Marking the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, I write in the American Prospect:
In spite of the odds that stood against it, Occupy Wall Street did not repel America, but attracted it, crystallizing and dramatizing the inequality that has become the central political struggle of our time. In the wake of an economic collapse that devastated every community in America and with a progressive movement that had been unable to respond to small crises—let alone major ones—with any unity of purpose or voice, Occupy stepped into the void. With threadbare blankets, it somehow wove together the disparate agendas of the left. Like the countless tent poles at protests across the country, Occupy gave the too-often cowering American left a spine.
Read the entire essay here, and please share your reflections on the lasting legacy of Occupy.
In my latest column for the American Prospect, I explore the relationship between so-called “social movement non-profit organizations” and the on-the-ground social movements they seek to spark and/or support. Here’s an excerpt:
The problem with social-movement organizations is that they can ossify, moving away from their original dynamic energy and settling into a routine that can be risk averse and stagnant. Sadly, many organizations that once grew out of and served movements become little more than mausoleums to those movements, the very existence of the institution a symbolic triumph to the victories of the past rather than an active participant in fights for the future.
What is needed is dynamic, adaptive growth. Doctors tell us that embryonic stem cells are especially valuable because they can morph into other varieties of cells. Put them next to a lung, they become lung cells. Put them next to skin, they become skin cells. They’re classically opportunistic, but not in a bad way—a political consultant might call them “strategic.” And keen strategy is just what is needed at this crucial time for social-movement organizations.
Read the whole essay here — and especially if you are in this mix of organizations and movements, tell me what you think.
In my latest piece for the American Prospect, I write about the coming “American Spring” — the next phase of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In a nutshell, I make three predictions:
1. The main focus will be Occupy Our Homes, helping families avoid foreclosure or reclaim homes from bank takeovers.
2. The anarchist wing of the movement will largely fracture off and stay focused on encampments in public space and edgy, mass demonstrations.
3. Grassroots organizations will become more central to Occupy by launching actions that reinforce Occupy Our Homes, including a major focus on protesting at corporate shareholder meetings.
At the end of the piece, I write:
I was recently trying to explain hibernation to my three-year-old. I told her that animals like bears store food in the fall, dig in and gather strength in the winter and then come out ready for spring. The 99 percent movement gathered tremendous public will and political momentum in the fall of 2011. Now, the movement is quietly planning and gathering strategic strength. In the spring, populist activism will bloom across America with a density and diversity unheard of for decades. It’s going to be a very hot spring indeed.
You can read the full piece here.
Great thing about the Internets… You get a chance to say more than a few sentences on a fast TV block.
Today, on Eric Bolling’s Follow They Money — which airs at 10pm EST — on the Fox Business Channel, we discussed accusations by the conservative Daily Caller that protesters outside the conservative CPAC gathering this weekend were all nothing but paid, union reps with no idea what they were protesting. Here’s the Daily Caller’s “evidence”:
I responded with some obvious questions about the video. They only interviewed one person, which, in journalism terms, means the claim is uncorroborated. And it’s noteworthy that the person interviewed isn’t wearing the same hat and t-shirt union attire that all the other protesters seem to be wearing. Given the deep history of misleading video footage on both sides of political debates being used to lob baseless accusations, I think it’s reasonable to scrutinize this tape.
But…. What I also should have said is that if the footage accurately represents the situation and, indeed, even one person was paid to attend the anti-CPAC protest, that is shameful and stupid. It’s a tactic that puts petty political posing ahead of the real people putting their bodies on the line to protest, and it distracts from the very authentic and legitimate frustrations of the many, many more who are there out of their own volition and deeply held beliefs.
On some level, it’s understandable that unions with out of work members would take the opportunity to throw a little money their way to bolster a cause the union has decided to endorse. But let me go on record as saying while I completely support unions and other organizations facilitating the ability of their members to protest (by paying for buses and materials and such) or even allowing them to attend protests during work hours, I do not support any superficial protesters-for-hire astroturf efforts. If proven true, I would be as critical of these actions on the left as I would be on the right (and yes, they’ve happened on the right — see, e.g., Sarah Palin, at least one Tea Party activist who was paid $100,000 to show her support for the cause, not to mention the black Tea Party “star” who was paid for his attendances).
But the frustration I have with these accusations is that, even if true, paid Occupy protesters are merely one ore two examples amidst an ocean of authentic, ordinary American voices standing up for the middle class and against runaway corporate greed and inequality. Moreover, promoting such exceptions (whether true or false) is merely a pathetic attempt to discredit a movement that is not only now larger than the Tea Party but more popular in terms of public support and more impactful, not only electing a few legislators who have stalled their agenda in Congress, but actually changing the political discourse of our nation to finally talk about economic inequality and a path to prosperity for all.
The haters can rail all they want against a few low-hanging, (alleged) bad apples. The much, much larger tree of social change is once again taking root in America.
Segment produced by Geraldo at Large team for their Fox News show, which I helped scout interviews for and offered some commentary.
Doesn’t fully capture the spirit or focus of OWS, but is certainly better than other coverage. Still, I wish they’d put me in less and put in more of the truly amazing interviews we did with compelling and convincing protesters from all walks of life.
What do you think?
“Capitalism can take the form of a socially-conscious free market economy that creates opportunity for all. Our understanding of gender can stretch to appreciate the full spectrum of human self-expression. Those who accuse reformers of wanting to abolish capitalism and gender are, for the most part, merely afraid that the positive evolution of these notions is not only unavoidable but may leave them and their ways behind.”
The protesters are not anti-American radicals. They are the defenders of the American Dream, the decision from the birth of our nation that success should be determined by hard work not royal bloodlines.
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