It was certainly an upbeat, warm and effective first night of the Democratic Convention. If the next two are as smartly done, and if any of America's 12 undecided voters are tuning in, the Democrats are helping themselves, a lot.
The buzzwords and constituency touches were carefully and thoroughly done. The Identity Interests were welcomed, mentioned and thanked. Gay, female, Jewish, Latino, black, veterans, small business, youth, seniors -- the list goes on. Yet one special constituency was carefully omitted: Occupy Wall Street. None of what happened last night would have been credible had the movement not begun last year.
Cast your mind back a mere eighteen months. The reigning political narrative was debt reduction and reduced government spending. Put aside whether it was good economics or bad. There really was no competing worldview that easily explained out situation. Obama and progressives were badly on the defensive, with no real counter explanation or program. The Tea Party and austerity ruled the world and swept the 2010 election.
Then, bubbling up from the concrete at Zuccotti Park came a new explanation, a new world view: Corporate dominance and the concentration of wealth had pitted the privileged 1% against the 99%. Again, put aside whether it's accurate or fair. It became the counter view to austerity and anti-government anger, and the counter organization to the Tea Party. It went countrywide and worldwide, spilled from the Park to the streets to campuses, attracted support from old and young, used the internet and social media and changed the discourse forever.
I was on the periphery of the movement and shared many of its views to be sure. But the point here is not to argue its merits: It's to point out that Occupy Wall Street gave voice to a different, progressive vision of the world and politics. Obama and other politicians were able to ride the pony, in the method of LBJ and the civil rights movement, Bobby Kennedy and the anti-war movement, or Nixon and anti-communism. The specific policy proposals that emerged after OWS, like a millionaire's tax or increased regulation of Wall Street, reduced interest on student loans were all the offspring of a widely shared view that government and the wealthy were benefiting at the expense of everyone else.
But still, there wasn't a word about it last night at the Democratic Convention. That's kinda understandable in cold political terms. There was a concerted right-wing effort to marginalize OWS as lazy hippies and malcontents, and OWS itself has taken a much lower media profile since the end of the Zuccotti Park occupation. Gratitude is a commodity in short supply in either party.
So let the thanks come from here and elsewhere as people are moved to remember what actually happened to change the political dynamic. OWS gave voice and form to the human consequences of thirty years of anti-government, pro-corporate policies that concentrated wealth and power in a very small number of Americans. If Obama can pin that image and resentment on Romney, and he's certainly trying, his path to re-election is much easier. If Obama wins, it will be on the shoulders of OWS.
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