When word leaked out of a Senate Republican caucus that Mitch McConnell and his pollsters are worried about the 99 percent message, that was fun stuff, but this new memo that’s been reported on by several sources is truly a joy to read. The financial barons of Wall Street are starting to sweat a little, and that is good for all the rest of us. We know for sure they are going to use their huge piles of money to try to demonize both the message and the messengers, so we will see what happens next, but I think looking at the leaked memo, their early push back tactics, and the way they historically operate is instructive.
The memo itself is in some ways a classic, boilerplate D.C. consulting firm proposal: polling, opposition research, social media, coalition work, and advertising. Having written a few of these kinds of proposals myself, I would offer the following comments:
-First, it is worth noting that because Wall Street firms have such an obscene amount of money, and their executives are used to making so much themselves, they are willing to pay incredibly inflated amounts of money for work like this. Even with all the polling they are suggesting, which is the most expensive thing the firm Clark, Lytle, Geduldig, Cranford is offering, their consulting services are being offered for two to three times what they are really worth. Although come to think of it, that is really cheap by Wall Street standards.
-Second, consulting firms don’t tend to send proposals like this without conversations with the potential clients happening first. Consulting is not a cold calling kind of business, you are going to people you know well, and a proposal with this level of specificity has very likely been talked through in advance, with the paper being produced mainly to provide some flesh and bones to an already agreed to plan. And in fact, Campaignmoney.org has already documented that this consulting firm has a history with the American Bankers’ Association.
-Third, the level of alarm in the opening two paragraphs strikes me as very real, not just hype to get the proposal sold. As I said, the writers of this memo almost certainly have already talked through the plan with their friends in the bankers’ association, and are close to this being a done deal. I think the language reflects the common assumptions of both the clients and the consultants.
-Fourth, some very heavy character assassination is coming down the pipes, very soon. Opposition researchers will be looking to find the most radical sounding things ever said or written (in college papers, on Facebook, on blog posts, wherever) by anyone connected in any obscure way to Occupy and the other movement groups who are using the 99 percent messaging. In fact, given the dirty tricks and tactics long associated with corporate/Republican operatives from the Nixon era to Karl Rove and today, the opposition researchers may well be feeding their PR people things written by their own operatives to make Occupiers look bad. Expect the worst from these kinds of people.
Given that we know the Empire will most assuredly fight back with these kinds of secretive slush fund-backed tactics, it is tempting to offer a lot of generalized advice for how to fight back. Each attack, though, will be very specific in nature, and will be designed to throw people off message and on the defensive. It is essential, in the words of the old civil rights movement saying, that we keep our eyes on the prize and stay on message. Fighting for the 99 percent is a very hard message to marginalize, and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be afraid of it in the face of attacks, or be thrown off course by the Wall Street Empire constantly trying to distract us with red herrings and crazy charges. We have to keep focused on our core message, and keep coming back no matter what the other side is doing to throw us off course.
The only other generalized advice I would give is to stay in the streets. Conventional political tactics and insider lobbying alone will not win the day, not when the game has become this rigged.
Whether you were an original Occupier or not does not matter at this point. There is a quantum physics kind of effect that goes on in politics too: there is a lot of energy sitting in the universe, and you never know what will spark it or why, but when it starts to move, move with it. That has what happened with Occupy: people were ready to move, and their spark set a lot of things in motion. Wall Street’s money and power will try to throw a wet blanket over that energy, or redirect it to go in an entirely different direction, but it is the job of all progressives to keep the energy of the 99 percent alive and moving in the right direction.