I believe that the first big winner of the 2012 campaign is the Occupy Wall Street movement, whether or not it participates in electoral politics. Before next April 30 there will be more simultaneous marches around the world that could inspire up to 50 million men and women supporting a more just economy.
In only 30 days, Occupy Wall Street has reshaped our national political narrative and brought back to center stage the great American question: Are we a nation of the people and for the people, or a nation where the few and the factions with the money can dominate the politics and finances of the nation?
Today there is another great bailout being negotiated in Europe. Protests continue to gain powerful support. There is a firestorm of outrage from consumers against new bank fees, a firestorm of demand from workers to create new jobs and a firestorm of outrage against corruption in business and politics.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is the authentic heir to John Hancock and Sam Adams, and to historic movements from suffragettes championing the rights of women to Solidarity and Lech Walesa, who supports Occupy Wall Street, championing the rights of workers.
The aspiration to lift the 99 percent inspires men and women throughout America and across nations, oceans and continents. A cold, hard winter will bring a springtime of action that will mobilize tens of millions of people for the most historically profound movement of our times.
This movement originated entirely from outside the power structures of politics, finance and media. While there are areas of overlap with populist liberals on some issues and populist Ron Paul supporters on others, this is a protest movement in the tradition of movements that have changed American and world history.
Let's end the great slander used by desperate opponents of Occupy Wall Street:
When Steve Jobs made great products that consumers loved and became a billionaire; when Warren Buffett makes investment decisions and those who invest in him do well along with him; when credit unions offer low-fee debit cards and fair interest loans; and when venture capitalists take high risks to finance clean-tech business, nobody protests against them.
The protesters do not protest great wealth earned through honest work. They protest against those who cheat in a system they rig; those who deform our democracy with the corruptions they buy; those who beg for taxpayer bailouts when they fail while they utter words of contempt toward those who endure the suffering their failures create.
When mega-banks crash the world economy and collapse their own stocks, when American taxpayers must pay to rescue them while their 401(k) shareholders suffer huge losses, when they pay failed executives vast fortunes to reward their failure, and when they commit fraud against their customers, this is not capitalism, but crime for profit, in some cases, and compensation for incompetence in others. This is what protesters protest.
The frenzy against the Occupy Wall Street movement from the partisan Republican right and certain Tea Party voices occurs because the protesters are calling their bluff and forcing them to defend not capitalism, but corruptions that are widely despised, which are neither patriotic nor capitalist.
Do Tea Party Republicans want to oppose jobs for police, firefighters and teachers and oppose protecting military families from financial abuse, which Elizabeth Warren champions? Do they want to support massive compensation for those bank executives who mismanaged their business, bank fees that create national outrage, dishonest tactics against honorable homeowners and unequal pay for women?
America has entered a new political era of protest and patriotism in a great and powerful tradition. When winter turns to spring, those who seek to champion the 99 percent are poised to mobilize for the largest protests in the history of America, and the world.
This column was originally published at The Hill.
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