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.
What do you think?