It was time for a correction anyway. What we have learned is that winning elections isn’t on its own enough to produce change. What’s needed is a clear policy agenda and a strong external movement that can help progressives in power implement that agenda ”“ and stop others in power from implementing a bad one. That requires a movement in which electoral organizing is just one piece. In other words, the progressive movement needs to grow not only in numbers but in the diversity of what it does.
That isn’t what drives most Occupiers, however. Occupy is also a rebuke of organized politics. They’re in the streets because they believe it’s the only way change can be produced. What it has revealed is that distrust of government is now rampant on the left as well as the right. To most Occupiers, government is the enemy. And their confrontations with local governments showed this. Even though the vast majority of local electeds in the big cities are sympathetic to the Occupy movement and are no friend to the 1% (with Bloomberg being a notable exception), Occupy’s choice of tactics reflected their belief that anyone in government was either incapable of helping or was determined to break the protest. And Occupy has brought a new group of people into political activism. New voices are popping up online, new leaders are emerging, and they are much less interested in the more incremental changes that the progressive movement had unfortunately become accustomed to accepting.
Occupiers are openly advocating revolutionary change from the streets. But here is where I think the progressive movement’s love affair with OWS should find its limits. Occupy alone won’t produce the changes we need in this country. By focusing on physical occupation of public space, they’ve muddled their early message and have alienated potential allies. On the other hand, they have succeeded in kicking a door open. The public wants action on inequality and wants to go after the 1%. Progressives should walk through the door that Occupy opened ”“ and they should be willing to work with anyone, Occupiers or not, who are interested in providing the leadership that is needed to make lasting change happen.
Shorter Cruickshank: Those Occupy folks ought to get out of the way.
I say that because Cruickshank expects perfection from the first crocus to peek thru the winter snow. Let Occupy be Occupy. They seem to be learning from their mistakes as they go.
That said, I’ve made a harsh assessment of Cruickshank’s column to invite you to go read it and think for yourself. Here are my thoughts on his post.
I agree the left is voluminous enough to support two groups and they don’t necessarily have to be in sync: an activist group that goes beyond MoveOn to legitimize street protest and a political arm that can actually try to drag the rest of the nation into the direction of the ideas espoused by the activist arm.
Ideas. That’s the key: right now, the “left” in this country (as defined by the moderately left-centrist Democratic party, with exceptions in both directions. I’ll get back to that in a moment) acts as a damper on bad centrist and right-wing ideas: privatizing Social Security, eliminating the minimum wage, and so on.
What the left needs is a shot in the arm of vitamin Good Ideas, ideas that show there are alternatives to “this tax cut versus that tax cut.” Like providing services. Like enriching the lives of everyone. Like lifting all boats in the harbor by raising everyone’s water levels, not just the yachts.
The activist arm can do that, but unfortunately, it has been mocked and derided and minimized.
Until OWS pointed out the inherent inequity now found in the system. We’ve reached a breaking point in this nation. The only way we can drag the country kicking and screaming into the 21st Century is to drag the damned left kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.
So here’s what I’d like to see: Let Occupy by Occupy. Let them take radical stances and openly defy the mainstream media noise machine AND the political establishment. It’s what drove the anti-war movement. It’s what drove the civil rights movement.
The left fed off those ideas (and if you recall with the civil rights movement, the left was distinctly Republican) and incorporated them into legislation because it was the will of the people. The movements got big enough, and eventually enough Americans agreed with the aims of those movements.
(hat tip LGM)