Egyptian demonstrators had a clear end game -- "the people want to bring down the regime." That was the signature banner in the middle of Tahrir square during the height of the Cairo demonstrations. Eighteen days after protests began, the people had won. President Mubarak resigned. End game.
The U.S. Occupy movement has had no such end game. To fight for "regime change" would mean to actively oppose President Obama. No such rage exists within the Occupy movement. The chant "Obama Must Go" is rarely heard from Occupy demonstrators.
It was very different for anti-war demonstrators in 1960s.
They actively opposed a sitting liberal Democrat president who enacted historical civil rights and social legislation. Their opposition to President Lyndon Johnson was relentless. Their protests led to challengers in the 1968 Democrat presidential primaries -- first, Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who captured 42 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. Then, with McCarthy's strong showing, Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-N.Y.) entered the race and rose to front-runner until his tragic death after his primary victory in California.
On March 31, 1968, President Johnson shocked the nation by announcing that he would not seek re-election. Sixties anti-war demonstrators had brought down an incumbent president. End game.
In the 2012 Democrat primaries, there wasn't a major challenger to President Obama. (However, a Texas prison inmate Keith Judd received 40 percent of the vote in the West Virginia Democratic presidential primary.)
Time after time, President Obama has escaped Occupy demonstrators' rage. They protested the bailout of the nation's mega-banks, but didn't condemn President Obama, who, at a April 2009 White House showdown meeting with the heads of the country's largest banks, failed to condemn them for their role in the financial meltdown. (For more on Obama's leniency, view online the PBS/"Frontline" series, "Money, Power & Wall Street.")
They demonstrated for jobs, but failed to hold the Obama administration culpable for an economic recovery program that has created only a quarter of the 8 million recession jobs lost.
They protested burdening student loans, now totaling more than $1 trillion, but not against the Obama administration's nationalization of the student loan program and strict enforcement of loan payments.
In every case, Occupy protesters have held President Obama blameless.
That's not the case for Occupy's distant cousin, the Tea Party movement. They actively opposed Republican candidates across the nation. Their massive demonstrations gave way to campaign politics. They found an end game.
Tea Party candidates were elected to Congress in 2010. Then, this year, Tea Party activists in Indiana brought down the third most senior member of the U.S. Senate, incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.). The Tea Party-backed candidate Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock beat Lugar 61 percent to 39 percent, in the Indiana senate primary.
Victories embolden movements. The passion of demonstrations must result in tangible victories to sustain the movement. That's why the Occupy movement has waned, and the Tea Party persists.
By ignoring President Obama, and failing to transform their power into electoral victories, the Occupy movement seems destined to suffer the same fate as those young demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square more than 20 years ago. Those Chinese demonstrators also had vague, unfocused demands. They wanted economic and political freedom, but were powerless to enact change.
There's another dire consequence for movements without an end game. They become susceptible to extremists who hijack peaceful demonstrations to wreck havoc in the name of "armed propaganda."
So, failing to force change at the top, and allowing extremists to corrode from within, the Occupy movement, at this point, is destined to wither away.
Occupy demonstrators succeeded in dramatically and intensely pointing out the folly of the bank bailouts, lack of jobs, the painful burden of their student loans, but failed to point a finger at the one most immediately responsible.
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