I was really excited for Occupy Wall Street, I really was. Arab Spring seemed so easy. All those people did was stand around in a public square for a few days, and their oppressive and entrenched rulers pulled a Snagglepuss and exited stage left. Surely a few weeks of Occupy would lead our corporate overlords to do the same, and a glorious social democracy would rise in its place with universal healthcare, humane labor laws, universal union membership, a sensible fare system on SEPTA, and the metric system. I started reading Marx and wearing inspirational T-shirts with Che Guevara on them in anticipation of the coming revolution. I truly thought these were historic times.
Four or five months later, Occupy Wall Street hasn’t even gotten a “Heavens to Murgatroyd” out of the U.S. government. Far from the glorious social democracy arising, the government instead cleared the plazas and parks with riot police, an act which would have outraged the American public had the act been committed by any entity other than the American government. Defeated, the protesters resolved to “occupy their homes,” which was difficult for those who didn’t have one on account of being chronically unemployed (despite having a college education and excellent qualifications).
To add insult to injury, the media generally painted a picture of the occupiers as dirty hippies and entitled, spoiled brats and whatnot. Public support for the protests started waning. Finally, they stopped updating the “Timeline of Occupy Wall Street” article on Wikipedia, a sure sign that the movement was dying. I guess everyone’s too busy with spring break and KONY 2012 to worry about their own country’s problems.
So what is to become of the Occupy movement, then? As the weather improves, I expect that we will begin seeing the protests re-emerge on the East Coast, but will they be able to accomplish anything legislatively? Will it, in short, do anything? I think if the Occupy movement is to get anything done, they need to change their tactics.
The Tea Party was remarkably successful in pursuing its political aims (lower taxes, less regulations, more Jesus, etc.) by just flat-out endorsing the Republican Party. Republican candidates even went as far as to call themselves Tea Partiers. Occupy Wall Street, of course, won’t support any established party because they believe the two-party system is inherently corrupt. This is all well and good and principled of them, but it hasn’t really gotten anything done. If the Occupy movement is to get anything done, they’re probably going to have to ally themselves with one of the established political parties.
This won’t be easy, of course. OWS protesters are equal parts honest-to-God 21st-century Marxists, democratic socialists, moderates and Ayn Rand-worshipping Libertarians. If OWS allies itself with an existing party, it’ll probably fracture the movement and lose a lot of existing support. On the other hand, they’ll gain some measure of political power, something they have been lacking.
In the end, it comes down to this: When you’ve protested for months on end, shut down West Coast ports, been violently beaten down by police, ignored by the media and failed to create any kind of social change, maybe you’ve got to try working with the system a bit. It’s either that or nasty, ugly, violent, bloody revolution at this point. Given the size of our military, that probably wouldn’t go so well.
Justin Roczniak is a freshman majoring in civil engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.