The New Republic:
Occupy Wall Street and the Return of the McGovernites
The supposedly anti-authoritarian 68ers helped create a more cumbersome and bureaucratic government in the name of protecting newly minted rights. That affinity is being recreated in Zuccotti Park. It’s not just that the Occupy Wall Streeters are filled with hopes of recreating the spirit of the 60s. It’s that they are literally recreating the follies of the 60s in miniature.
Like their 1960s predecessors, they’re chasing their tails trying to imagine procedural reforms that will allow the demonstrators to govern themselves, while also curbing the power of those greedy capitalists. Nick Pinto of The Village Voice found it “amazing to watch a bureaucracy being born,” as he observed the creation of one of the fifty committees called upon to govern the Zuccotti Park occupation. There are committees dedicated to managing, food, internet access, the park’s library, artists and culture, finance, outreach, site planning, graphic design, direct action, and sanitation (although the working chair of that last group acknowledges that “a lot people are dirty and don’t mind.”) Intensely self-conscious, there are information and media committees as well as an Occupy Wall Street Journal, an OWS TV group, and even an OWS archive.
Like their putative enemies on Wall Street, the OWS lawyers gamed the rules to achieve their success. In this case they were able to set up their semi-permanent site by gaming the bylaws governing Zuccotti Park, land privately owned by the Brookfield Corporation. Like the Wall Street bankers they disdain, the Occupy Wall Streeters—who, judging from my conversations with them, seem to work primarily in the media world of PR, party planning, and personal services—show little of the self-restraint necessary for self-government or productive participation in the economy. What they have in common with the bankers is that they all work in abstractions, as opposed to practical problems.
If you demand change, it is implied that you know what changes you want. Throwing out the current system without some idea what you want to replace it with is to invite disaster.
But I want to talk about the “consensus” method, up/down twinkles and the “progressive stack.”. Imagine trying to obtain consensus from a Congress filled with Tea Partiers, Libertarians, Progressives, Blue Dogs, Greens and one or two Socialists. If you think caucuses are bad, imagine trying to elect a president using up/down twinkles.
The “progressive stack” is the idea that when people line up to express their opinions, women and minorities get to move to the front of the line. While that sounds nice and politically correct, if your group is like OWS and is dominated by white males then they get the last word. Imagine a three hour meeting where the all the speakers in the final two hours are white males.
For more on the consensus topic and leaderless movements check out Cannonfire