The Widdershins

Activist Wednesday: Yes, We’re Mad As Hell, but What Are We Doing About It?

Posted on: October 12, 2011

As “Occupy Wall Street” spawns sympathetic solidarity all over the country, it feels very good to postulate that left-centered populism is finally on the rise again. As I wrote two weeks ago, I don’t buy the “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” meme that people are too stupid to vote in their own interests. The real problem is that neither Party serves We the People anymore, but the Republicans and right-wingers are far more skilled at faking that “just plain folks” attitude than the over-educated snobs on the Left are; and when you have a choice between politicians who talk to you like you’re an idiot, and politicians who tell you how great you are and how much they value your vote, I don’t think it’s stupid to pick the latter.

But is this really what’s happening? The guests on Amy Goodman’s October 10th installment of “Democracy Now” seemed to think so. Professor Dorian Warren, historian at Columbia University:

DORIAN WARREN: This is an incredibly significant moment, I think, in U.S. history. In fact, it might be a turning point, because this is the first time we’ve seen the emergence of a populist movement on the left since the 1930s.


AMY GOODMAN: Explain populism since the ’30s, what you mean by that, and the parallel.

DORIAN WARREN: So, populism—the Populist movement started the end of the first Gilded Age in the 1890s and through the 1930s, where we saw mass disruptions and mass protests by unemployed workers, especially in the 1930s.

AMY GOODMAN: The Great Depression of 1929.

DORIAN WARREN: That energy—that’s right, during the Great Depression. That energy was channeled into what we now know as the New Deal. Since the ’30s, and especially starting in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, the right actually claimed the label and mantra of populism, and they have successfully changed the entire discourse and politics of this country under populist rhetoric. This is the first time, I think, on the left that populism has emerged with a critique of not only the banks and corporations, but also Washington, also the U.S. political system.

AMY GOODMAN: How long did it take, from the Great Depression of 1929, for the organizing to happen?

DORIAN WARREN: It took roughly four years. We first started seeing the first uprisings around 1933, and continued in 1934, ’35, ’36. Thirty-six, ’37 is the Flint sit-down strike. So it took a while after the crash in 1929 for people to start protesting their—

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they do very first? Was it the marches of unemployed?

DORIAN WARREN: Marches of unemployed, people going into the street, in some cases actually occupying factories, as we saw later on with the Flint sit-down strike. So there was massive unrest and disruption across the country, from both farmers as well as unemployed people. And what’s interesting about that is it was farmers who were in debt both in the 1890s and the 1930s. Today it’s students in debt, to a great extent, to large banks.

What Amy Goodman is doing here, I believe, is drawing a rhetorical parallel between what’s happening today and what happened during the Great Depression (marches of the unemployed = Occupy Wall Street). The fact is, however, that we are in a situation that has no historical parallel. We have never had such sustained unemployment for such a long time. We haven’t ever seen such income inequality. And our manufacturing base, once the engine that drove our economy, has been outsourced and denuded. We are now surviving on debt, consumer purchasing and the efforts of the military-industrial complex (an entity that did not exist in the 1930s). Couple that to outrageous inflation in the cost of health care and housing while wages have stayed flat, and you have desperate times indeed. No wonder the Left is jumping on the Occupy Wall Street bandwagon, screaming “we’re mad as hell, and we aren’t going to take it any more!”

But are they mad at the right people? It doesn’t appear so to me.

Ask today’s “liberal” activists what they think about President Barack Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, who has yet to hold Wall Street acountable for massive derivatives and foreclosure fraud, and what will they tell you?

It’s not really his fault.

Liberal activists who descended on Washington this week say they’re upset with the political system, but not with President Obama.

While the three-day Take Back the American Dream conference highlighted grumbles about Obama’s back-peddling on several issues, most of those attending the event see the president as more of a victim of Washington than someone simply ignoring his base.

“Washington is a machine, and one person can’t change the entire machine,” said Annabel Park, founder of the Coffee Party (emphasis mine, sadly). “He [Obama] is part of the machine.”

“It’s not that his values have changed, but there’re limits to what he can do,” Park added. “I don’t think he understood, really, what that machine actually looked like. He thought it was a sailboat but it’s actually a submarine, and he just didn’t know what it was like until he was inside.”

As for the unions, I don’t think they’re really getting it either.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka implored liberal activists Thursday to get behind President Obama’s jobs bill.

Speaking at the Take Back the American Dream conference, the head of the nation’s largest labor federation said activists should support the White House’s $447 billion proposal, which includes funding to repair infrastructure, modernize school buildings and provide aid to local and state governments. Trumka said the legislation would help build a nationwide movement on jobs.


Trumka’s support comes at a crucial time in Obama’s presidency. Obama will need the help of unions to persuade working-class voters he deserves a second term, and labor’s extensive get-out-the-vote operations could be a difference-maker in battleground states.

So, the “lefties” feel that the best way to address their needs is to support a President who ignores them, and who has already stated that he doesn’t think the banksters did anything illegal! Color me totally unsurprised. Maybe I’m a little slow, but I really don’t quite comprehend how re-electing Obama, Mr. Wall Street himself, will change the status quo.

I’m sorry to say that I also don’t think left-centered populism is rising again. If that were the case, there would be no way that the unions would be backing Barack Obama. They’d be running their own candidates. What’s stopping them?  They certainly have the money and the organizational structure. But not one big Left organization is willing to hold Barack Obama and the Democrats accountable for this clusterfuck of an economy. Not one Left group is willing to DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. The very, VERY least people can do is hold back their votes, and the “Left” isn’t even willing to do that!

I believe that the concept behind Occupy Wall Street is centrist, in the best sense of the word. It’s 100% American, the idea that we The People  should rule the country, not We The Banksters. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: This idea will not survive the Obama poison that has destroyed the Left for good. If all of these “liberals” take over the decision-making, the whole thing will become yet another organ of Obama For America.

So far I don’t think that has happened, at least not in the New York version of this protest. But every time I get excited about one of these groups, it turns out that they don’t understand what it will take to make a real change. Voting Obama is a vote for the status quo. Supporting ANYTHING he does, believing ANYTHING out of his mouth, is incredibly stupid, and no activist can afford that kind of stupidity. And unfortunately, I’m not seeing anything resembling a plan coming out of the movement. A “list of demands” is not a plan – who are they going to demand this of? “Wall Street?” Somehow I don’t think they’re going to be answering demands for universal health care.

I’m really, REALLY tired of waiting for people to get a fucking clue and realize this. I’ve been waiting for THREE YEARS now, so excuse me if I don’t jump on the Occupy Wall Street train and “believe” like so many others. It doesn’t mean that I am a secret right-winger, or criticizing the burning house for the color of the curtains.

It just means that I’m a liberal with a broken heart, and I STILL have no place to go.

This is an open thread.

34 Responses to "Activist Wednesday: Yes, We’re Mad As Hell, but What Are We Doing About It?"

I understand these frustrations but the Occupy Gainesville Group is not on the Obama Bandwagon it condemns both political parties and yes the president for his inaction and for their taking of corporate money. I think here it is true lefties and that are taking it to the street I am going and I will report back…

Austerity = Death

OH and lets here it for Iran and lets go kick there Ass…I don’t think the Occupy Wall Street People will get behind that…I think this Attack Iran crap is to reunite the country behind another foreign misadventure. I hope to speak on that today…

The MSM just wants us to go away…WE WILL NOT

NO WAR WITH IRAN….this is to coincidental for me some one get my tinfoil hat

So are you saying people really are stupid because they’re not seeing the real enemy in Obama?

I actually think the protestors are on the right track when they attack Wall Street. It’s not about Obama. It’s about the root, the source of the problem: Wall Street and money in the government. That is what is corrupting our government. This money flowing into politics. Wall Street isn’t doing anything directly to the public. Instead they have weaseled their way into politics, they have actively sought and succeeded in changing how politics in this country work, how politicians function, and who they serve. Politicians are reactionary. And corporations did it all through their money. The coup de grace was corporations being declared people by the US Supreme Court. They have taken definition of “free market” to a breaking point. They have expanded their operations into politics, into our government. They are the source of the problem. Politicians just blow with the wind and the wind needs to start blowing against Wall Street.

Brace yourselves because nothing like “change” is going to happen for a long, long time.

There is not one plausible candidate currenty running the circuit who has a clue or an intention to correct the problem.

Case in point: the entire group of GOP senators voted against the jobs bill and have no intention whatsoever to provide any form of relief as their primary mission is to defeat and deny Obama anything that closely resembles aid.

Holder is not about to hand down indictments for the abusers and Obama is stuck on his own reelection. It’s a game of power that unless some of these morons are voted out will continue until we are faced with an actual “return to the 30s Depression”.

Campaign finance reform will never see the light of day as long as corporations are considered as “people” since this is the spigot from which these politicians quench their thirst.

We are at the mercy of people who would much rather see the economy completely fail in order to get their way and we are powerless to change the status quo.

I am only able to vote to send a few candidates to DC but I have no power to rid congress of the likes of Boehner, Cantor or Demint since i am not a resident of their districts. The Koch brothers fund these people and their chances of remaining in charge are expected.

Though I understand the frustration of “the Occupiers” nothing will come of this movement until actual reform is on the table and the public rids itself from those who are guarding the wealthy and special interests by refusing to sit down in an effort to work on our behalf.

Until then this is it. Obama or Romney. Pick your poison.

The OWS protests are aimed at Wall Street and corporate control of government, not Obama. Obama has become irrelevant. He has made himself irrelevant by “compromises” that aid and abet corporate America. He’s a tool. I believe most OWS protesters get that by now. I haven’t been well enough to go to any of the OWS rallies myself, but I know friends who have. They don’t report OWS protesters supporting Obama. They haven’t seen any pro-Obama signs or heard any pro-Obama speeches at the rallies. This is a grassroots movement that is still in its very early stages of development. One can say, “Well, it’s a little too late”, but where does that get us? I support the movement. Down the line, OWS may turn into something I can’t support; one can never predict these things. But as of now, I say more power to them!

Take a look at Occupy Des Moines. Do you see or hear anyone supporting Obama?

I think you’re right that change won’t happen…though I think if protests continue it will happen eventually. But it may be years. Can the anger sustain itself? We’ll see. I do think that going after the source of the money that is corrupting our country is the way to go. Politicians follow money, but they also follow votes that kick them out of office. Tea Partiers managed to kick people out of office and get their own into Congress. The Left should be able to accomplish the same, though without the financial backing it might take longer.

I am not against the “occupiers” but merely pointing out what we are up against.

A Right Wing Supreme Court, state legislatures busily taking away the right to choose, a congress who is doing nothing to protect the majority of us, an indifferent Commander in Chief, an opposition party fully supporting the special interests, a DOJ that refuses to act, a myriad of lobbyists who pay access, a brand of religious fundamentalism that is weaving its way through policy decisions, a financia sector that has created havoc and want more, a threat to privatize every social program, a military industrial complex that is reaping the benefits of unjust wars, a destabilized global economy that results from the lack of supervision and without being held to accountability.

A confluence of issues that have put this nation at severe risk and a slate of GOP hopefuls planning on doing more or the same.

How does one go about “changing” a process with so many tenacles?

I think change happens by scaring Congress and the White House. Or by giving cover to those who have an ounce of integrity. They are responsible for all the other things like the Supreme Court, DOJ, etc. Again, look at how the Tea Party succeeded. They scare the shit out of the GOP and got results. The Left needs to do the same thing from the other side.

DYB: I share your sentiments. The problem is the corruption and it is difficult to determine just where to begin to make headway in a system that is failing us each and every day.

Take a look at the history of the abolitionist movement, the suffragette movement, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam anti-war movement. All these movements faced enormous opposition. None saw immediate results. All were fraught with periods of disorganization; with disagreements and factionalization; with conflicting goals and ideas about how to reach goals. If they had thrown up their hands and said, “Hey, this might not work out. It’s really hard. We should just give up. All is lost.” then where would we be? Why can’t we show the same fortitude our foremothers and forefathers exhibited? Pessimism is not a plan, imo.

Yes Beata @ 10!!!

The Wall Street occupiers and their off-shoots might not be on the exact same page, but they’re in the right chapter. What they are doing needs to continue. Stopping now isn’t an option because then it truly is over.

Personal aside: I have been dealing with an inoperable brain tumor for years now. It causes a lot of neurological problems. I can still remember when I received the diagnosis. Was this my death sentence, I wondered? I made a decision that, if at all possible, I would live. I became determined to fight. It has been an incredible struggle – one I would not wish on my worst enemy. I had no health insurance when I was diagnosed, because I had quit working outside the home to take care of my mother, who was chronically ill herself. That was only one of the countless obstacles I faced over the years since my diagnosis. There have been many times when I wanted to give up. Very few doctors have been willing to help me. I have lost friends who found it “uncomfortable” to be around a disabled person. But I am still here and still trying to find help for my condition. Sometimes battles are long and painful ones, and show few positive results, but what is the alternative?

Beata *hugs* We love you!

Here’s an interesting defense of the protests from CNN.

Just to be clear, I never said that OWS supported Obama right now. I said that they were on the right path and that they were taking the correct approach – a “centrist” approach of the bottom 99% versus the top 1%. I agree with you all there. I am reserved in my support because I’ve been burned too many times before. I never said they should stop or anything remotely close to that. I do think they should figure out what to do next sooner rather than later. I also did not say “it’s too late” or anything like that. I would appreciate words NOT being put into my mouth, please.

What I don’t get is 1) the other “liberal” groups still not getting that Obama is the problem, not part of the solution; and
2) the insistence that the problem is Wall Street, not Washington. Guys, Wall Street will not govern itself. It is made up of greedy sociopaths. The problems with banking always start when regulations are lifted and/or not enforced. This has been proven true throughout history.

So yes, yes, 100000000 times yes, the government IS THE PROBLEM. We need to re-regulate Wall Street appropriately and remove corporate personhood. That will not and cannot be done by Wall Street.

That’s where I’m coming from, anyway.

But Wall Street is the heartbeat of the Government now. They are the ones who paid their way to the laws being changed for their own benefit. They are the source of the laws, they sit on meetings, heck – Goldman Sachs is running the treasury. I think that’s where the problem originates. They have gamed the entire government to enrich themselves. Politicians are not leaders, they are followers. Certainly in our day and age. And they are following Wall Street. Wall Street is in the lead. Kochs created Tea Party, not the other way around.

#15: I agree wholeheartedly.

No one on Wall Street is going to come out to the public square and confess to being a Big Fat Pig Hog while pledging to bring reform to this corrupt system.

The lawmakers reside in DC. It is their duty to do right by the people, not the corporations and special interests who have a desk to themselves in a corner of their offices.

The only way any of this will be corrected is if it is done by those who created it in the first place as the transgressors will never on their own take the first step.

Where is another Teddy Roosevelt when you need him? This is what it will take.

MB, @ 5, I said, “ONE can say, “Well, it’s a little too late”, not that you said it.

Did you bother to read any of the other things I wrote?

MB. I’ve noticed that you often have a very difficult time if I disagree with you about anything. Why is that? We are both FDR / New Deal / Hillary liberals who believe in the same principles. At least, I see us both that way.

Well, I think I need one of my occasional breaks from blogging. I’m working on getting an appointment with a new neurosurgeon out-of-state. I should concentrate on that. I hope he will be the one who can finally help me in some way.

Take care, Widdershins.

No Beata!!

I do really hope this doctor works out! People’s health being for profit is a travesty.

Sorry Madamab I was not being critical we are being very careful not to be aligned with any party…we are right now applying for a permit to occupy the park which we know will be denied but then we are going to the mayors office to see if he will override the denial of the permit madamab I will try to get back to you between starting a local peaceful revolution and bowling night…LOL

We marched on wells Fargo and BofA both banks had closed their main entrances and required their depositors to go around the back for entry both had the same sign on their front doors…

It is very exciting I am heading back Dustin needs to nap for Bowling!!

Worker of the world Unite

FYI we get lots of encouragement from the “Teamster” trucker that use the street they are honking.

Our leaderless group working groups Madamab are believe it or not we mostly Hillary Supporters in the last Election Hmmm… we are calling out the administration and the oppostion…well bye for now!!

MB said: I have said it before and I’ll say it again: This idea will not survive the Obama poison that has destroyed the Left for good. If all of these “liberals” take over the decision-making, the whole thing will become yet another organ of Obama For America.

Maybe not. Check this out from John Smart’s site. (I love it)

hooker – john
lobbyist – politician
Wall Street – DC
chicken – egg ????

I think threatening Wall Street has had great results. It’s a start. Did you know NYC has a program wherein NYPD coppers can be rented for $37 an hour. WTF? If that is legal, it shouldn’t be. Conflict of interest and all. No wonder Wall Street thinks they can get away with murder. They can.

I’ve been debating what to put on the B-side of my poster. The A-side is staying the famous Dorothea Lange picture of the Depression “pea picker” mother with the words, “The New American Dream?” with a bandaid stuck to Dream. I’m thinking of somehow making a red white and blue USA (map outline) being squeezed by a dangling handcuff…and maybe some orange netting covering some appropriate words. What do you think? Any ideas?

When I wrote “threatening Wall Street” that’s Peaceful threatening of their way of running stuff….

@23 – I absolutely LOVE IT!!!!!

@25 – Understood, Sharon. 🙂

I still think that it’s the Government who is at fault. Wall Street did not buy the government on its own. FDR said “I welcome the bankers’ hatred” and was able to institute a great deal of positive change because of that, including Glass-Steagall. The decision was made to get rid of Glass-Steagall by the government, which led to the current massive financial meltdown. The corporate personhood decision was made by the Supreme Court. Without the government making these decisions, we would not be in our current situation economically.

At any point from 2008 on, Obama could have made completely different decisions which would have turned the economy around. He had a whole team of advisors that he ignored, which were screaming at him to re-regulate Wall Street, deal with all the consumer debt fairly, and then start focusing on jobs. He decided to go with the B Team – the team that Wall Street endorsed and bought. That decision is all his fault. He has embraced Austerity and he did not have to.

I am totally in support of everyone doing whatever they can to enact change, as always. I am just in favor of doing things that will work, and at this point I am just a little freaked out by how easily OFA has been infiltrating all the groups I keep wanting to support. I do think that OWS is on the right track, and I hope they continue down it.

MB@26: Here’s Matt Taibbi’s take on OWS and his advice to them:

Here’s the thrust of his piece:

But the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions to the problems posed by Wall Street. To do that, it will need a short but powerful list of demands

I think if OWS follows even some of his suggestions they’ll be better off at making a statement almost all of the 99% can agree with.

I agree, Fredster, and Fuzzy I am so proud of you and all the people out there who are getting their feet on the street and doing what they can to take it to The System. You are all amazing.

There are a lot of great lists out there. Dakinikat posted five points on Sky Dancing a couple of days ago. I think we could get away with four:
1) End money as speech (no corporate donations to politicians)
2) Re-Regulate Wall Street
3) Re~instate the WPA by executive order
4) Bail out Main Street, not Wall Street (restructure and forgive citizen debt)

But as long as the list is short, concise and “centrist,” the group will get a big win out of it.

fuzzy@22 said: we are right now applying for a permit to occupy the park which we know will be denied but then we are going to the mayors office to see if he will override the denial of the permit

Fuzzy – do you work for the city of G’ville? I know you are with the utility company or something. We support you, but we don’t want you losing your job.

MB and Chat: Pls. check your emails. Grrr….

I know this is OT but d*mn, what is happening with Iran? Wouldn’t it be beyond ironic if Obama (not BushCheney) were the one who got us into a war with Iran??? The guy with Nobel Peace price?

@20 Beata,, I don’t know if you will get this, it’s so late at night, but I wanted to send you love and hugs. I do hope this new doctor will be on your side and fight with you and for you. Love, BBS

Beata@20: Oh I’m sorry that I didn’t see your comment about the doctor. I will wish you good luck and hope that it works out for you.

MB@31: I hope we use Israel by proxy. We *did* sell them all of those bunker-busting bombs!

Comments are closed.

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