You know real change is upon us because the celebrity left has come together. Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, Michael Moore, Roseanne Barr, Mark Ruffalo, Yoko Ono, and Alec Baldwin are speaking out. And when this many famous millionaires get preachy at the same time it can only mean one thing: they’ve had it up to here with the rich.
Just as when hundreds of protestors claim police brutality their next logical step is to demand a larger and more powerful state, of course.
If you’re having problems grasping the nuances of the Occupy Wall Street movement, you haven’t been paying attention to the present-day left. And good for you.
The self-demonizing millionaires and state-worshipping police haters barely scratch the surface of the ideological dyslexia at work. One Occupy Wall Street member’s proposed “list of demands” calls first for nativist “trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market,” and then for one-worldist “open borders migration,” so that “anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.” The document, like the motivation behind it, is a hodgepodge of paranoia, entitlement, self-pity, self-righteousness, class warfare, and economic illiteracy. If this spotty protest moment becomes broad-based and loud the thorough airing of modern-day leftism will prove to be a conservative’s election-year dream come true.
On Monday, with Occupy Wall Street spawning copycat demonstrations in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne asked hopefully, “Can the left stage a Tea Party?” I don’t know if it can but if I were a GOP strategist I’d be praying that it does.
The true leftist agenda is so surreal Republicans couldn’t satirize it if they tried. (“Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America’s nuclear power plants.”) These leftists are so reckless that an extended, high profile “occupation” movement of national reach would bury liberalism months before November 2012. It would, in short, function for Democrats exactly as Democrats had hoped (in vain) that the Tea Party would function for Republicans in 2010. In unhinged “Occupiers,” conservatives would find an easy and clean target to run against and destroy. What’s more, this would force Barack Obama either to publicly walk back all the class-warfare rhetoric that the protesters have taken to heart or to sink as one of their number. He has long nurtured dual personae, vacillating in political style between inflammatory community-organizer and conciliatory high-office holder. A large national Occupier movement would require him to end that game once and for all.
Tea Partiers didn’t dash conservative hopes in 2010 because they were on the right side of history. While they demanded smaller government and less spending we watched Europe nearly collapse under the weight of regulation and entitlements. Their message made sense to Americans. But watching Russell Simmons—the anti-capitalist zillionaire—meditate with nose-pierced 20-somethings on the hope that more stimulus will fall like rain is unlikely to sway independent voters. In the age of Solyndra, the Occupiers’ call for “a fast track process” to bring “the alternative energy economy up to energy demand,” (Demand Five) isn’t going to resonate. Protestors’ appeal for the U.S. to stop supporting Israel is a non-starter in an America where Christian conservatives and Jewish liberals have been holding Obama’s feet to the fire on his hostility to the Jewish state.
With all these ill-suited messages and hypocritical messengers it’s easy to overlook the one timely half-truth among the Occupiers’ gripes: government and big business have grown entirely too close. I say half-truth because the protestors fail to understand that the road to change runs through Washington and not Wall Street. As long as government tries to pick private-sector winners, green or otherwise, corporatism endures. And as long as regulatory regimes prohibit large-scale investment by all but the most seasoned lobbyists, the market will remain less open than it should be. Those have never been easy points for conservatives to make, but with the incoherent Occupy Wall Street taking the opposite position the American public might first be more open to a little counterintuitive analysis.