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Archive for February 1st, 2012

Post-SOTU, after I recovered from Chatblu’s drinking game, I noticed an odd meme making the media rounds. The idea was that the Movement Formerly Known as Occupy Wall Street (now known to many as “Occupy”) was responsible for Obama’s embrace of economic populist themes in his speech last Tuesday. Here are some of the stories on the subject.

Obama Channels Occupy Wall Street (US News & World Report)

Occupy Wall Street may be gone from Zuccotti Park, but it is not forgotten on Capitol Hill. You can draw a straight line from the Occupy Wall Street movement to President’s Obama State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Occupy’s Influence on Obama’s State of the Union Address (In These Times)

Income inequality was a major theme in President Obama’s State Of The Union address last night. As I wrote yesterday, the fact that politicians are now openly talking about class in America, a country almost absurdly proud of the fact that its citizens don’t discuss class relations, is a major triumph of Occupy Wall Street and other economic disparity-focused groups.

Obama called economic fairness “the defining issue of our time,” adding that “we can settle for a country where a shrinking numbers of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

That message of fairness has been at the heart of OWS since day one, and the widespread uprisings provided a framework in which the president could finally get specific about his proposal for a “Buffett Rule”: 

“…a requirement that anyone making more than $1 million a year pay no less than 30 percent in taxes. And, he added, anyone making less than $250,000 a year – the case for 98 percent of American families – should not see a tax increase…”

Obama’s speech echoes Occupy themes (SF Gate)

Linking the dominant themes in Obama’s nationally televised address Tuesday to the mantras of the Occupy Wall Street movement would have been unthinkable five months ago. But in having its message echoed in the State of the Union address, the Occupy movement reached a milestone in changing the national conversation.

“Once you say the definition of my campaign is fairness, you don’t have to say anything else,” said Lawrence Rosenthal, an expert on social movements who directs UC Berkeley’s Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements. “It is the central tenet” of the Occupy movement, he added.

What I find odd about this meme is not the fact that Occupy is getting all the credit for something that has been, ahem, brewing for several years. The Tea Party, in fact, was partially about economic fairness. (The lefty  Coffee Party often states that the Tea Party’s goals and its goals are about 50% aligned. Obviously, this is not because they agree on social issues.) We all know that the civil rights movement did not, in fact, start with the refusal of Rosa Parks to sit in the back of the bus. But her courageous act was the spark that ignited a long-burning fire. So it was with Occupy, which was first ignored by the media, and then, after horrifying photos and videos of police brutality against Occupiers became widespread, became as trendy as FaceBook. When the well-compensated bobbleheads on CNN burble on about “the 99%,” you know that the national conversation has, indeed, changed.

No, what I find odd is that people seem to believe that because Obama talked like a populist last Tuesday night, he has actually become a populist – and they imply that Occupy has created this effect. I can’t help but wonder, are people’s memories really that bad? Or are they desperate for some sort of reason to throw that lever for Obama in 2012?

Read the rest of this entry »

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