I support Occupy Wall Street. And not in the ironic way that I'm sure many would assume upon reading that sentence. I literally support their protest and their desire to influence the political discourse. In fact, I want them to influence the political discourse. I want them push their ideas and have them heard by politicians whose hearts beat for the same reasons. I want those kindred spirits to run on campaigns that promise to fulfill all the objectives that Occupy Wall Street is demanding, and I want them to push for legislation and laws that will accomplish them.
The reason I want all of these things is because Occupy Wall Street is a purely ideological movement that, in many ways, is the antithesis of the Tea Party. For too long, the Tea Party has stood alone, holding signs in the streets and being told to sit down and shut up by the power structure of Washington, D.C. Having an ideological movement that pushes the narrative of half of the country, or at least half of our elected officials, further left is exactly what this country needs to rid us of a scourge that has plagued our political landscape for far too long.
Now, I'm not suggesting that people who cling to moderate views or are politically disinterested will change as a result of Occupy Wall Street or the Tea Party. But for years now, I have been of the opinion that moderate voters are just about the worst thing that has ever happened to our elections.
Every election season, things progress in almost the exact same way. During the primaries, the Democrat candidate feeds the base (Occupy Wall Street); more big government, socialist-sounding, pacifist, lefty talking points than they can shake a stick that. They convince , as much as they can, their rabid, activist level fans that they are going to open diplomatic relations with every dictator in the world, help the paralyzed walk by finally permitting 3rd trimester abortions for stem cell research, and send every poor person a check written in the blood of a rich, old, white bastard that had been stuffing dollars into immigrants he hunted for sport.
For their part, the Republicans do everything they can to make the case to their base (Tea Party) that if they are elected, Reagan will be reincarnated through them as they take a machete to the IRS, end crony capitalism, arrest all abortion clinic doctors, and perform raids across the country on any churches with two dudes taking their vows.
Finally, when the primaries are over, the two candidates will meet in the middle, dancing like trained monkeys in an attempt to prove to the Holy Center that everything they said to the base was taken out of context and that in reality, their plans couldn't be more centrist and moderate. By the end of the general elections, it is a battle to see who can use sound bites from the primaries more effectively to prove to the center that their opponent is a lying radical.
The worst part is, the candidates are not crazy for doing things this way. How else can they get nominated if they don't appeal to their base, and how else will they get elected if they don't appeal to the rest?
The problem of course, is that we then have a society that is essentially guided by the least interested or least ideological portion of the country. So much so, that even my use of the word "ideological" in the previous sentence would undoubtedly cause some readers to think, "Well good! We don't want an ideologue in the White House!"
But that would all depend on what you think an ideologue is wouldn't it?
[ahy-dee-uh-lawg, -log, id-ee-, ahy-dee-]
a person who zealously advocates an ideology.
Okay, that answers the question in the same way that defining red as "the visual spectrum which reflects red" does. What then is ideology?
noun, plural -gies.
- the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group
- such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation
- the study of the nature and origin of ideas.
- the stystem that derives ideas exclusively from sensation
- theorizing of a visionary or impractical nature
In spite of this definition, which seems to lean toward the idea that ideology is an irrational or reactionary response to emotion as opposed to reasoned and considered ideas, I had always thought of an ideologue as someone who believed, for whatever reason, that they knew what was right, what needed to be done, and perhaps even how to do it; something that I would assume all people would want in a leader.
But fine, let's use a different word to describe this ideal candidate then: idealist - defined as a person who represents things as they might or should be rather than as they are.
And if you don't have an idealist, what do you have? A pragmatist.
- character or conduct that emphasises practicality
- a philosophical movement or system having various forms, but generally stressing practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth, or value
So, if you have an idealist in the primaries, and a pragmatist in the generals, what is the result? A country led by men and women that talk a good game, but ultimately must prove that they will do nothing to dismantle the status quo; and all to appeal to a group of people that may or may not even care about politics in the first place.
One of the reasons that this dynamic never seems to change is that while an uprising may take place on the left or on the right, never has it been the case that they have happened simultaneously. While one side rages, usually the other side is quieter. But even as this happens, the popular support of the victorious candidate is still dependent upon not scaring the crap out of the moderates. Because if they were to scare the crap out of the moderates, the other candidate will look more attractive since, after all, there was no popular uprising to push him further away from pragmatism. As such, no matter the uprising, no matter who is in power, a pragmatist must always win the day in national politics.
2008 was unique. Barack Obama, who we on the right incessantly pointed out was a radical, managed to convince a majority of the populace that he is a pragmatist, a moderate even. All this while simultaneously acknowledging that he intended on dramatically reshaping the country. This emboldened his more radical base and enraged the Republican base. And here we are.
Today, our two party political system is at a cross-roads. As the base for each party demands more idealistic purity from their candidates, neither side will have the option to play the pragmatist as they roll into the generals. Because as much as they might be able to trick everyone during the primaries, they will have trouble getting their message adequately heard if half of their grass roots support and volunteer network is out protesting against them as a result of flip flops which usually reveal themselves when the general election kicks off. The result is, you have congressmen, senators, party leaders and even presidential candidates sticking their necks out like never before to get the blessing of groups that used to matter only for a few months every few years.
So with both sides pushing hard against their respective leadership to stand for something far more than pragmatism, our leaders may actually have to dig out positions that they can't escape to please moderates. And if both sides finally distinguish themselves from each other in a clear and obvious way, the moderates will finally be forced to make a real choice, based on ideas not based on the promise of having none. Either that or do not vote, which is equally fine with me.
I welcome Occupy Wall Street into the world of protest. Granted, I will fight your ideas and I will present my own. I will probably mock the least among you who simply beg for it. I will point out the flaws of your arguments and attack you when you demagogue. But, I will never say you shouldn't be there. I will never say that I don't want you to have someone to represent your point of view.
In fact, I say, push your entire party to represent your ideas. Organize, work the phones, command more of your candidates and establish checks and balances that force your party to keep it's promises. That's what we've been doing. And if we can get both sides to do this, we may at long last be able to have a true ideological battle that could result in real change that will shape the future of our country.
Let the best ideas win.