Real Clear Politics links to this editorial from The Nation magazine:
Some may worry that Obama is trying to co-opt Occupy in an election year. We say—let him try. The fact that the president’s speechwriters are cribbing from Occupy’s handmade posters is just one more indication of the movement’s major victory so far: it has changed the national conversation, giving us a new vocabulary, the 99 percent. If this framing succeeds, its impact will surpass any one speech, or even any one president’s re-election. It will be the paradigm within which all politicians will be judged—what have you done for the 99 percent?
First off, it seems to me the only people who would “worry” about Obama “trying to co-opt Occupy” are those people who really would like to see the President reelected but understand he’s doomed if he runs on a remotely pro-Occupy platform. After all, isn’t Obama some kind of teen scream with the kids supposedly?: surely the Occupiers would love for the chocolate Messiah to amplify their message. I suppose The Nation‘s editors are just so anti-authoritarian that, like Howard Zinn, they find it despicable to even consider that leaders, rather than anonymous masses, can ever have some kind of positive impact. What the man himself calls “lead from behind,” I reckon.
Now The Nation‘s editors really think all that “99 percent” talk is groovy, no? It’s “a new vocabulary”! One might reckon a new vocabulary would require, like, a whole lexicon, but apparently “99%” just does it. That’s okay since a full one percent of the population is billionaires and the other 99% are peons tilling the clod, right? Surprisingly though, whether the “framing” will hold is somehow still in question, even though our national vocabulary has already been rocked. Apparently the full triumph of the frame awaits Obama’s re-election, and Obama’s committment to Occupydom, at which point the Occupation will have proven itself to surpass in importance one President’s re-election by securing one President’s re-election. Got that? Psst, pass the bong . . . .
The fleeting suspicion remains that the best the politicians could manage to do for the “99 percent” is to help them get jobs. But oh, the excitement of a True Progressive Candidacy! Can’t you just imagine? Walter Russell Mead sums up:
A chunk of the American intelligentsia is permanently convinced that the American people are waiting for a genuinely left-populist message before turning out in large numbers to transform the American political system, and that if the Democrats in particular would just embrace left economic ideas, they could become the dominant party for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately for the career prospects of those who push this agenda, the people who run on this platform keep losing. President Walter Mondale, President Dick Gephardt, President Jesse Jackson, President John Kerry, President Dennis Kucinich and President John Edwards all learned how this works.
In fairness, some of the kids– and even editors at The Nation magazine– might’ve thought that thing worked with Obama. Of course, they were mostly projecting their hopes. Mead offers a crucial explanation:
It may be that equality is like the environment: it is perceived as a luxury good by much of the electorate, something you pursue when you think you can afford it, but something you ditch when you worry about the basics.
A lot of progressivism is like that: luxury goods idealism for times of overripeness and squander. Is social liberalism like that too? Clinton’s go-go Nineties were hardly a throwback to the Great Society in terms of boring gray old Progressive income equality schtick, but they were rather permissive on the personal front.
As long as the Revolution will be televised on an Apple product (don’t they all pretty much do video?) I sense that will remain the case. Occupy, after all, didn’t much appreciate the homeless in its midst. The middle class would like a silver parachute to help it in the freefall from the mercury-laden storm cloud of the recessionary hurricane. I’m sympathetic. One can’t deny that High Finance empowered and extolled reckless experiments in credit in order to buff up consumption, laddling their own pockets while saddling the consumers with debt and the economy with shattering stress.
All the same, jobs would be better than a tax-induced shrinking of income gaps. Assuming the gaps aren’t shrinking already thanks to a dismal economy.