Part 1—What Taibbi said: According to Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, the Occupy Wall Street movement “is bigger than left or right.”
What could Taibbi mean by that? In this recent blog post, the highly suggestible Rolling Stone hothead made an outrageous statement:
“The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues.”
Say what? Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party are somehow “natural allies?” As he continued, Taibbi cited those too-big-to-fail banks as the kind of issue on which the two movements should really eye-to-eye.
He also said this about the idea that the two movements are natural allies: “[T]hat's a story our media won't want to or know how to handle.”
Just for now, let’s put “our media” to the side. Let’s focus instead on Taibbi’s key claim. Are these movements really “natural allies” in some important respect?
Are these two movements “natural allies?” We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves. But Taibbi’s piece has generated a fair amount of discussion. Here at THE HOWLER, we have been most intrigued by Digby’s scowling reactions.
For today, let’s try to get clear on Taibbi’s basic assertions. Are these two movements “natural allies?” And why in the world is Matt Taibbi making these crazy statements?
For starters, let’s put Taibbi’s nugget statement into its larger context. This is the fuller text containing his outrageous statement:
TAIBBI (10/17/11): The Rush Limbaughs of the world are very comfortable with a narrative that has Noam Chomsky, MoveOn and Barack Obama on one side, and the Tea Party and Republican leaders on the other. The rest of the traditional media won't mind that narrative either, if it can get enough "facts" to back it up. They know how to do that story and most of our political media is based upon that Crossfire paradigm of left-vs-right commentary shows and NFL Today-style team-vs-team campaign reporting.Why does Taibbi think these two movements are “natural allies?” For the most part, it’s because he’s applying the Occupy Wall Street movement’s basic math. The Occupy movement claims to speak for “the 99 percent.” In this basic representation, this movement is saying that the top one percent—the so called Masters of the Universe—have waged a long and successful war against the interests of everyone else.
What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that's a story our media won't want to or know how to handle.
If that’s true, then the bulk of the Tea Party movement is drawn from the ranks for whom the Occupy Wall Street movement claims to speak. They’re from “the 99 percent” too, just like the Occupy people! If the top one percent has really been looting the 99, then most Tea Party supporters have been getting looted, just like everyone else.
In that sense, Taibbi can imagine the two groups becoming political allies. For our money, he overthinks the nature of this natural alliance as he describes the depredations those too-big-to-fail banks:
TAIBBI (continuing directly): Take, for instance, the matter of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks, which people like me and Barry Ritholz have focused on as something that could be a key issue for OWS. These gigantic institutions have put millions of ordinary people out of their homes thanks to a massive fraud scheme for which they were not punished, owing to their enormous influence with government and their capture of the regulators.Taibbi isn't "wrong" in this passage—but he may be overthinking a bit. Why is this a potential issue for the traditional left and the traditional right? Forget those standard political frameworks! At its simplest, this is a potential issue for both sides because “millions of ordinary people” on both sides have been put out of their homes! Whatever your general views might be, many people of your political stripe have been victimized by those “massive fraud schemes.” You may think tend to red or you may tend to think blue: Those “gigantic institutions” didn’t play favorites when they cooked up their vast schemes.
This is an issue for the traditional "left" because it's a classic instance of overweening corporate power—but it's an issue for the traditional "right" because these same institutions are also the biggest welfare bums of all time, de facto wards of the state who sucked trillions of dollars of public treasure from the pockets of patriotic taxpayers from coast to coast.
In that sense, we agree that people within these two movements have a great deal in common. Whether you’re red or whether you’re blue, people you know have been robbed by those banks. Whether you’re red or whether you’re blue, you are currently getting looted in the price of health care—and your wages have been stagnant because of that health care looting.
Many people who tend to think “red” may not see those issues this way. Might they become allies of the Occupy movement? That would depend on that movement’s ability to persuade such people to see the world in this new (accurate) way.
The extent to which these movements may become “allies” remains to be seen, of course. To some extent, that will depend on the way various people within the two movements react to this possibility.
Taibbi offered a warning in his piece: Many people in the red and blue worlds will fight to keep an alliance from happening!
Over here on our blue side of the aisle, we keep thinking we see that instinct in action when we read Digby’s work.
Tomorrow: What Digby said
For part 2 of this report: Just click here