Opinion
Grading City Hall: See our report card for L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson
Opinion L.A.
Opinion Opinion L.A.

Occupy Wall Street's message

The pundit class has largely ignored, dismissed or mocked the Occupy Wall Street protest (the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, for example, calls the protesters "a collection of ne'er-do-wells raging against Wall Street, or something"). We too find it hard to get especially worked up over a series of small demonstrations in a handful of cities, including Los Angeles, involving mostly disaffected people who have trouble expressing what it is they're against. But isn't that how the "tea party" started out?

The political left has been searching for the last couple of years to find an answer to the tea party. Some hoped last year's rally in Washington led by TV comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, a response to right-wing rallies attended by such conservative media celebrities as Glenn Beck, would spark a national movement. That didn't happen. Now they're pinning their hopes on Occupy Wall Street, which in many ways is a mirror image of the tea party. Both groups are motivated by frustration over the rotten economy and are vague about causes and solutions, though if their positions could be summed up in a one-line manifesto, it might be: The tea party, dominated by elderly conservatives, blames government overspending and overreach for our economic problems and would therefore like to cut federal spending, while Occupy Wall Street, dominated by young liberals, blames corporate greed and would therefore like to tax the rich and decrease corporate political power.

It is, of course, far too early to suggest that Occupy Wall Street represents a resurgence of the left. But we do seem to recall that in its initial days the tea party was similarly dismissed by pundits, especially those on the left who preferred to see the protesters as kooks rather than the vanguard of a political shift. What matters isn't the size of the protest, the attire of the demonstrators or the misspellings on their signs; it's whether the relatively tiny number of people who can be bothered to show up and march can inspire and energize other like-minded people enough to get them to the polls.

Photos: Protest and parade in downtown Los Angeles

By that measure, the tea party has been a phenomenal success. Republican voters turned out in big numbers in the 2010 elections while the Democratic vote was depressed, leading to the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives. A Gallup poll last week found Democratic enthusiasm for voting in 2012 is at its lowest level in a decade, trailing Republicans' net enthusiasm by 27%. No one can say whether Occupy Wall Street will change that. But it would be a mistake to write off the movement before it gets started.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Hundreds of protesters arrested on Brooklyn Bridge

    Hundreds of protesters arrested on Brooklyn Bridge

    The demonstrators were marching with the group Occupy Wall Street, which has been camping in Manhattan to protest corporate greed.

  • Does owning a gun make you safer?

    Does owning a gun make you safer?

    The United States has the most heavily armed civilian population in the First World; our homes contain enough firearms for every man, woman and child.

  • Why let ex-presidents cash in?

    Why let ex-presidents cash in?

    President Harry Truman once said that he would never lend himself "to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency." His successors have not held themselves to the same standard.

  • Defunding Planned Parenthood is not the same as repealing the right to abortion

    Defunding Planned Parenthood is not the same as repealing the right to abortion

    The GOP-controlled Congress is taking up the cause, once again, of defunding Planned Parenthood. This latest effort comes in response to macabre hidden-camera videos shot by the Center for Medical Progress of staff at Planned Parenthood talking about the grisly practice of chopping up fetuses for...

  • Treatment, not just jail, for the mentally ill

    Treatment, not just jail, for the mentally ill

    The U.S. Department of Justice and Los Angeles County officials are negotiating the details of a consent decree to govern the treatment of mentally ill inmates in the troubled county jails, following more than a decade of reported abuse and excessive force by sheriff's deputies. The final terms...

  • Obama's Clean Energy Plan doesn't go far enough

    Obama's Clean Energy Plan doesn't go far enough

    The coal industry already has its legal claws honed for a court battle over President Obama's Clean Energy Plan, which was unveiled Monday, claiming that it will cost too much and render people jobless. Certainly, in the short term at least, slowing climate change by reducing carbon emissions won't...

Comments
Loading
73°