What did the politicians in Washington think would happen? They forgot about the “We, the People” part of our Constitution. After bailing out the banks and bankers and interests of the top 1% they fiddled while our jobs burned and mortgages defaulted. With people losing their incomes, pensions and healthcare they worried about deficits instead of jobs and cut back on essential services. They smugly spouted slogans at us and thought we’d be fooled and pacified. People voted for change and they didn’t get change. And now people are in the streets.
Part of the fiddling was by plan, Republicans obstructing efforts to create jobs and help the economy hoping this will give them an edge in the next election. Part of it was an attempt at “bipartisanship,” trying to accommodate the ultrapartisans who only wanted to to advance their obstructionist agenda, thusly deprioritizing the needs of the people. Whatever — change did not happen.
One Spark Could Bring Trouble
The problem with big groups of angry people is that it is very difficult to maintain control. This sudden enthusiastic energy of people taking to the streets to voice their anger at Wall Street and Washington is growing fast and there is really very little to control and channel it. Large groups of people concentrated into crowds can become mobs all too quickly. One cop-with-baton too many and it could turn into something no one wants. Or one too-clever Wall Street type, hiring agent-provocateurs to start violence, thinking it will “discredit” the movement… (Yes, nonsense like this happens and never works out the way the strategerizers hope.)
Look what happened in England, with terrible riots. Did it happen as a result of the austerity – putting the top 1% ahead of regular people? Maybe, maybe not. But the tensions in England, where they still have a good safety net and everyone has health care, were certainly not greater than they are here.
Do not take the people for granted. Do not think you can engineer a population with slogans and ignore solutions. And when they take to the streets to express their unhappiness do not ignore them or think you can finesse things. It shouldn’t have gotten to this point. People have had it, they are fed up, and they are telling the leadership that they have to remember just who is supposed to be in charge here.
The New Left Pole
So the “incoherent” street occupiers and marchers represent the new left poll of the spectrum. Suddenly groups like Campaign for America’s Future, labor unions, MoveOn.org, and especially the coalition making up the Rebuild The Dream Movement now represent the center. More importantly, they represent a controlled, organized path to sensible solutions that give the people what they need.
The Path Forward
There is a path forward that has been clearly defined by the responsible organizers and members of Congress who have been trying to push the political system to respond to the needs and demands of We, the People. Start by passing the President’s jobs bill. Then pass The People’s Budget. Take a look at CAF’s “Big Ideas” for a bold jobs agenda.
It’s time to get moving, and finally get to work on the side of We, the People. That is how it is supposed to work here.
Dave Johnson (Redwood City, CA) is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California. Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience including positions as CEO and VP of marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. And he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.
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