I suppose most movements have some of the same elements:
- Some mindless followers, who don’t really know what they are protesting against.
- Fringe wackos who really make the movement look bad.
- A core of legitimate grievances.
Take the Tea Party.
- You had the mindless followers–people who watched Glenn Beck and got all riled up, but couldn’t really articulate consistently what they were riled up about. They just knew Glenn Beck (and others) told them Obama was the Devil, and so they grabbed their pitchforks and stormed the castle.
- You had the fringe wackos with their blatantly racist signs, screaming that Obama was a Nazi or socialist or Muslim or whatever.
But amidst all of that, the Tea Party drew deserved attention to two things:
- Federal spending is way out of line. Gotta make cuts.
- The federal government is intruding too much on states’ rights, as enshrined in the Constitution.
So long after the townhall shouting ended and the signs came down, we’re still talking about reducing spending and keeping the feds out of areas best left to the states. Those are good, very good, things.
Now we come to the Occupy movement. A lot of parallel things. People who can’t explain why they are camped out in a city park. People who view it as a 2011, no-music version of Woodstock. The drum-bangers who think that’s the way to bring about social change. The fringers who think capitalism is evil, or who advocate a communist system, or who favor wealth redistribution. Lots of general silliness.
But there are, again, legitimate grievances which need to be given attention.
- A larger and larger portion of American prosperity is going to the ultra-rich, at the expense of the middle and lower classes. The 1% have commandeered the American Dream.
- Trickle-down is a myth. What we’ve seen for the past 30 years is trickle-up.
- The middle class is being decimated. Jobs that once led to a comfortable retirement no longer do.
- Our system unduly shields the rich, enabling them to prosper even more.
- Being ultra-rich isn’t a bad thing, but these people use their money to disproportionately influence what happens in America. They buy lobbyists who buy Congressmen, who then write legislation and design tax loopholes and engineer bailouts solely to benefit the ultra-rich.
It’s easy for MSNBC to find elements in the Tea Party to ridicule. And it’s easy for FoxNews to do the same thing to the Occupy Wall Street people. But both movements have valid things to say. It’s hard hearing the good stuff amidst all the surrounding Looney Tunes, but we shouldn’t out-of-hand write them off just because our preferred pundits say we should, or because somebody spotlighted in a news report is clearly a nutjob.
I’m ready for the Tea Party to go away, just as, soon, I’ll be ready for the Occupy folks to fade into the background. But I hope that, in both cases, their legitimate grievances remain entrenched in our minds and in the political agenda.