Part 3—Love of profit, love of the tribe: Are Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement in some way “natural allies?” That’s what Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi said, in this recent blog post.
We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves. But there are obvious links between the people who comprise these two movements.
If you doubt that, just consider a well-rendered point in Nicholas Kristof’s new column. In a piece about the Occupy movement, Kristof explains the functioning of the aberration known as “crony capitalism:”
KRISTOF (10/27/11): To put it another way, this is a chance to save capitalism from crony capitalists.Kristof says those grasping financiers are “not evil at all.” We have no idea how he could know such a thing; he is kissing the ass of the upper-class world when he types this instant disclaimer. Strivers like Kristof must do such things to maintain their own high stations. They must also draw instant moral equivalence between grasping tycoons and weak unions.
I’m as passionate a believer in capitalism as anyone. My Krzysztofowicz cousins (who didn’t shorten the family name) lived in Poland, and their experience with Communism taught me that the way to raise living standards is capitalism.
But, in recent years, some financiers have chosen to live in a government-backed featherbed. Their platform seems to be socialism for tycoons and capitalism for the rest of us. They’re not evil at all. But when the system allows you more than your fair share, it’s human to grab. That’s what explains featherbedding by both unions and tycoons, and both are impediments to a well-functioning market economy.
In these instant scripted asides, Kristof maintains his viability within the system. But as he explains those tycoons’ conduct, he paints a very basic portrait. This is what he says:
It’s human nature to grab too much—if you’re allowed to do so!
It’s human nature to grab too much! Everyone understands this fact; everybody in Occupy Wall Street, everyone in the Tea Party movement. In fact, everyone on the face of the earth understands Kristof’s basic concept:
It’s human nature to grab what you can. Left alone, many high rollers will overreach. This is why we need regulation.
Tycoons need regulation! Everyone in each of these movements understands this bone-simple fact. Such basic facts provide the basis for creating a movement which might merge the energies of the full 99 percent—merging those who see social issues one way with those who see them another.
The basic math of the Occupy movement says we’re all in this together. All of us in “the lower 99” are being looted by the top one. This is a powerful, ancient understanding—and it lies at the very heart of Occupy Wall Street’s messaging.
All of us are being looted! Red and blue together! This helps explain why Taibbi said these two groups are “natural allies.” We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves, but we do recommend his basic insight. We also recommend a warning he offered in his post.
According to Taibbi, current conditions could—and should—produce a larger movement. We shouldn’t be locked into “red” and “blue” camps when everyone is getting looted. But for various reasons, many people are comfortable with existing “culture war” battle lines. This led to Taibbi's wide-ranging prediction, one we shouldn’t ignore:
TAIBBI (10/17/11): There is going to be a fusillade of attempts from many different corners to force these demonstrations into the liberal-conservative blue-red narrative.According to Taibbi, the traditional media are most comfortable with the red/blue story. More significantly, he says that some warriors on both the red and blue sides will want to maintain that way of seeing the world.
This will be an effort to transform OWS from a populist and wholly non-partisan protest against bailouts, theft, insider trading, self-dealing, regulatory capture and the market-perverting effect of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks into something a little more familiar and less threatening, i.e. a captive "liberal" uprising that the right will use to whip up support and the Democrats will try to turn into electoral energy for 2012.
Tactically, what we'll see here will be a) people firmly on the traditional Democratic side claiming to speak for OWS, and b) people on the right-Republican side attempting to portray OWS as a puppet of well-known liberals and other Democratic interests.
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.
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.
Taibbi cites Rush Limbaugh by name. For ourselves, we’ve been struck by the tribal reactions of Digby.
Are these movements “natural allies?” We’d say that construct is a bit strong. But current conditions give progressives a chance to do something liberals have long avoided. Progressives have the chance to inform the full electorate about the way the world has been working, about the way the top one percent have been looting everyone else.
Tea party folk have been looted too. They pay way too much for their health care too, just like Occupy folk. Their wages have stagnated just like those of their more liberal brethren. Their politicians are getting purchased, just like those on the blue side—if not more.
As Occupy Wall Street helps focus attention on the looting that has transpired, true progressives would work very hard to build understandings within all our tribes—those of the right, left and center (so-called).
But here’s something else about human nature: Some people dearly love the tribe. Some people love the tribe too much, just the way some tycoons dearly love their profits.
Digby has made some perfectly valid points about the obvious differences between these two movements. But, good lord almighty and land o Goshen! How some of us do love the tribe!
Tomorrow: What Digby has said, right and wrong
For part 4 of this series: Click here.