I have been quite interested in how the Wall Street protests, and others like it around the nation are being perceived by others. As I noted on CP earlier I am not sure what to make of the protests, as I find them poorly organized, and lacking in focus. That may be their charm, if one reads and listens to others who discuss them.
I ran across an item from Jon Meacham who I love to read and always find insightful. He offers his thoughts about the protests by putting them into a slightly historical context.
Time will tell where these protests lead the nation, if anywhere.
From the 1820s to the 1960s, the major engine of the politics of the few versus the many was more about money and power than it was about symbols and power. From Andrew Jackson to William Jennings Bryan to Harry Truman, leaders rallied in support in of “the little guy who has no pull,” in Truman’s phrase.
Then came the mid-1960s. Roughly put, the white backlash against civil rights and an increasingly expensive government enabled politicians such as Richard Nixon—who is really the architect of the kind of populism still practiced by figures like Sarah Palin—to change the conversation from economics to culture. For decades now, Republicans have successfully urged Truman’s “little guy” to think more about cultural elites than financial ones. (George Wallace’s “pointy-headed professors,” for instance, or Roger Ailes’s “liberal media.”) Democrats who talked about economic justice were marginalized or defeated outright. And so cultural populism displaced economic populism as a political force in American life.
The Occupy Wall Street protests at last suggest that America’s wealth gap is once again becoming an organizing political principle in the country. Mobs rarely have good answers to problems, and there is no doubt much to be skeptical about in the crowds making all the noise. But the noise they’re making deserves a place in the broad arena of contending forces. They may not be eating much, but what they’re saying is important. The rest of us owe them a hearing.