Wall Street “Occupiers” have had their encampments swept out of New York City’s Zuccotti Park, public spaces in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and other cities around the country. The question is, what now? What just happened, and what can we look forward to?
Beginning last summer, Van Jones, former White House “green jobs” czar, self-proclaimed communist and hero of the far left, began foretelling of an “October Surprise.” In retrospect, he was attempting to assume the role of Rick Santelli, whose spontaneous rant on CNBC from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in February 2009 inadvertently launched the Tea Party movement. Mr. Jones’ predictions of an October surprise were far from spontaneous or inadvertent: They were pure political calculus, laying the groundwork for a much hoped for, much planned for Tea Party of the left.
By no means was Mr. Jones working alone. The Take Back the American Dream Conference in Washington, D.C., was planned for the first week in October. It featured a roster of luminary liberal speakers, including the New York Times’ Robert Reich, the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel, Reps. Barney Frank and Janice D. Schakowsky, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and a host of others.
This was to be the launching point for a revolution, a turning of the tide after the November 2010 election Tea Party tsunami, an “October offensive against capitalism.”
A week before the conference, Ms. vanden Heuvel announced in the pages of The Washington Post, “On Oct. 3, thousands will gather in Washington at the ‘Take Back the American Dream Conference’ in the belief that only a citizens’ movement can reclaim and save the fading American dream.” Her excited anticipation was echoed by many others in the press. This was to be the birth of the Progressive Tea Party.
However, a week later, when Ms. vanden Heuvel rose to address the conferees gathered for a plenary session in the Washington Hilton International Ballroom, she spoke to a room of no more than a few hundred attendees, a far cry from the thousands her columns in both The Washington Post and the Nation magazine had projected.
Not much was reported in the mainstream media about the Take Back the American Dream Conference. Even MSNBC had little to say, and for good reason. The turnout was disappointing, as was its attempt to ignite a grass-roots fire akin to the Tea Party movement.
On the day the conference ended, attention shifted to Capitol Hill, where a Jobs, Not Cuts! March on the U.S. Capitol was held. This was to echo the great success of the Tea Party rallies, which had attracted hundreds of thousands to the Capitol.
The march was advertised as an opportunity to “Join working people, the unemployed, and activists to tell Congress: STOP the job-killing budget cuts. TAKE bold action now to put Americans back to work. RESTORE the American Dream for working people.”
The turnout for the event was dismal. Participants gathered on a smallish sliver of lawn near the corner of Independence Avenue and First Street Southeast. At one point, Mr. Jones asked the crowd, “How many people do you think we have here today?” After the crowd shouted out some estimates, he gave his astonishingly frank answer: “Three or four hundred people.” That included about 50 members of the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, who had been brought in to beef up the rally numbers.
In the end, the planned three-hour rally screeched to a halt 1 1/2 hours earlier than scheduled.
During both the Take Back the American Dream Conference and the Jobs, Not Cuts! March on the U.S. Capitol, organizers and speakers constantly worked to create a buzz about the Occupy Wall Street movement, which was cropping up suddenly in other cities. Oddly enough, Occupy Washington was slated to begin the day after the Jobs, Not Cuts! March.
Occupy Washington never amounted to more than a few hundred people and at its peak during its first week and was nothing more than a carnival of causes, with anti-war protesters edging out those with other causes for the most attention.
This was supposed to be the October surprise so gleefully welcomed and supported by the most progressive members of the Democratic Party. At all these different events in Washington, it was quite curious that very few Democratic members of Congress were available to speak. This contrasts with Tea Party events, where long queues of representatives and senators lined up to speak before throngs of Tea Partyers. It’s as if trepidatious Democrats on the Hill sensed a certain level of radioactivity emanating from the Occupy protests.
As things wind down for the Occupy movement, liberal commentators are picking up the slack: The Occupy Wall Street protesters “are most likely the start of a new era in America. … The young people in Zuccotti Park and more than 1,000 cities have started America on a path to renewal. … The new progressive age has begun,” Jeffrey Sachs wrote in “The New Progressive Movement,” on Nov. 12 in the New York Times.
Headlines keep blaring the unimaginable success of this “movement,” which liberals say has captured the imagination and hearts of the American people. Ms. vanden Heuvel, in “Progressives now on the march to take over Congress” (The Washington Post, Nov. 15) suggests, “Occupy … has transformed the landscape of politics. Wisconsin lit the spark. … Occupy Wall Street has turned that spark into a conflagration that swept the nation.” The conflagration has flamed out - for now.
The October surprise wasn’t much of a surprise, other than the American public’s astonishment at the violence and endless immoral behavior in Occupy encampments.
From the start, the movement has been about liberals attempting to capture control of the Democratic Party and supplant the Tea Party as the voice of Main Street America.
However, the images and message from Occupy Wall Street are foreign, if not grossly un-American, to Main Street. If liberals were attempting to “take back the American dream,” so far they have succeeded only in portraying the American nightmare.
What’s next? Probably a move this winter to take Occupy sentiment to college campuses in a big way.
Doug Mainwaring is a co-founder of the National Capital Tea Party Patriots.
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