Maybe it’s just me. But as soon as Rosanne Barr joins a protest or demonstration you can figure that any real substance has given way to the absurd. And that’s a shame because it strikes me that those on the streets in Lower Manhattan as part of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration do have a message about corporate greed and the failure of our elected officials to place some constraints on the bankers and other miscreants who nearly crashed the world’s economy.
Here’s Ezra Klein writing in WaPo, “Wonkbook: What does ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Want?“:
Two weeks ago, I was walking through New York when I stumbled on a crowd chanting angrily at a mass of police. “They’re arresting them,” someone said to me. “Who?” I asked. “The Occupy Wall Streeters,” he said. Someone else held up a cell phone camera. “The whole world is watching,” he shouted.
It didn’t seem that the whole world was watching, at least not then. The next day, I tried to contact the protest’s organizers for an interview, but it didn’t come together. An effort to look up their demands online didn’t yield much. I figured the protests would fizzle. Instead, they’re gaining strength. Almost 1,000 protesters were arrested this weekend on the Brooklyn Bridge, and sympathy protests are spreading to cities all across the country. Occupy Wall Street is leading papers and news shows. The whole world, or at least the whole country, actually is watching.
The protesters are also gaining institutional support. MoveOn.org is sending e-mails about “an amazing wave of protest against Wall Street and the big banks has erupted across the country.” They’re planning to join with organized labor to march to the Occupy Wall Street site on Wednesday. A live videofeed from the protests will kick off the liberal Campaign for America’s Future annual conference, and Van Jones’s ‘Rebuild the Dream’ coalition is staging a “virtual march.”
The Occupy Wall Street protests are explicitly inspired by, and modeled on, the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt. And though that’s a tough act to follow, it’s clear the Occupy Wall Street protests are catching a fire all their own. The question now is what they do with it. The jockeying has already begun to suggest an agenda to the protesters — see these proposals by Mike Konczal and Nick Kristof — and, in the embrace of the activist left, to join the protesters to an agenda that already exists, much as happened with the Tea Party and the conservative movement.
We’ll see, over the next few weeks, which, if any of these paths, tempt the protesters. Up until now, the organizers have seemed to view the decentralized, inchoate nature of the protests as a strength for the nascent movement, not a weakness. The unifying idea has been drawing attention to “the 99,” not offering a concrete policy agenda. The New York Times quoted a a pep talk a woman gave to a new protester. “It’s about taking down systems, it doesn’t matter what you’re protesting,” she said. “Just protest.”
Well, good luck with that. The Wizards of Wall Street will never be shamed into doing anything that isn’t in their own self-interest, and the lock that the bankers and money managers have on politics and the USA economy remains solid.
Better that millions of Americans converge on DC with pitchforks to prod lawmakers and other miscreants to actually do something about creating jobs and strengthening the economy.