By Robert Schlesinger |
The Occupy Wall Street movement is a more profound challenge to the current way of doing business than the Tea Party was or aspired to be.
Although Occupy Wall Street may have an impact on electoral politics, it does not share the partisan trajectory of the Tea Party. It is a more authentic and independent movement, giving voice to the outrage at how Wall Street has crashed our economy and how Wall Street and giant corporations have captured our political process and debased our democracy.
Occupy Wall Street has been criticized for not offering a clear set of demands. In fact, the protesters have been eloquent in rejecting the idea that they produce "one demand," and in articulating in broad terms what they want. More to the point, it's not for a lack of ideas that the country is in crisis. Put the unemployed to work retrofitting energy-inefficient buildings, teaching children, and meeting other unmet needs. Invest in a green energy revolution. Impose a financial speculation tax, and increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations (and make them pay). Put in place a single-payer, Medicare-for-All healthcare system. Undo NAFTA-style corporate trade agreements—and don't enter into any new ones. Force banks to renegotiate mortgage terms, and let foreclosed-upon families stay in their homes as renters. Overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission with a constitutional amendment and re-establish the principle that corporations exist to serve the people, not the other way around.
The country's problem is not the lack of a policy agenda. It's not even winning strong public support for the policy agenda—the public does support these ideas. The problem is translating the popular anger about the nation's state of affairs into a political movement strong enough to overcome the corporate opposition.
If Occupy Wall Street continues to grow, and if it bridges to more and more sectors of society—huge ifs, to be sure—Occupy Wall Street may serve as a spark to that political movement, something far more powerful and transformative than the Tea Party.
About Robert Weissman President of Public Citizen
Reniqua Allen Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation
Douglas Schoen Democratic Campaign Consultant
Mark Meckler National Coordinator of Tea Party Patriots