Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
The Occupy movement certainly played a role in recent elections, though the widespread unrest and unhappiness were obviously present long before September 17. But Occupy is providing cover for Democrats to at least shift an inch or two to the left, though only while keeping the other foot firmly planted to the Right, and for many of them, only from the starting point of a Center that’s further Right than Reagan. While I’m very happy that there were some clear wins for progressives — in Maine, Ohio, and Arizona, for example — and the people who made those wins happen deserve much credit, I wonder. Is this just the latest round of our national pattern of flipping back and forth between the Two Parties game?
The Occupy movement, and the insistence that this isn’t about the electoral politics of Democratic and Republican parties, is helping make public the same conversations that have been occurring for decades. I began this series by saying that Two Parties = Too Few Choices. As long as our options are limited to the system of two choices, with both of those choices owned by those at the top of an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, we’re stuck. Like Occupiers and like-minded people across the nation, we need to make more choices possible, because what we’ve been doing isn’t working for most of us.
I came across an essay by Paul K. Chappel, at Waging Peace. This part is particu-larly relevant.
As a child I was taught that voting was the be-all and end-all of citizenship, and if I showed up to the polls to vote I was fulfilling my civic duty. But the women’s and civil rights movements created dramatic change, even though many of its participants had little to no voting rights. Voting is just one tool in the democratic toolbox, and we can’t build a house with just a hammer. Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. used many democratic methods such as protests, petitions, boycotts, pressuring the legal system, and changing people’s attitudes for the better. Historian Howard Zinn said: ‘Democracy doesn’t come from the top. It comes from the bottom. Democracy is not what governments do. It’s what people do.’
We’re at a moment when more people seem to be thinking that way, and doing it out loud and in public. At WSJ, Jonathan Weisman writes, “Poll Finds Voters Deeply Torn.”
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found an electorate that is convinced the country’s economic structures favor an affluent elite and is still deeply torn as to whether President Barack Obama or any of his leading Republican rivals can pull the nation out of decline….
The poll detailed a broader factor likely to color the contest: The electorate is angry and disaffected. Half of voters now identify either with the tea-party or Occupy Wall Street movements. Fifty-four percent see the economic troubles as the start of a long-term national decline, not a tough period the U.S. will get through. …
The coming election is ‘not about hope over the horizon but the grim reality of keeping your chin above water,’ Mr. Hart (Democrat and co-director of the poll) said. …
Alex Castellanos, a Romney adviser during his 2008 campaign, said Mr. Romney’s dispassionate promise to look under the hood and fix the economy isn’t exciting angry voters looking for a more passionate voice to challenge Washington.
Why would anyone think Romney, or any other WH hopeful, would “challenge Washington”?
The anger and fear aren’t new, but as Kathy Miriam writes at Occupy Patriarchy:
In 2008, when the nation began to crash, we did not rush to the streets when Obama appointed for fixing the crisis the same miscreants culpable for creating it. Nor did we riot upon word that while record numbers of people were plunged into joblessness, homelessness, and health crises, corporations were making record rates of profits. …
And there was no revolt among people of color despite the fact that for these communities recession is depression and even ‘economic holocaust.’ Nor did women surge into the streets when sold out by the State’s sudden bequeathing of decision-making power over health-care to Catholic bishops during the non-debates over Obama-care, thus ensuring an outcome that made hash out of reproductive justice for women. …
Through (Occupy’s) … action, the movement has re-directed resentment outwards from the self to the real cause of wide-shared suffering, namely a System that stops short of nothing in its predatory imperatives to feed on any living substance … for its means of extracting surplus value (profit). …
Once teeming with the spirit of rebellion, for decades now (with some exceptions) The Street has been under lock-down, zoned by police-escorted, permit-ted arenas of civilized obedience.
Occupy, the movement, has challenged the permit only expression of speech, and in a very literal sense, taken back The Street. In so doing, it’s taking steps toward breaking the Two Party Front for the Oligarchy.
Thomas Ferguson writes “How to Take Back Our Political System From the 1%” at AlterNet:
… the corruption of our regulatory institutions really reflects the workings of economic inequality in the government as a whole. At some point – and we’re past it – economic inequality begins to shade into political tyranny. … There is no substitute for a popular movement if you want to keep democracy.
I don’t think we’re going to find a way to “keep democracy,” to find the choices we need to meet the realities created by and for those The System serves if we continue looking to Two Puppet Parties (see the photo), hoping to find a candidate we can love and be passionate about. We need more choices. And probably we need to get over looking for a candidate to fall in love with.
( Corporate Flag photo via ThinkProgress.
Two Party Puppet Show photo via People’s Library)