Protest Movements

Occupy Wall Street (#occupywallstreet) has started to become a movement. Protests are cropping up around the country as people sign on to the notion that corporate goals, especially those of financial giants, aren’t in tune with the majority of people in this country. What seemed to just be the next thing that protesters were doing (solidarity with Wisconsin labor being the last thing, anti-war demonstrations being the thing before that) has become something bigger. This embiggening into a movement means that people are already trying to co-opt that energy. Unions are joining in, though seemingly without pushing an agenda. Van Jones has planted his flag and given shout-outs at his Take Back America Conference. It won’t be long before everyone from MoveOn to the Human Rights Campaign blasts out fundraising emails that name drop #occupywallstreet.

Here’s the thing: the mass of people participating in this course of civil disobedience and airing of grievances aren’t putting forward any leaders or endorsing any specific agenda. Unlike the WTO protests or the anti-war rallies of the past, these folks are simply demonstrating that they’re pissed off and they won’t be moved until somebody with power takes action. Ask any one of the protesters about what needs to be done and they’ll most likely have a laundry list of possibilities but they’re not offering a canned solution that can be denied or negotiated away. There’s no leader or organization that can be bought or negotiated with. This is the Tea Party of the progressive movement. Tea Partiers didn’t have to do anything more than show up and shriek incoherently about taxes in order to bolster their political allies. Then they successfully took credit for electing a number of ideologues. Now, any elected official in the Republican Party can’t approach a single vote without checking on the Tea Party stance.

We’ve learned that protest movements don’t get shit done in this country. Huge numbers of people came out against the war, against the WTO, even against the death penalty. Politicians looking at big protests organized through the usual suspects on the left and right think of them as poll results showing the strength of their base. Polite people that get permits, book speakers, and put out press releases are just looked at as people that will reliably vote against the other party, so fuck’em. Impolite people that shout obnoxiously, pack public meetings, block streets, and generally cause havoc need to be listened to. The Tea Party figured that out. Now the Left has a growing movement of boisterous activists that are good enough at stirring up shit that they’re not fading out of the spotlight. Maybe, the Democratic Party will have a moment of clarity like the Republicans did. When camps of protesters pop up in Missoula and Billings, Kent Conrad and Jon Tester get to make a choice between getting primaried or finally making some sense when it comes to jobs and the financial sector. I certainly look forward to replying to the next fundraising email from Mark Udall with a brief statement-

FUCK YOU, signed #occupywallstreet

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