Connect with us

Occupy Wall Street: Democracy in Zuccotti Park

Published

on

Fresh from a visit to Occupy Wall Street’s Zucotti Park, Swarthmore student, writer, activist, and guest author Sam Sussman discusses his findings. 

 

Something remarkable is happening in American politics. Three years after a financial crisis that delegitimized the parochial right-wing ideology of deregulation and ‘let the rich rule’ economics, Americans are voicing outrage at the chronic infection of money in our political system. By putting its finger on this unspoken fact of American politics, Occupy Wall Street has suddenly changed our political discourse. Cries of Social Security and Medicare’s ‘unsustainability’ have been replaced by outrage over Wall Street’s greed. Goodbye deficits, hello income inequality!

Walking through Zuccotti Park on a recent Friday afternoon, it was clear that the understanding tying the movement together was this: the federal government has bailed out the largest banks, yet the unemployed and foreclosed upon have received insufficient relief. What Americans are realizing is that this is the logical outcome of a political system in which the largest economic sectors — finance, insurance, oil and gas — fund our political parties, candidates, advertisements and think tanks. It is a spirit summed up by David, a high school student holding cardboard that read, “I can’t afford a lobbyist so I made this sign.” He explained, “Nobody is lobbying for me to go to college, for me to have a job when I graduate. I can’t influence politicians.” Then he pointed upwards, to the financial institutions that contributed $155 million to both parties in 2008. “But they can.”

The movement’s emphasis on this structural defect in American politics manifests in its treatment of President Obama, the left’s would-be, but unwilling, FDR 2.0. Those in Zuccotti Park know that without taking the corrosive influence of money out of politics, no politician can play savior. Samoa, a middle-aged computer technician from Brooklyn, held the famous ‘Hope’ poster, with ‘Your Face Here’ written where Obama’s profile once was. “No matter who the people are,” he said, “they’re constrained by the power of money.

The right has hastily characterized the demonstrators as illiterate opponents of capitalism itself. This is untrue. Many demonstrators with whom I spoke had an intricate understanding of public campaign financing, environmental policy, prison reform and trade. The words ‘Glass-Steagall’ were on many lips.

And yes, there were anarchists who made my proper liberal cheeks blush. But behind each radical was personal desperation wrought by recession. One young woman painfully described trying to work enough hours to pay rent despite a debilitating medical condition. She would go to college, she said, but the certainty of student loans outweighed the less-than-certain probability of employment after graduation. Her politics aren’t constructive, but they reflect legitimate grievances worthy of redress. The radical’s presence should encourage moderate factions — those who see money in politics, not capitalism itself, as the root problem — to participate in and take ownership of the movement.

Whatever one thinks of the radicals, it would be a grave mistake to fall for the right-wing trap of focusing on the few extremists in Zuccotti Park at the expense of the truly radical things the Right itself has done. The invasion of Iraq, a sovereign nation that posed no national security threat, was radical. The income trends of the past decade — in which 65 percent of income growth went to the top one percent as middle-class income fell — was radical. The $700 billion Wall Street bailout was radical. The bipartisan push to slash Social Security and Medicare is radical. The very fact that money can purchase public policy in a democracy is radical.

Occupy Wall Street understands this: it is gaining attention — the latest polls show 54 percent of the public approves of the movement — because it speaks to the issues for which it has been too convenient and conventional for Republicans and Democrats, Fox News and CNN, to ignore. Occupy Wall Street has its finger on the pulse of a shrinking middle class, and the disenfranchised poor for whom the tattered rungs of opportunity have been steadily eroded.

Yes, it is true that Occupy Wall Street doesn’t have media-ready index cards with specific policy demands. But that’s the downside of spontaneous democracy, as opposed to astro-turf activism in which corporations manipulate popular grievances for their own benefit (hello, Tea Party!). For those willing to listen, Occupy Wall Street’s demands are quite clear. First, institute public campaign financing. Second, help those affected by the recession through mortgage relief and a New Deal-style public jobs program. Third, restore regulations in finance and energy so that our market economy works for everybody, not just the one percent. Finally, expand opportunity through increased access to health care, education and job training.

These ideas are supported by the “99%.” Huge majorities want a millionaire’s tax (81 percent), to cut defense spending (76 percent), increase education funding (67 percent), and preserve Medicare (76 percent) and Social Security (81 percent). Yet, time and again, public preference has been overruled by the one percent — those who are CEOs of health insurance companies, hedge fund managers, defense contractors, or oil tycoons. Occupy Wall Street understands that the one percent can only be confronted by going outside the political system they control. This is the historic logic of progressive change: the New Deal was as much due to sit-ins and strikes as it was to FDR. Now, in the depth of the Great Recession, more and more Americans are heading to Zuccotti Park.

Perhaps, after all, these protesters are onto something radical. It’s called Democracy.

 

(Image)

 

Sam Sussman is an undergraduate in political science, philosophy and literature at Swarthmore College who has organized around economic justice, clean energy, LGBT civil rights and ending the Afghanistan War. His political commentary appears weekly in Swarthmore’s The Daily Gazette and The Phoenix, and has previously been published in The Oxford Left Review, Binghamton University’s Prospect Magazine, Journal of Philosophy, Politics and Law, and Amnesty International Magazine. A former intern for both Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand and State Senator Thomas K. Duane, he is the Secretary of the Orange County, NY chapter of Young Democrats.

Continue Reading
Click to comment
 
 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

News

‘They’re Not Taking My Gas Stove’: Joe Manchin Teams Up With Hard Core Republicans to Promote False Claims

Published

on

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is again promoting the false claim that the federal government is planning to remove gas stoves from private homes, after news last month revealed once more the open-flame appliances are responsible for hundreds of thousands of cases of children’s asthma.

“They’re not taking my gas stove out,” said Manchin, who has made millions from coal and protects his state – which  ranks in the top five for production of natural gas – at every turn.

Manchin, a rare breed of conservative Democrat, announced in a Senate hearing on Thursday that he is teaming up with Republican Senators Ted Cruz and James Lankford to fuel the unfounded fears of the federal government coming to rip gas stoves out of Americans’ homes – fears promoted by the right.

READ MORE: ‘Firehose of Disinformation’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders Picked to Deliver State of the Union Response in Nod to Trump (Video)

“Gas stoves have been in the news lately and I’ve come out strongly against the Consumer Product Safety Commission pursuing any ban of gas stoves,” Manchin declared, despite there being no possibility of that. “In fact, I’m introducing legislation today with Senator Cruz that would ensure that they don’t and separately sending a letter to the commission with Senator Lankford.”

“I’ve always been a proponent of energy efficiency,” Manchin continued, “but the draft proposes efficiency levels that DOE [Dept. of Energy] says at the highest level, up to 96% of gas stoves don’t currently meet. I don’t like where I think they’re going with this and I tell you one thing, they’re not taking my gas stove put. My wife and I would both be upset.”

Manchin went on the claim the Biden administration is “looking to find ways to push out natural gas.”

And he warned the feds to stay out of his kitchen.

“Like I said before,” Manchin declared, “the federal government doesn’t have any business telling American families how to cook their dinner.”

The federal government does have a responsibility, by law, to warn Americans of health and safety issues in their homes. For decades it has been doing just that.

But the West Virginia Senator went even further, stating: “retrofitting or removing stoves that people have had for years is not going to happen.”

Manchin isn’t just blowing smoke – he has a lot at stake in the “gas stove war.”

READ MORE: ‘Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands’: GOP Vows ‘Stove War’ Legislation, Doesn’t Want Feds ‘Coming After Kitchen Appliances’

“West Virginia is the fourth-largest producer of marketed natural gas in the nation,” according to a federal government December report.

“At every step of his political career, Joe Manchin helped a West Virginia power plant that is the sole customer of his private coal business. Along the way, he blocked ambitious climate action,” The New York Times reported last year. It called the West Virginia Democrat “the single most important figure shaping the nation’s energy and climate policy.”

Watch Sen. Manchin below or at this link.

 

Continue Reading

News

‘Firehose of Disinformation’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders Picked to Deliver State of the Union Response in Nod to Trump (Video)

Published

on

Trump White House press secretary turned Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been chosen by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to deliver the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address next week.

Speaker McCarthy hailed Huckabee Sanders, 40, as the nation’s “youngest governor” on Thursday afternoon in remarks to reporters (below).

The former press secretary was quickly endorsed by Trump, ran a campaign carefully crafted away from the press, and has no relevant experience to run a state.

“Can Sarah Huckabee Sanders be elected governor without ever taking questions or talking specifics about public policy?” Arkansas Times’ senior editor Max Brantley asked rhetorically last summer, calling her campaign “stealth.”

READ MORE: ‘Absolutely Repulsive’: Some House Republicans Are Now Wearing an Assault Weapon Lapel Pin

“Her inauguration marks the first time in 42 years Arkansas will have a governor without any experience in elected office,” the AP noted last month.

“She clearly has some national aspirations,” University of Arkansas political science professor Janine Parry told the Associated Press last month. “In order to fulfill those, it’s likely she’ll have to show some capacity for governance.”

According to Speaker McCarthy, she has already accomplished a lot in her first 23 days as governor.

Although McCarthy did not offer any specifics, CNN did: “Within 48 hours of being sworn in as governor, Sanders signed a flurry of executive orders, with one targeting critical race theory ‘to prohibit indoctrination’ in schools and another banning the use of the term ‘Latinx’ in official state documents.”

After the announcement was made, Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “I’m honored to have the opportunity to address the nation after the State of the Union on Tuesday. What America needs – and what Republicans are offering – is a return to common sense and a commitment to the ideals that made America the land of the free and home of the brave.”

But in a joint statement with McCarthy and McConnell, Huckabee Sanders took a much different tone.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to address the nation and contrast the GOP’s optimistic vision for the future against the failures of President Biden and the Democrats. We are ready to begin a new chapter in the story of America – to be written by a new generation of leaders ready to defend our freedom against the radical left and expand access to quality education, jobs, and opportunity for all.”

READ MORE: Another SCOTUS Scandal: Chief Justice’s Spouse Makes Millions Placing Attorneys at Top Law Firms That Argue Before the Court

Responding to the news, critics online pointed to Huckabee Sanders’ history that was fraught with controversy and false claims in the Trump White House.

Indeed, conservative critic Charlie Sykes on MSNBC pointed to Huckabee Sanders’ ties to Trump, telling Andrea Mitchell that Huckabee Sanders was “a firehose of misinformation and disinformation” during the “Trump era,” and noted she has been “prioritizing the culture war” in her short tenure as governor.

“Yet another data point about the Republican party not moving on from the Trump years,” he added.

Watch the videos above or at this link.

Continue Reading

RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Absolutely Repulsive’: Some House Republicans Are Now Wearing an Assault Weapon Lapel Pin

Published

on

At least three House Republicans this week began wearing pins in the shape of an assault weapon on their clothing. U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY), U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), and U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) were all caught on camera with the pins, leading some to express outrage.

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) was among the first to circulate images of the two Republicans wearing the pins.

“Where are these assault weapon pins coming from? Who is passing these out?” he asked.

Aaron Fritschner, the Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), captured an image of Congressman Clyde wearing the pin on his tie.

“Absolutely repulsive,” Duke University Professor of Global Health and Public Policy, Gavin Yamey said in response to the assault weapon pins. “We have mass shootings almost daily, and the Republicans are wearing assault weapon pins FFS.”

READ MORE: Watch: Angry, Santos Reacts to News DOJ is Investigating His Alleged ‘Ghosting’ With $3000 Raised for Veteran’s Dying Dog

One of the Members wearing the pins, Congresswoman Luna, on Wednesday also participated in a House Natural Resources panel debate to push back on Democrats’ attempt to ban firearms inside the Committee’s hearing room.

She tweeted later, “The same Democrats who are voting to send firearms to Ukraine are telling me I can’t carry one.”

Politico reports the meeting (video below) was “raucous.”

Sociology professor and author Samuel Perry observed, “Republican members of congress are wearing AR-15 lapel pins. That’s not just tone deaf. We find Republicans value gun rights more than any other right, including freedom of speech or religion. No need for a flag or cross pin. The gun is both their patriotic & religious symbol.”

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) called wearing the pins “freaking sick,” and noted “they are doing it during #GVSurvivorsWeek,” the hashtag for National Gun Violence Survivors Week.

READ MORE: Hunter Biden Is Fighting Back

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) also pointed to National Gun Violence Survivors Week.

“While gun violence continues to be the leading cause of death for children in our country,
@GOP members are wearing assault rifle pins during #GVSurvivorsWeek. Shameful.”

American historian of Christianity Diana Butler Bass did not mince words: “Always said it was just a matter of time before the GOP replaced the cross with an assault rifle. Guns are their god.”

Democratic Texas state Rep. Gene Wu said the GOP “has stopped playing coy and is now openly and unabashedly praising mass shooters. Will there be special versions to celebrate specific mass shootings?”

Professor of International Relations Nicholas Grossman said: “Legislators from party that defends recent coup attempt by their up-til-recently—and possibly still—party leader replace traditional patriotic flag pin with a pin depicting a rifle.”

California state Sen. Dave Min weighed in, saying, “The debate over 2A [the Second Amendment] has never been about 2A. It’s about ‘disrupting’ civilized society as we know it, and trolling the ordinary Americans concerned about our insane levels of gun violence. That’s why it’s the biggest assholes who are most loudly touting irresponsible gun access.”

The addition of the assault weapon pins to Republican Members’ clothing comes on the heels of U.S. Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) distributing grenades to fellow Members last week. In a note he declared they are “inert.”

See video and photos above or at this link.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.