Falling out of the public’s favor, the protesters should take a lesson from the civil rights movement and wrap their frustrations in the American flag
Occupy Wall Street is at a fork in the road. One path leads to political change, as the movement pushes the center of gravity in American politics to the left. The other path leads to irrelevance or even harm for the progressive project.
“Unless OWS understands the power of symbols, the American Autumn will be followed by a winter of discontent.”
For OWS, the latest opinion poll should be a wake up call. Early polls were favorable, but things have changed. Now only 30 percent of Americans have a positive view of the movement, and 39 percent have a negative view. It’s proving too easy for opponents to caricature OWS as a hodge-podge of extremists and oddballs — especially given reports of the violence in Oakland.
Meanwhile, the cautionary tale is the anti-Vietnam War movement. By the late 1960s, the Vietnam War was highly unpopular. But incredibly, the anti-war movement was even less popular than the war. The protesters were widely seen as un-American: rioters, desecrators of the flag, and advocates of amnesty, acid, and abortion. The protesters got a “reputation for being elitist, radical, and unpatriotic.”
The anti-Vietnam War movement never captured American hearts and minds. When protesters and police battled at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, a large majority of the public backed the police. One poll in 1968 asked people how they felt about the protesters on a scale of 1-100. Fully one third of the public gave the protesters a score of zero. And only one-in-six people put the protesters anywhere on the top half of the scale.
The protesters helped to elect Richard Nixon — not once, but twice. In 1968, the anti-war movement attacked the Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey as an establishment hawk indistinguishable from Nixon, contributing to Humphrey’s narrow defeat. And in 1972, the movement was instrumental in nominating the ideologically pure but unelectable George McGovern.
To reach out to Middle America, Occupy Wall Street must present itself as part of the nation’s story: as a rebellion against the concentration of wealth in a new aristocracy. The movement should get churches engaged. It should get as many veterans as possible involved. And the simplest strategy of all: Occupy Wall Street should wrap itself in the American flag.
Compare photos of OWS rallies and Tea Party events. From a distance, you can’t always tell that the leftwing protests are in the United States. By contrast, the Tea Party is awash with the stars and stripes.
Overt patriotism can make people on the left feel a little nervous. But when the nation’s symbols have such meaning to so many people, why cede the flag to conservatives?
OWS should look to the Arab Spring for inspiration. Protest movements in the Middle East are extremely patriotic and flag-waving. The reformers claim to be the true Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans.
Unless OWS understands the power of symbols, the American Autumn will be followed by a winter of discontent. And the protesters can start by hanging a hundred flags at Zuccotti Park. One percent of the United States might not care about these symbols–but 99 percent do.
When I was a teenager getting ready to go out and look for my first job I was advised to get a haircut, put on a nice shirt, smile and say sir and ma’am. As the saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a good impression.”
Despite their pretentious claim to represent the “99%” the Occupiers are just a small fraction of the population.
The great thing about democracy is that you don’t need to reach a consensus to get anything done. All you need is 50% plus one. That’s called “majority rule.”
But in order to get to a majority you need to win people to your cause. This is where the left keeps fucking up.
I’ve never been to an Occupy rally. (I’ve never been to a Tea Party either.) But I’ve seen tons of pictures and videos, many of them prepared by the Occupiers themselves.
Their optics suck.
I’ve seen communist flags, anarchist flags, Che Guevara shirts, people that are heavily tattooed and wearing lots of metal in their faces, people wearing bandannas to conceal their faces, and lots of fringe lunatics.
Hey, it’s a free country and they can do what they want. They don’t bother me, I’m a DFH moonbat librul, I just don’t look like one. But some of my friends and relatives would fit right in.
The problem is lots of other people won’t react the same way I do. And before you get close enough to tell them anything they will have already closed their minds based on what they see.
Who the hell wants to follow people who look homeless? But worst of all is the conduct. The “people’s mic” comes across as creepy, and the yelling and rudeness when they disrupt events is a big turn-off. And some people in this country LIKE the police.
If I was secretly a whip-kissing fascist tea-bagger I would encourage the Occupiers to turn the knobs up to eleventy.
Seriously – go over to the wingnut blogs and read what they have been saying. They are hoping the Occupations continue until election day.