So proclaimed supposed left-winger Bill Maher to the applause of his supposed left-wing audience Friday night. The question: a brief consideration of Ron Paul’s critique of Obama’s assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. Seth MacFarlane commented that while he trusted Obama with this power, he would be troubled with the exercise of such power by someone like Michelle Bachmann. Salman Rushdie, apparently unbothered by any consideration of irony regarding unilateral issuance of death edicts, informed us that those who commit treason forfeit any claim to rights, a comment which prompted Maher’s succinct editorial conclusion: “…And the Penalty of Treason is Death.”
That was the cue for the audience applause, but it also served as a reminder that what supposedly passes for “liberal” is usually anything but. The liberal would have corrected Rushdie that US presidential edict is not sufficient to establish the crime of treason. It has to be substantiated in open court. And the liberal would have reminded Bill Maher that death is not the only the punishment prescribed by congress for this crime. The penalty for those convicted is either death or imprisonment not less than five years. However, the liberal would also be quick to remind both Rushdie and Maher that “treason” hitherto has been a very rare charge/prosecution in American history, with conviction even rarer still, and execution yet even rarer. Indeed, there have been as many pardons of “treason” convictions as executions.
It is quite literally impossible to say with a straight face that working to elect more or even better Democrats will actually create the change necessary to address the grievances being expressed in Zuccotti Park. It’s laughable. That ship has been sailing away for decades, and disappeared completely over the horizon with the disappointment of January 2009 through November 2010 and beyond. It is painfully obvious that electoral politics alone are utterly inadequate to deal with the nation’s problems.
The reality is that putting Democrats in power is a necessary but insufficient condition to creating real change in this country.
Republicans are ideologically opposed to creating the necessary changes, and are more afraid of being primaried by an even more crazy conservative, than of even the biggest protest movements from the left. Democrats, meanwhile, are ideologically compatible with most of the changes, but are variously stymied by the system, blinkered by a desire for “compromise,” fearful of conservative anger, or corrupted by the influence of big money.
In order for change to take place, good Democrats do need to be in power. But only an angry and motivated populace angry with both Parties and strongly intent on holding Democrats accountable with scare and motivate Democrats enough to do what they were elected to do.
LBJ wouldn’t have been pushed to do the right for civil rights without MLK. But neither would MLK have brought his dream to fruition without a president in power with the courage to enforce desegregation.
Ultimately, the institutionalists need to allow the Occupy Wall Street protests to develop organically without attempting to convert them into electoral activism in any form. Supporting the protests is perhaps the most important thing progressives can be doing right now. As Robert Cruickshank tweeted:
We need to focus on generating the waves, not recruiting people to surf them.
But on the other hand, it would behoove movement progressives not to dismiss the arena of electoral politics and those who engage in it. If Mitt Romney becomes president or John Boehner remains the House Speaker, it won’t matter how big or successful the protests become. For things to really work, Democrats will have to be in power and a powerful progressive protest movement with a healthy distrust of institutional Democrats will need to be in place to hold them accountable.
I don’t know that I dismiss electoral politics so much. It’s more that right now, electoral politics simply aren’t capable of making the great leap forward that’s necessary to rebuild the system. Electoral politics (and the politicians) are fixated on tweaking the system that already exists and I’m more interested in building a new system. This one seems too thoroughly corrupted to do the work of democracy.
New York, NY; Monday, October 3, 2011 – Today, Amy Goodman, the award-winning journalist and host of Democracy Now! news hour, will announce details of a six-figure settlement in a federal lawsuit brought by her and Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar against the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and the U.S. Secret Service, challenging the policies and conduct of law enforcement during the 2008 Republican National Convention held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which resulted in the unlawful arrests of Democracy Now! journalists as they were trying to report on public protest and political dissent.
Downtown Los Angeles was transformed into a set for political theater over the weekend, with protesters pitching tents in front of City Hall and performance artists dancing on floats meandering through the streets.
Inspired by the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, several hundred people set up camp in front of Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday and announced that they were there to stay.
Whether that will change when City Hall workers find themselves walking a gantlet of sign-wielding protesters Monday, or when vendors arrive to set up the regularly scheduled Thursday farmers market on the lawn, was unclear.
As protesters were staking out City Hall, the streets of downtown were taken over Sunday afternoon by a cacophonous parade of artists and activists expressing similar sentiments but organized separately.
The sleep-in followed a march and rally Saturday by a loosely organized group of activists called Occupy Los Angeles.
Tents and blankets dotted the lawn in front of City Hall on Sunday. Some people stood on the sidewalk holding signs or, in the case of one protester, playing a bagpipe, while others sprawled on blankets in the shade, painting signs, or circling up for impromptu strategy sessions. Passing cars honked in support. Supporters donated necessities such as pizza and portable toilets.
The movement takes issue with corporate influence on government and the shift of wealth and political clout toward the richest 1% of the population. Many protesters carried signs with variations on the slogan “We are the 99%.”
Jon Stewart, therefore, asked on September 20 of Ron Suskind, author of Confidence Men, the key question (video below):
We keep hearing that the Wall Street guys hate Obama, and my sense is ‘why?’ They’ve had it as good as anyone in this country over the past two and a half years, probably better. What’s their beef?
That elicited the answer that sums up this Administration better than has almost anything. Suskind responded:
I asked the same question. I talked to a senior Wall Street guy. I said ‘”What gives with this thing with Obama? You’re after him; he’s anti-business. God, he couldn’t have done more. He basically opened the federal purse for you guys. He saved your skin.” This guy says “You bet, you bet.'” And he says “No, no, you see. Of course, he’s not anti-business. But when we say he’s anti-business, he just ends up doing more for us. So we’re going to keep saying it.”
You, the reader, suspected this. But now we know it.