Wednesday night, broadcasting from Liberty Square in lower Manhattan, MSNBC's Ed Schultz rhetorically asked his guests if the Democrats were the biggest winners of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The crowd laughed a little at the myopic spin.
Thursday, Rush Limbaugh – citing an unnamed, likely imaginary “friend” – said that Obama's actually behind Occupy Wall Street, and, laughably, that the President's been planning “riots” for months. Riots. Planning. For months.
Although I can easily imagine both of these guys ending up in the same ICU for similar gasket-blowing ailments, I'm not playing the false equivalence card. These individual acts of stupidity are not equal, but they are both incredibly wrong.
El Rushbo's lying. No one told him this. And if they did, that person (Herman Cain?) was lying. He's a leaky bucket of bile; these are known knowns.
Schultz isn't lying. But he is off by a mile. This movement is rooted deeper than America's shallow, money-infested political dichotomy, but, indeed, it's been fertilized by this Democratic Administration's bullshit.
Rush is right: a good number of these kids turned out for Obama. Some of the protesters I talked to last weekend will hold their noses and vote Obama in 2012. Some will not. And all of them are painfully aware that despite Limbaugh's – and other insane right-wing – charges of “socialism,” Obama is Jeb Bush with a better jump shot. They know Dodd-Frank is a watered down bowl of nothing. They know that both parties are bought and sold by the same moneyed interests. They know recessions are worsened by so-called “austerity” measures. They know this pay-to-play political paradigm must crumble, for democracy to function properly.
If the Democrats gain from this movement it will be by embracing the populist sentiment of the now nationwide occupation, and making good on it if elected. No doubt Dems will co-opt the message. But will they deliver? Will we see this real populist movement translated into policy, as we saw the fringe tea party set affect the national dialogue?
Speaking of false dichotomies, it's important to remember that only 11 percent of the adult population identifies with the tea party; 64 percent of Americans think we should institute a more progressive tax code; and a remarkable 77 percent of Republicans agree with Occupy Wall Street.
President Obama has expressed empathy for the protesters' frustrations. But saying it and doing it are two different things. If the Democratic party wants to remain viable in the long-term, it's time for them to walk the walk. They must give this dissatisfied generation a clear alternative to corporate governance, instead of ruling from the triangulating, big business “center.” The occupiers are not happy with Republican Lite. They don't like Jeb Bush.
Something new, albeit long-in-the-making, is here. And, just as money's influence on our politics, it transcends party affiliation. While Democrats may capitalize in the short-term by co-opting the populist #OWS message, these protesters are Legion. They do not forgive. They do not forget.