Deep in the dark days of Ronny Reagan, when the Democratic Party was getting beaten from pillar to post, a man from Hope came to offer salvation. That man, Bill Clinton offered a third way of politics. Clinton, a politician forged in the white-hot furnace of Arkansas politics, was a new breed of Democrat, part of the DLC movement. The Democratic Leadership Council was an attempt to shed the left / right extremes and find a new pragmatic center. At least that was the spin.
What the DLC turned out to be was a capitulation to the Reagan right. It was small bore politics. It was “triangulation.” In one way it was wildly successful. Clinton was able steal Republican ideas, tone them down, and then pass them to universal acclaim. Republican heads exploded when a Democrat got the credit for ending “welfare as we know it.” Clinton out-thought, out-maneuvered, and out-ran a furious Newt Gingrich led Congress. In the end the “Big Dog” trotted out of the White House with sky-high approval. Gingrich ended up out of luck and out of a job, done in by a cabal of Republican Congressmen who had enough of his egomaniacal leadership.
With Clinton gone, other southern politicians cribbed the DLC playbook to great effect. John Edwards parlayed his good looks and Democrat-lite credentials all the way up to the VP slot in 2004. John Kerry was none too pleased when his supposed attack dog turned into a lap dog in the general. Oddly enough, with the ashes of defeat fresh in Edwards mouth he tore up the DLC coloring book and went populist.
From 2004 to 2008 Edwards was pushing something called One America. One of the more bitter ironies of 2011 is that now that One America is long gone in the scandal of Edwards 2008 run, its message is finally resonating . Edwards central theme of two nations, separated by a vast gulf of wealth has never rung more true. The message now soars, while the messenger sinks in the quicksand of a criminal trial. But I have not come to praise John Edwards, nor to bury him, nine jurors will have that terrible responsibility. I am much more interested in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
OWS, as it is known, has the chance to be the first non-partisan, grass-roots, mass movement since the glory days of feminism. That would be feminism 2.0, when Republicans in good standing like Betty Ford could support a woman’s ability to control her own body and the ERA. Feminism 2.0 died in the right-wing backlash of the culture wars. From there the progressive movement shattered into numerous diffuse causes, with activism sometimes degrading into the screeching non-sequitur of “causes” like PETA.
What I like about OWS is the studious non-partisanship and ground-up organization. These are small “d” democrats, who follow though on their beliefs lock-stock-and-barrel. They really put the participatory in participatory democracy. It is this trait, more than anything else, that scares the bejesus out of the oligarchical right. You can really see the flop sweat pouring from every available gland as the mighty right wing Wurlitzer attempts to counter message OWS. The default of lazy, dirty, rotten, hippies copulation in the street just reeks of desperation. Note to Faux News, you can only post the same picture of nubile teens covered in a sleeping bag before the ginned up outrage evaporates.
Part of the flail and the fail of the right wing must have to do with their pet grass roots movement: the TEA Party. The transparent co-option, and rebranding of the Ron Paul movement by the Dick Army and the Koch brothers, was Astro-Turfed to the hilt. Fox News was at the tip of the spear providing agitprop for the TEA Party. Sadly for Fox and the Wingnut right, they really bought into their own propaganda; so OWS came as a real shock. How dare the general public stray from the one true TEA faith?
Unfortunately, there is a real danger in comparing the TEA Party to OWS. OWS is organic and unattached. It has already beaten off an attempt by the unions to co-opt it. It was deftly done, OWS laid down terms and the unions agreed. The unions showed solidarity with OWS and OWS got tons of warm bodies to man the revolution. When crunch time came for OWS with mayor Bloomberg, those union members showing up really queered the attempt to clear out the occupation
It is OWS un-attachment to the political duopoly that makes it such a force for change. OWS taking over the Clintonian “it’s the economy, stupid” meme is pure genius. That is the core message behind “we are the 99%.” The TEA Party on the other hand is nothing more than a rebranding of the far right of the Republican Party . The passions of the socially conservative right are front and center in the TEA Party. Lopsided majorities in the TEA Party agree down the line with every bit of the far right, Christianist agenda. OWS is studiously avoiding such a connection with the left.
Point of fact, the worst thing for OWS would be for it to get tangled in the web of Democratic Party politics, to become the progressive “answer” to the TEA Party Republican right. God knows, the usual gang of idiots who are deep in the tank for Obama can only see OWS as a great GOTV mechanism for the president. Stephanie Miller is pushing OWS for such a role.
Sorry Steph, this is not about Obama, it is a about economic justice; which is damn near one hundred and eighty degrees out from re-electing the president. Obama does not get OWS because he does not get political passion. It is not part of his mindset. Contrary-wise OWS should not have Obama’s reelection in its mindset. OWS, if allowed to grow on its own terms, may become the true post-partisan solution to the corporatist duopoly that infests the politics of our nation. It may provide the truth to the fiction that Obama sold to the nation in 2008. It can do this, but only if it stays the hell away from the Democratic Party as presently constructed. In time, perhaps, it may be forced to stage a Deaniac type seizure of the Donkey Party, but only if all non-partisan options have been exhausted
Nonpartisanship is the only correct corse for OWS. If 2012 boils down to the choice between the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Obama v Romney. OWS’s default should be “a pox on both your houses.” It would be shear insanity for OWS to get entangled in a GOTV campaign for either candidate. OWS works best as a mass movement that is outside the box, truly non-partisan, and small “d” democratic. OWS could then hoover up most of the Independents, plus many of the big “D” Democrats and maybe a few of that most endangered of species; Moderate Republicans. The key is not bi-partisanship, that is just double speak for being a corporatist stooge, but non-partisanship
I am interested in how this plays out. OWS is going to go sabbatical fairly soon; at least in places where winter means business. During the winter months it can retool, refresh and rethink. When the blossoms come out in the Spring, OWS can come roaring back to befuddle the elites one more time. After all why should only the Arabs have a political spring? Our nation is as overdue for a shake up. We have spent over thirty years in the Reaganite wilderness. Conservatism is an intellectual corpse. Neo-liberalism is nothing more than fear-base capitulation to the demands of the Reaganite Right. Our politics and political thinking is suffering from brain freeze. Our politics are utterly skewed and totally corrupted; time for real change, not chump change. Time for the true third way of OWS.