Let’s play a game of Ask a Rally. “Hey Tea Partiers, what do you want?”
“Less taxing and spending!”
“Great, thanks. Okay Occupy Wall Street, what do you want?”
“The Big Banks have too much power stop sending drones to kill civilians in Afghanistan corporations are bad I lost my job health care for everyone protect unions end the war take the money from politics stop fracking I need 30 bucks for Oregon bus fare.”
I went down to Occupy Wall Street on a random day, and took a photo of every sign I saw. Most had a common theme, but no common cause. Have a look:
The movement is organized. They have a first aid station, a library, and a bank account holding half a million bucks. OWS isn’t disorganized; it’s decentralized. In fact, it’s intentionally decentralized. OWS members want it that way, and this dooms the movement to eventual failure.
The leaders—no, not leaders—organizers of OWS want to keep it organic. They want the movement to be about “ideas.” To contrast, the Tea Party wants results. This is a stereotypical mindset of liberals and conservatives. Nancy Pelosi drives the family to the mall to eat what they want from the food court; Karl Rove says “Get in the car we’re going to Applebee’s.”
The people Occupying Wall Street are like the Founding Fathers: they’re suspicious of centralization, distrustful of a singular organizing body, and want to keep their parts confederated. This is a great way to run ancient Greece, but a shitty way to start a change movement in the United States.
Right now OWS seems content to get attention and create “citizen activists” who can’t do much more than annoy the big banks. Like this clever prank:
Here’s where Occupy Wall Street pisses me off. If it’s your intention to gain attention and create citizen activists, then you need a goal. Step 1, get noticed. Step 2, ask people to join in a common GOAL. A movement without a goal is a birth without a baby. Lots of fuss and noise, but in the end nothing’s different and there’s a lot of dirty sheets laying around.
How to Occupy Main Street
Right now OWS is largely composed of professional hippies, activists, college kids (who I will never take seriously) and the unemployed. I want to see bank tellers in Zucotti Park. I want to see doctors, preachers, lawyers, mothers, coaches. The goal needs to be moving past occupying Wall Street and start Occupying Main Street.
As John Oliver shows in this Daily Show report, the movement is just as good at annoying sympathizers as they are at attracting them.
Change won’t come when people without jobs protest, it comes when people with jobs start marching too. This is how change happens. The franchised stand up for the disenfranchised. Women couldn’t vote themselves the right to vote.
It’s not enough to be a symbol of popular rage; you have to articulate that rage. Sow leadership; give us a common goal. Prohibition was enacted largely through the political efforts of the Anti-Saloon League. They had one goal: ban booze. As impossible as that seems now, they organized around that idea and achieved it.
One goal. One cause. A group of people dedicated to one thing can move mountains in this country. If you start to dilute your message with cardboard signs about Afghani health care, you weaken our voice.
So what is the one cause everyone in OWS should stand behind?
Take the money out of politics. End legal bribery.
Make sweeping changes to campaign finance laws. Every cent of political campaigns should be funded through public money, period.
Outside groups that buy political ads must verbally disclose exactly where their funding comes from, down to the last nickel. This would strongly dissuade radio and TV ads from 527 groups, because most of their airtime would be spent listing names. No anonymous donors. A constitutional amendment to overrule the Citizens United case. Money is not speech.
This one cause is so simple, so achievable, that everyone can get behind it. Even the Tea Partiers would love it. They hate big government, OWS hates big corporations: let’s get together to stop the Big Brothers from controlling our lives.
Until we get money out of politics, every protest rally is pointless. This how we say: “We’re here to fight for our country. We are the 99%.”
(By the way, here’s why the protestors are protesting.)