The Expanding Demonstrations of Occupy Wall Street: What Is The End-Game? (Guest Voice)
The Expanding Demonstrations of Occupy Wall Street: What Is The End-Game?
by Robert A. Levine
The spontaneous eruption of the demonstrations against Wall Street in New York and their spread around the country signals the depth of unhappiness and distress over the economy. The public also places the blame for the economic downturn squarely on the bankers and financiers. Heightening people’s anger is the fact that those responsible for the ineptitude, unethical and corrupt activities that caused the recession have never been brought to justice. And further compounding citizens’ rage is the knowledge that these executives walked away with outlandish windfalls while the rest of America was saddled with the economic repercussions.
Dissatisfaction with the distribution of wealth has been another motivating factor for the demonstrators. Some of them have carried signs signaling that they are the 99%, emphasizing that the top 1% in the nation owns a disproportionate percentage of the assets and has disproportionate incomes. But many of the demonstrators are even more concerned about the lack of opportunity they see for themselves with bleak futures ahead. Unemployment remains persistently high and there are not enough decent jobs, even for many of those who are highly educated. The middle class is suffering, yet corporate America is awash in profits.
But aside from venting their frustrations over the economy, unpunished corrupt behavior, and the concentration of wealth, what is the end game for the demonstrators? What are their specific objectives and how do they hope to accomplish them? As of yet, they have not articulated any goals nor particular pathways they intend to follow. Part of this is because they are a disparate group, including unemployed workers, college students, union members, anarchists, activists from the sixties and so forth. Their political beliefs tend to run from the far left to the center and they do not speak with a unified voice. Yet it is evident that they want to boost job creation, stimulate the economy, and perhaps push for a tax code that makes greater demands on the most affluent. So where do they go from here?
Demonstrations alone are not going to transform the nation. If the participants want to bring about change in America, they are going to have to get politically involved. Currently, the only political outlets for them (and for everyone) are the Republican or Democratic parties. On the basis of their ideology, the Republicans would hold no attraction for these demonstrators (a mutual aversion), leaving only the Democrats as a possible habitat for them. But while the Democrats and the demonstrators may hold some ideals and goals in common, the party (as the Republicans) has been in thrall to the lobbyists and special interests. Its officeholders in Washington are mainly concerned with their own prospects for re-election, willing to take money from financial companies and other large corporations. They are not going to be a force for the kind of change that is needed in America.
However, a new, centrist third party whose main precept was pragmatism rather than partisanship would be an excellent home for many of these demonstrators, even though they tend to lean to the left. If this party renounced funding from lobbyists and special interests, it could raise money over the Internet from small donors and its elected officials would be free to act as representatives of their constituents. And without any ideologic constraints, they could actually work to get things done.
The deadlock in Washington and a public that is fed up with the current two parties makes it quite likely that a party of the moderate middle will take shape in the near future. Maybe the demonstrators of “occupy Wall Street” in concert with a politically awakened middle-class can play a role in getting it started.
A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.