Thanks to a hit piece by one of those Beltway pseudo-"bipartisans" we can now state conclusively what many of us have long suspected: Occupy Wall Street speaks for the American majority. We've got the polling numbers to prove it. We now know where the real center lies.
It's easy to understand why people like Douglas Schoen are lining up to attack OWS. It shines a spotlight on their cardboard centrism - that think-tank designed, artificially-inseminated, vat-grown corporate ideology so widely rejected by the public at large. OWS represents the real American consensus, and that has them running scared.
But Schoen's Wall Street Journal editorial falls so far short of the mark that it elicits only a soft sense of pity. It illustrates nothing except the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of those out-of-step Democrats who sell themselves to conservatism under the 'centrist' or 'Third Way' banner.
Oh, wait. It also provides enough data to undermine his entire argument - and possibly his entire ideology. Before we look at the numbers we should take a closer look at these "centrists" and why they're trying to kill Occupy Wall Street.
How to Succeed in
Centrism Conservatism Without Really Trying
Douglas Schoen is an excellent case study in the right-wing careerism that masquerades as 'centrism' in Washington today. The formula's simple: First get yourself some Democratic Party credentials. That's easy enough to do inside the party's corporate wing. Next, get a gig with one of conservative media outlets. And after that, start making proclamations 'against type' about how corporate-driven conservatism is the true heart of America. That's when the cash really starts rolling in. Then, like any good syndicate, the centrist Cosa Nostra will tell you it's time to return the favor with a hit job or two.
Schoen followed this easy-cash formula to a T (or "Tea"). Democratic Party credential? Check. He did polling for Bill Clinton, then the company he cofounded with Mark Penn went to work on the Hillary Clinton campaign. Cushy gig with a conservative media outlet? Check. He's a Fox News "analyst." Proclamation "against type"? Check. He co-wrote a book with Republican pollster Scott Rasmussen calledMad As Hell: How the Tea Party is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System.
Unfortunately for Schoen, the premise of their book required him to promote at least four massive falsehoods. The first was that Fox News is, in fact, "fair and balanced," and the second was that Fox did not aggressively promote the Tea Party. (Karl Frisch of Media Matters decimates these two claims.) The third was that the Tea Party was a spontaneous citizen uprising, not a heavily orchestrated corporate and Koch-founded process directed by Republican operatives. (See here and here, for starters.) The fourth falsehood is the claim that the Tea Party represents the views of most Americans. We'll get to that one shortly.
As for that final rite of "centrism" - the hit job - Mr. Schoen's editorial demonstrates that he'll happily don the ankle holster and squeeze off a round from his derringer whenever the signal's given. Luckily for the country, we're dealing with the gang that couldn't shoot straight.
Mr. Schoen warns that "President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement--and it may cost them the 2012 election." He bases this statement on a survey of demonstrators which he says was conducted by an associate of his. Unfortunately, he doesn't provide either the questionnaire used or the raw data, so we're forced to settle for vague Red-baiting assertions instead of hard information. Fortunately, as with his Fox/Tea Party claims, he quickly undermines his own claims.
Summoning visions of 1970, when Democrats were undone by association with anti-war "hippies," Schoen writes that "the Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people--and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform."
What, exactly, are those values? "What binds a large majority of the protesters together ...," Schoen writes, "is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas."
In other words, they're Commies.
Now We Can Prove It: Occupy Wall Street Speaks for America
But the only actual policy positions Schoen mentions are these:
"Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement--no matter the cost. (emphasis mine) By a large margin (77%-22%), they support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but 58% oppose raising taxes for everybody, with only 36% in favor. And by a close margin, protesters are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary (49%) or unnecessary (51%)."
Hmmm ... how "dangerously out of touch" are these views with those of the general public - and those all-important independent voters? We've prepared a handy chart illustrating that point, for your convenience (and Mr. Schoen's enlightenment). It's called Occupy Wall Street Represents America: The Polling Data (Unlike some folks, we show our work - even though, as you'll see from the attached, exact comparisons are hard to come by, especially given Mr. Schoen's vague wordings.)
Here are the highlights:
The public agrees with OWS on health care: 65% of protesters believe government should guarantee health care for all. In the last major poll on the subject, 64% of voters said the same thing.
The public agrees with OWS on taxes: 77% of OWS participants want to raise taxes on the wealthy; according to the Marist polling organization, 68% of all voters - including 68% of independents - agree with them.
The public agrees with OWS on a secure retirement: 65% of protesters think the government should guarantee a secure retirement. 70% of all voters - including 73% of independents - agree with them.
Schoen may have tried to hide or skew his information, but he's given us enough to know that the demonstrators are smack dab in the mainstream of American public opinion. Their tax views are supported by an overwhelming majority of the public. Their views receive the overwhelming support of independents and are often supported by a majority of Republicans too.
And what about that Tea Party that Schoen's been pushing as the "new center" in American politics? Does the public agree with them, too? Er, not so much. The latest CNN poll shows that 53% of Americans disapprove of the Tea Party movement and only 28% approve. Those are the lowest numbers since the pollsters began tracking Tea Party popularity last year.
Oops. Looks like Schoen and Rasmussen will need to write a new book.
(One other thing: That CNN poll also shows that Hillary Clinton is still the country's most popular public figure. Just think what she might have accomplished if she hadn't used the firm of Penn, Schoen & Berland to run her last campaign.)
The Real Center
No wonder the faux-centrist/"Third Way" crowd hates OWS. The protests put the lie to phony notion that the "center" agrees with the corporate-funded policies they espouse. And they illustrate the fact that the real "center" holds opinions that are usually stigmatized as "progressive" inside the Beltway . Douglas Schoen characterizes those opinions as "a deep commitment to left-wing policies" --
-- that are frequently supported by most Republicans. A few more revelations like this and their whole scam will be exposed. That's why we're seeing the glint of hatchets swinging in the Potomac sun.
Schoen represents that partnership of pampered elites that is Beltway Bipartisanship, but the OWS protesters represents real bipartisanship. They speak for the genuine American majority, that movement that speaks for the people who have been misused, abused, and refused by powerful insider from both parties.
Schoen speaks as if this were 1970 revisited, but the players have changes places. Occupy Wall Street speaks for this year's Silent Majority - the 99% who have been disenfranchised by the corporate-driven political environment that spawned and feeds Mr. Schoen and his ilk. The moment for the triangulated tactics of the Schoen crowd has passed. The real center is waking up. It's corporatist policies, not the politics of protest, that will hurt a party's electoral chances today.
Politically speaking, they're the hippies now.
The President and his party wouldn't be foolish to adopt the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street. It would be foolish to think this movement can be co-opted by words that aren't followed up with action. But the most foolish act of all would be to listen to compromised advice from a cadre of failed insiders who are quickly being left behind by the irreversible and irresistible flow of history.
Follow Richard (RJ) Eskow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rjeskow