Think of this as Volume 15, Number 43 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
For all the bleeting about demonstrators being scary or anti-capitalist coming from some in the right, and despite the (sometimes failed) attempts by liberal politicians to co-opt it, Occupy Wall Street is a very healthy sign for business and even for Wall Street.
People like Jesse LaGreca (right), who blogs at DailyKos (from which the photo is taken) as MinistryofTruth, are calling for no more reform than progressives did early in the 20th century. In fact they are calling for the same reforms. A progressive tax system, honest control of capitalism's natural excesses, a fair deal for working people.
Every American crisis recapitulates, in some ways, crises that came before it. There were echoes of the first Civil War in the 1960s, echoes of Andrew Jackson in FDR's time. The current crisis echoes the 1890s in the same way.
Here's what LaGreca wrote after speaking on ABC News yesterday:
The wealthiest 1% in America and around the world need us more than we need them. Without working people to farm their food the wealthy would have only money to eat. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances, we guard you while you sleep.
That's not a call to tear down Wall Street, or the capitalist system. It's a call for reform.
Having a system of laws that takes down those who cut corners, that maintains greed within the borders of positive change, that can guarantee the safety of products and the people producing them, this is what people like LeGreca are demanding – and very politely at that. It has a lot more in common with what Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair than Marx or Engels.
It's pure Americanism.
This is the force President Obama has been waiting for. In order for him to do what he set out to do, he needs to be pushed into doing it from the left. After spending two years disappointed in his failure to get a program through a center-right Congress, then sitting out an election that made the Congress hard-right, and watching the President try to negotiate with that bunch, folks are finally getting the message.
This is a fight the President can't win alone. No President can. If you want to live in the 21st century rather than a high-tech replay of the 16th, you have to get into the game. You have to participate, every day. You have to see that this is a long struggle. It's what the President said, repeatedly, before and after his election, but liberals didn't listen.
Now they are listening.
The question for now isn't whether the President or Nancy Pelosi can capture this movement, but whether Daily Kos (through LaGreca) and Hullaballoo and Firedoglake can capture it. If they can, if they can direct it into political activism and participation, then the political wind's direction will change, and change decisively.
If they can't, if this movement turns toward violence (even in self-defense) or if it gets discouraged and drops out (as the left did 40 years ago) then we'll have a different future, and I'm afraid a profoundly un-American one.
This isn't a communist or a leftist revolt anyway. It's a Capra-corn revolt. (Capra, by the way, was also a Republican.) The message can be heard in Capra's most overtly political film, “Meet John Doe,” Take it away, Gary Cooper:
I know a lot of you are saying "What can I do? I'm just a little punk. I don't count." Well, you're dead wrong! The little punks have always counted because in the long run the character of a country is the sum total of the character of its little punks.
But, we've all got to get in there and pitch.
The people. Try and beat that.