NEW YORK CITY. — In these days of globalization it certainly fits our times: Occupy Wall Street has now gone global.
Welcome to New York, a city with more stoops than a talk show host convention. “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” say the lyrics of “New York, New York,” and Occupy Wall Street has made it here. Local newspapers are crammed with long stories about it. But it goes beyond New York: Operation Wall Street incarnations are popping up in a slew of American and European cities.
Demonstrators in Zuccotti Park’s tent city protest a world where the rich get richer and escape consequences of financial malpractice, the middle class loses ground, unemployment thrives, old social contracts fade, and inequalities and government incompetence and impotence reign supreme. They hurl rhetorical Colorado cantaloupes at banks and the political parties in bed with corporations. One thing New York has is “foot traffic,” so as the often-muddled populist message gets media coverage, protester numbers swell.
A Time Magazine poll found that only 27 percent have a good impression of the conservative Tea Party movement, while 54 percent look favorably upon Occupy Wall Street. A Quinnipiac University poll found 74 percent of New Yorkers, including 52 percent of Republicans, feel protesters should be able to stay where they are if they don’t break laws. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, under fire in some quarters for not doing more to try and remove protesters, argues the Constitution doesn’t protect a tent city, only free speech, and those exercising a ” right to be silent’ could be drowned out.
It’s clear that Occupy Wall Street will be around for a while. But so will pitfalls facing politicians and governments grappling with long protests and maintaining order, while trying to tackle and defuse issues propelling the protests.
And then there are pitfalls facing the movement itself. John Avlon writes in The Daily Beast: “The vast majority of the protesters in Zuccotti Park are peaceful, but there is a professional protester element that wants the visuals of oppression to help build public sympathy for their movement. Like all extremes, they will ultimately be their own worst enemy, alienating more people than they attract.’
Also: the original, independent Tea Party movement was gobbled up and co-opted by the Republican Party. Democrats are now drooling over Occupy Wall Street as Obama launches a John Edwards-like “Two-Americas” campaign.
Most conservative reaction to Occupy Wall Street has been a study in partisan hypocrisy.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.