The Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) has captured the imagination of the American left, including our brilliant left leaning media.
To be sure, there is a real movement here. Those on the right simply dismissing these people do so at their own peril. The angst among the American people is real, and is very much similar to the forces that led to the birth of the Tea Party: distrust in government, fear of corruption because of massive federal spending, and politicians complete failure to translate the needs of the people into thoughtful policy.
I am a First Amendment absolutist…unless you are committing a crime, I have no problem in their protests. More power to them. To be sure, there have been some ‘excesses’ by the OWS protesters, and some violent actions, but overall, I can’t say I can call them violent along the lines of the G7 protests in Seattle or multiple left wing European protests. Time will tell if that will change.
That said, the differences between OWS and the Tea Party are stark as well. Many of these are gross generalizations, to be sure, but I think they for the most part hold up factually. While the Tea Party tended to be older, more suburban middle class individuals, the OWS tend to be younger, mostly college aged in nature, and generally urban in nature. I think both groups ironically have a fair amount of educated persons in their fold. Of course, the biggest difference may be their solutions to our problems. The Tea Party believes debt, and government intrusion, largely are responsible for the position we are in. The OWS believe that corporate greed, and the rich ‘abusing’ the poor and the masses caused this crisis.
Republicans, such as Herman Cain and Eric Cantor, that are condescending to these groups and call them ‘mobs’ frankly are doing conservatives a disservice. Cantor has since backtracked, calling the protesters’ frustration ‘justified‘. Conservatives should accept these people’s complaints about the poor economy, and a broken system, while rejecting their ridiculous solutions. More over, we gain nothing by using a failed strategy of Democrats. Charles Schumer and others try to blame the Tea Party for everything from rising health care costs to the flailing economy…and that strategy continues to fail. Why should we repeat their mistake?
In some ways, my problem with Republicans attacking the OWS protesters can be distilled to just this: if a group is damaging your enemy, get out of the way and enjoy the show. The OWS may have some good central themes, but ultimately many of those key items are co-opted by Marxist, Socialist and anarchist belief systems. Not to mention, while Tea Partiers had their funny looking costume wearing folk, they also had their grandmothers marching. The OWS protesters largely appear like the hippies that we like to believe they are. There are several likely long term results of this movement: it completely dissipates, especially as winter approaches; it survives, but does not transition to a mainstream political movement; or worst case, it becomes at some point violent. In each of these cases, it seems unlikely that the Democrats will benefit. There is, of course, the slim chance the movement will gain steam and go mainstream like the Tea Party, but considering the above, I am willing to roll the dice.
My one concern with this entire episode is that we are missing an opportunity to have our own discussion about how to fix what ails our economy. When you take time and listen to the intelligent voices in the OWS, they have similar complaints to what most conservatives do: a failing regulatory system, an economy that cannot compete on the world stage, and a system that is not doing enough to maintain the livelihoods for our middle class.
Conservatives have solutions to these problems. First, reform the regulatory system, by streamlining it. Dodd-Frank and other regulations have done nothing to make us safer. Simple regulations, such as demanding people put more money down to obtain loans, would do far more than the Obama era regulations would. Furthermore, the ever changing regulatory environment does more to hinder economic growth than many of these people believe. Second, completely reform our tax system. It is unfair to the middle class; but only a flatter tax code would solve that problem, not the inane solutions provided by this President. And third, have a government policy whose first and foremost goal is to create private sector jobs.
No, conservatives will never win over these protesters, but that misses the point. Many of these guys are the wacko wing of the liberal party. But our argument is for the larger American public, who have real concerns, many of which are being voiced by the OWS, albeit in a strange manner.
So, I say let them eat cake. Let them have their voice heard. And let the American people decide. Conservatives should feel comfortable enough in their own skin to have movements such as the OWS have their say. In the end, do we really think they are going to win the argument?