Three weeks into the Occupy protests that began on Wall Street and have now spread to every corner of the nation, bemused and befuddled commentators and lawmakers in Washington still insist on claiming that the demonstrations lack a clear objective or set of demands. But that’s not really true.
While the protesters are not marching in support or opposition to this or that specific legislation or individual policy, the brave and spirited folks animating this new movement certainly do have a clear goal. Their agenda is admittedly broad, but that simply speaks to just how wide and deep corporate influence has become in our country.
The long list of grievances is reflective of just how widespread the tendency of big business and the super-wealthy is to “place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality.” Those aren’t my words. They come directly from the protesters themselves, from their own published “Declaration of the Occupation,” approved entirely by consensus back on September 29.
As with any strong declaration, the protesters begin with a powerful preamble:
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individualsto protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power.
The protesters go on to enumerate a pretty complete list of what’s wrong with our country today, from the illegal foreclosure process which has led to too many Americans losing their homes, to the poisoning of our food supply through negligence, and undermining the farming system through monopolization, and of course the bankers who happily took our tax dollars for bailouts only to turn around and resume paying themselves exorbitant bonuses at our expense.
These, of course, are but a few examples. I won’t list all of the grievances here, nor do I need to when the protesters themselves have laid them out so eloquently. I recommend that everybody read the declaration for themselves here.
What the protesters aren’t doing is providing the specific policy remedies for all of these problems. But they shouldn’t have to because that’s not their job. That should be the job of those we elect to lead us. The real surprise here is that more Washington policymakers, particularly the progressive ones, haven’t understood that. What the protesters have offered is a gift to the clever politician: an entire platform for reform, and an obvious constituency to support it.
The real question is why haven’t the folks in Washington answered? Each one of the wrongs in that declaration could be made right with a bill, or set of bills. What those smart and ambitious people in the White House and Capitol Hill ought to be doing is responding to every point the protesters have made by rolling out and enacting new legislation in response to each one.
The Republicans won big in 2010 by responding to the much smaller and narrower movement represented by the tea party. The Occupy protesters and all of their many supporters nationwide are similarly ready and eager to thank and support anyone here in Washington who would choose to embrace, in an enthusiastic and genuine way, the agenda that their much larger movement represents.
If only someone, anyone, in Washington actually started paying attention.