbaugh declared, “What’s upsetting to me is the fait accompli that’s attaching itself to Romney.” He proclaimed, “70% of Republicans are not supportive of Romney right now. I think the Republican base, the conservative base that’s the majority in this country is so far ahead of the leaders of the Republican establishment and the inside-the-Beltway media people.”
And Limbaugh said that “Romney is not a conservative. He’s not, folks. You can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn’t.”
Limbaugh expressed his frustration that the real conservatives in the race — Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann in particular — weren’t performing as well in the spotlight. But he blamed a lot of that on a liberal media that just doesn’t understand the conservative message.
While conceding that Romney does a good job in debates, which he chalked up to more experience in that format than the other contenders, Limbaugh noted that, if Romney’s “the nominee, Romneycare is not going to get a pass. It is going to be the bludgeon, it’s gonna be the bludgeon that the Democrats use.”
Now, that may well be the case. But it’s worth noting that Romney signed his controversial health-care reform bill into law in April 2006.
Nearly two years later, Limbaugh endorsed Romney for the 2008 Republican nomination declaring that “there probably is a candidate on our side who does embody all three legs of the conservative stool, and that’s Romney. The three stools or the three legs of the stool are national security/foreign policy, the social conservatives, and the fiscal conservatives.”
Let’s stipulate that Limbaugh was making that assessment based on the three plausible candidates available on February 5, 2008: Romney, John McCain, and Mike Huckabee. He’d earlier seemed to be leaning toward Fred Thompson, whose campaign never really got off the ground. Still, the fact of the matter is that Limbaugh was perfectly comfortable considering Romney a full-fledged conservative three and a half years ago — well after the passage of “Romneycare.”
Yesterday, Frum went on NPR to discuss with host Kai Ryssdal why he felt compelled to resign his long-held post as the conservative counterpoint to Robert Reich on “Marketplace.” He explained that, “although I consider myself a conservative and a Republican, and I think that the right-hand side of the spectrum has the better answers for the long-term growth of economy — low taxes, restrained government, less regulation — it’s pretty clear that facing the immediate crisis, very intense crisis, I’m just not representing the view of most people who call themselves Republicans and conservatives these days.”
By way of example, he pointed to the standoff between Republicans and Democrats over handling the financial crisis and the ensuing global recession. “This is not a moment for government to be cutting back. Here’s where Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes agreed. They didn’t necessarily agree about why to do this medicine, but as to what the medicine was, they did broadly agree. But it’s not the medicine that’s being prescribed now. The fact is I’m kind of an outlier. And it’s a service to the radio audience if they want to hear people explaining effectively why one of the two great parties takes the view that it does — it needs to have somebody who agrees with that great party. I’m hoping that the party will eventually agree with me, but I can’t blink the fact that I don’t agree with them on this set of issues.”
Now, there’s not much doubt that Frum is widely considered a moderate by today’s lights. But it wasn’t always so.
He made his name as a conservative opinion writer at The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the The American Spectator. His first book, Dead Right (1994), was described by William F. Buckley as “the most refreshing ideological experience in a generation.” A speechwriter to President George W. Bush, he penned the infamous phrase “axis of evil.” And he was a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute from 2003 until he was fired last March.
But now he’s so far outside the American conservative mainstream that he’s routinely vilified as a Republican in Name Only and a traitor to the movement.
Parties losing elections tend to take one of two paths. Either they collectively decide that their platform is out of touch with public sentiment and adjust accordingly, or they decide that their problem was a poor candidate and weak messaging and double down.
The first path was taken in the early 1990s, as Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council shifted a Democratic Party stuck in the debates of the 1960s back to the center, co-opting several Republican positions while alienating parts of the base. While parts of the liberal-progressive core are still angry and unrepresented, the party went on to win three of the next five presidential contests and got the plurality of the popular vote in four of the five. This, after having lost five of the previous six.
The Republican Party took the second course after its 2008 defeat. Despite respect for his enormous courage during seven long years as a prisoner of war, conservatives never considered John McCain one of their own. He was nominated almost by default when Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and others more popular with the base imploded before the race really got started. And conservatives had been sold the idea that a relatively moderate candidate who could count on favorable press coverage would do well with the coveted “swing voters.”
Rather than chalking the loss up to a combination of the economic crisis, weariness from two unpopular wars, and a particularly charismatic opponent, Republicans decided that the problem was that their leadership had been insufficiently true to the party’s ideology. In particular, they were justly outraged, albeit in hindsight, at the profligate spending under Bush and a Republican Congress.
This sentiment grew into a force of nature with the tea party movement. Ostensibly a backlash against government bailouts and out-of-control spending, it became something of a purge of Republicans who were deemed too moderate, with tea-party-backed candidates challenging Republican incumbents and establishment favorites — including McCain, who for a time looked likely to lose his Senate re-election race to former congressman J.D. Hayworth, before rallying for a comfortable win.
Longtime Delaware congressman Mike Castle was defeated by upstart Christine O’Donnell for the party’s Senate nomination. Longtime Utah senator Bob Bennett lost to Mike Lee, who won the general election. Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski was beaten in the primaries by tea-party favorite Joe Miller. All three of the tea-party candidates lost, although Murkowski narrowly won re-election anyway, as an independent.
To be sure, conservatives had plenty of successes, most notably the populist Scott Brown taking the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by liberal lion Teddy Kennedy. And Marco Rubio, who successfully primaried sitting Republican governor Charlie Christ, went on to easily win the general election and looks to be a rising star in Republican politics.
The result of all this — in addition to retaking the House and coming close to taking back the Senate — is a Republican Party and conservative movement that is largely bereft of the moderates of the past. After years of political leaders spouting conservative mantras without doing much to turn them into policy, the congressional delegations now feature a critical mass of True Believers.
Democratic leaders have charged their Republican counterparts with bad faith and hypocrisy for filibustering and vilifying policy proposals that their own party had proposed in the recent past. In some cases, this is justified. In many, though, it’s simply a function of the center of gravity having suddenly shifted. Proposals that came from the pages of National Review or the halls of the Heritage Foundation in 2006 may not be “conservative” by 2011 standards.
As many have noted, while conservative politicians constantly reference Ronald Reagan’s legacy as the gold standard, it’s arguable whether the Gipper himself would pass tea-party muster. After all, he signed a huge amnesty bill for illegal aliens into law and his signature tax cut left the top marginal rate at 50 percent. As we all know, anything above 35 percent is socialism.
By: James Joyner, Managing Editor, The Atlantic, October 15, 2011
The Occupy Wall Street movement really frightens the Right Wing. It is not frightening to the Right because of Congressman Eric Cantor’s feigned fear of “the mob” that is “occupying our cities.” It is not frightening because anyone is really worried that Glenn Beck is correct when he predicts that the protesters will “come for you, drag you into the street, and kill you.”
That’s not why they are really frightened — that’s the Right trying to frighten everyday Americans.
There are five reasons why the Right is in fact frightened by the Occupy Wall Street movement. None of them have to do with physical violence — they have to do with politics. They’re not really worried about ending up like Marie Antoinette. But they are very worried that their electoral heads may roll.
All elections are decided by two groups of people:
Persuadable voters who always vote, but are undecided switch hitters. This group includes lots of political independents.
Mobilizable voters who would vote for one Party or the other, but have to be motivated to vote.
The Occupy Wall Street Movement is so frightening to the Right because it may directly affect the behavior of those two groups of voters in the upcoming election.
1). The narrative
People in America are very unhappy with their economic circumstances. As a result the outcome of the 2012 election will hinge heavily on who gets the blame for the horrible economy — and who the public believes, or hopes — can lead them into better economic times.
Political narratives are the stories people use to understand the political world. Like all stories, they define a protagonist and antagonist. And political narratives generally ascribe to those central characters moral qualities — right and wrong.
For several years, the Tea Party-driven narrative has been in the ascendance to explain America’s economic woes. Its vision of the elites in government versus hard-working freedom-loving people has heavily defined the national political debate.
Of course at first glance it’s an easy case for them to make. The President, who is the head of the over-powerful, “dysfunctional” government, is in charge. Things aren’t going well — so he, and the government he runs, must be at fault.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has helped force the alternative narrative into the media and public consciousness. The recklessness and greed of the big Wall Street banks, CEO’s and top one percent — those are the culprits who sunk the economy and who have siphoned off all of the economic growth from the middle class. They and their enablers in Congress — largely Republicans — are the problem. To address the underlying economic crisis facing everyday Americans we must rein in their power.
This narrative is very compelling and, of course, it is true. It’s not that many voices haven’t framed the debate in these terms for years. But by creating a must- cover story, the Occupy Wall Street movement has forced it onto the daily media agenda. That is great news for Progressives. The longer it continues, the better.
Right Wing pundits have disparaged the Occupy Wall Street movement for not having specific “policy proposals” — but the Right knows better. The Occupy Wall Street movement is advocating something much more fundamental. It is demanding a change in the relations of power — reining in the power of Wall Street, millionaires and billionaires – the CEO class as a whole. It is demanding that everyday Americans — the 99% — share in the increases in their productivity and have more real control of their futures — both individually and as a society. Now that’s something for the Right to worry about.
Especially in periods when people are unhappy, the political high ground is defined by who voters perceive to be elite insiders and who they perceive to be populist outsiders. Who among the political leaders and political forces are actually agents of change?
In 2008, Barak Obama won that battle hands down. The Tea Party Movement muddied the water. It portrayed themselves as “don’t tread on me” populist outsiders doing battle with President Obama the elite, liberal insider.
Of course this ignores that the Tea Party was in many ways bought and paid for by huge corporate interests — but in the public mind it was a very compelling image.
The Right Wing has always had its own version of “class conflict.” Its “ruling class” is defined as the elite, intellectuals, bureaucrats, entertainers and academics that are out to destroy traditional values and undermine the well-being of ordinary Americans.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, coupled with the movements in Wisconsin and Ohio earlier this year, present an entirely different — and accurate — picture of who is on the inside and who is not.
Politics is very much about momentum. Human beings are herding creatures — they travel in packs. People like to go with the flow. Whether in election campaigns, or legislative proposals, or social movements, or football games — the team with the momentum is much more likely to win.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has put the progressive forces in society on the offense — it has begun to build progressive momentum.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has managed to turn itself into a real “movement.” Movements don’t involve your normal run-of-the-mill organizing. Normally organizers have to worry about turning out people — or voters — one person or one group at a time. Not so with movements.
Movements go viral. They involve spontaneous chain reactions. One person engages another person, who engages another and so on. Like nuclear chain reactions, movements reach critical mass and explode.
That’s what makes them so potentially powerful — and so dangerous to their opposition.
Often movements are sparked by unexpected precipitating events — like the death of the fruit stand vendor in Tunisia that set off the Arab Spring. Sometimes they build around the determined effort of a few until that critical mass is reached.
In all cases movements explode because the tinder is dry and one unexpected spark can set off a wild fire.
Movements mobilize enormous resources — individual effort, money, person power – by motivating people to take spontaneous action.
The Occupy Wall Street movement in New York has spread to scores of cities — and the fire shows no sign of flaming out. It will fuel the engagement and remobilization of thousands of progressive activists and volunteers who had been demobilized and demoralized, but the sausage-making of the DC legislative process. That is a huge problem for the right that was counting on despondency and lethargy among progressives to allow them to consolidate their hold on political power in 2012.
More than anything else, in order to mount a counter-offensive against the Right wing next year, Progressives need to re-inspire our base. We need to re-inspire young people and all of the massive corps of volunteers who powered the victory in 2008.
Inspiration is critical to mobilization. It is also critical to persuasion. Swing voters want leaders who inspire them.
Inspiration is not about what people think — it’s about what they feel about themselves. When you’re inspired you feel empowered. You feel that you are part of something bigger than yourself, and that you — yourself — can play a significant role in achieving that larger goal.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has begun to inspire people all over America. That’s because people are inspired by example. They themselves are inspired if they see others standing up for themselves — speaking truth to power — standing up in the face of strong, entrenched opposition. People are inspired by heroic acts — by commitment — by people who say they are so committed that they will stay in a park next to Wall Street until they make change. That’s what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. That’s what happened in Wisconsin this spring.
The legacy of the Occupy Wall Street movement could very well be the re-inspiration of tens of thousands of Progressives — and the engagement of young people that are so important to the future of the progressive movement in America.
Right-wingers will plant provocateurs in an attempt to stigmatize the Occupy Wall Street movement with violence — to make it look frightening. But if the Movement continues with the kind of single-minded purpose and commitment that we have seen so far, the Occupy Wall Street movement may very well make history. It has already become an enormous progressive asset as America approaches the critical crossroad election that could determine whether the next American generation experiences the American Dream or simply reads about it in their history books.
By: Robert Creamer, Published in Huff Post Politics, October 12, 2011