Wall Street Protesters Need a Cause Like Healthcare

October 6, 2011
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One of the mistaken characterizations being bandied about the media echo-chamber about the anti-Wall Street protests now sweeping the country is that it is somehow a left-wing version of the Tea Party. Wrong.

One of the mistaken characterizations being bandied about the media echo-chamber about the anti-Wall Street protests now sweeping the country is that it is somehow a left-wing version of the Tea Party. Wrong.

The Tea Party movement was willed into existence by powerful special interests in response to the Obama’s administration’s handling of the financial meltdown (stimulus) and its push for health care and climate legislation during his first two years in office. It was well-funded by large corporate interests, specifically the oil industry in the form of the Koch brothers and other Texas oilmen. They had a pre-thought-out and well-orchestrated organizational and political strategy to fund grass roots organizers across the country. They recruited candidates for office, poured money into campaigns and launched massive national media buys that set the terms of the debate.

Contrast that with the inchoate masses gathering in New York and elsewhere. They have no money, no organization, no strategy and no coherent demands. They may shift the terms of the debate somewhat in Washington. But unless something besides the Democratic Party channels this growing protest into a constructive movement with a specific set of political goals, it will have no more impact than the temporarily mobilized army of volunteers that put President Obama in office, and is now so sorely vexed by his weak performance in the face of the Tea Party’s concrete victories in last year’s election.

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Movements on the left in American history have had pragmatic demands that bettered the lot of average Americans. End slavery. The eight-hour day. Retirement security. Civil and voting rights for all Americans. Protect the environment. Universal health care.

Right wing social movements in American history are broadly ideological, and anti-government: Don’t tread on me. No taxation. I am not my brother’s keeper.

The right mobilizes around candidates who pledge fealty to their belief system, and make pledges to never compromise with the other side. When the people at the Wall Street protests go home and build a movement that articulates a set of goals, and goes out and elects people to every town council, county and state government, and Congressional office who pledge to enact those goals, it will be time to talk about a left-wing Tea Party — and not a minute sooner.