HomeHistoryOccupying Wall Street vs Protesting Washington

“All of these people should be after Obama and Holder!” Beneath the bluster, on this one O’Reilly is asking a fair question, and certainly an important one. The gist of the question, sobered up, is this:

Given that the Occupiers are protesting criminality on Wall Street, why aren’t they going to Washington instead, in order to: 1) demand legal action against those who wrecked the financial system; 2) denounce the politicians who empowered the wreckers, and; 3) demand reforms that would prevent such crimes from happening again?

Geraldo Rivera didn’t have the answer, and most liberals won’t. It’s because going to Washington to make demands is something that is typically done by people who believe we live in a responsive democracy. I’d wager that most of the committed Occupiers don’t think we have a responsive democracy, but a plutocracy or an oligarchy. From the Occupiers perspective, the oligarchs would prefer to see the protesters busy making moot demands of an impotent Congress. “Dont’ bug the oligarchs,” O’Reilly and Cantor and McDonnell plead on their behalf, “Go bother somebody else.” Focusing attention on Washington is weapon of mass distraction if you believe that the system is rigged by and for the oligarchs.

If this is a democracy, the seat of power is Washington. If it’s a plutocracy, the power is concentrated on Wall Street.

So (following this perspective) of course the folks in power would prefer to see their opponents waste their energy by having them place the blame on the wrong shoulders. The Tea Party was quick to oblige and even further weaken the government vis-à-vis the oligarchs, but the Occupiers aren’t buying it, and are vigilant against co-optation.

I’d also wager that few committed Occupiers are Obama supporters. Perhaps many once were, but they clearly don’t see much sense in going to Washington to beg help from a President who gave high offices to oligarchy stewards such as Tim Geithner and Larry Summers. The Occupier perspective is that Washington is just a cog in the wheel. Better to target the engine of power where it actually resides.

I doubt that O’Reilly has enough reflective distance to ask questions about whether the US is run by a plutocracy and whether he is serving its interests by trying to distract its critics with the “blame Washington” mantra. And, frankly, I haven’t given up on democracy myself, so I’m amenable to the sober version of his point. But coupling that position with a knee-jerk demonization of the Occcupy movement won’t advance the conversation. It only serves to distract from how dire our circumstances truly are.


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