Autocritiquing Occupy Wall Street

Constructive criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and occasional snark, from the Left. Contributions and comments welcome:

Framing OWS

Democratic party strategists and their mainstream media shills are already trying to force Occupy Wall Street into a mold that will help re-elect Obama in 2012.  Yesterday Common Dreams published this advice to the movement by George Lakoff, linguist and author of “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” a blueprint for “framing the debate,” which received a lot of attention in Democratic circles in the aftermath of Bush’s successful 2004 re-election. Though I agree that OWS shouldn’t rush to base its success or failure on a set of concrete demands, two major sore points stick out:

1) Lakoff’s insistence that the movement focus on getting candidates with “its moral focus elected in 2012.” I couldn’t agree less. If OWS turns into a get out the vote drive for the Democratic Party, it would be a betrayal of it’s raison d’etre and its resonance with people who are thoroughly disillusioned with the political process, particularly after 2008, when Obama managed to sway a lot of people with his soaring rhetoric and promise of renewal. Election season is already well underway; the Republican candidate will be decided by January and Democrats will try to convince liberals and progressives to fall into line behind Obama.The possibility of OWS running its own candidates in this short period and with existing campaign finance laws in place, or supporting politicians from the existing bipartisan pool who share its ‘moral values,’ are slim to none outside of a few local races.

2) The need to emphasize that “we love America” and to frame OWS as a patriotic movement. If OWS is going to join in the patriotism pissing contest, then count me out already. If the movement is going to “change the conversation” in this country, then let’s please avoid chauvinistic tropes.

My sense is that regardless of what goals OWS sets out to achieve, in terms of regulating the finance system, access to affordable healthcare and education, “changing the conversation” also includes departing from myths about the virtues of American power and the sanctity of the neo-liberal world order it has imposed.


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