Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth century British prime minister and literary figure commented that "moderation is the center wherein all philosophies, both human and divine, meet." Apparently the throngs of activists participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement in major metropolitan areas have opted to ignore this wise counsel. Instead, they’ve adopted a strategy appealing to the leftwing fringe rather than those in the politically fertile middle.
What exactly makes this Occupy Wall Street movement so extreme? Their "Proposed List of Demands" posted on http://occupywallst.org last week suggests a utopian program assembled during the course of a bad acid trip rather than in a state of sober political realism.
Among the "demands" of these able-bodied young folks who are protesting corporate greed while dressed in zombie costumes instead of pulling down paychecks: a "living wage income" for those both employed and unemployed, "free" college education for all, a trillion dollars in infrastructure spending, another trillion in "ecological restoration" spending, complete debt forgiveness for all citizens, criminalizing credit reporting agencies, increasing the minimum wage to $20, and "open borders migration." Missing are the details about who will pay for this, how it will work, or why anyone to the right of Trotsky should buy into it.
Most Americans generally agree that significant problems exist in our economic system, which is reflected through the highly pessimistic views surrounding the economy and our financial institutions in the public opinion polling. However, this manifesto is not a recipe for building a stronger coalition, but instead a warning for those who don’t agree completely to stay far, far away. It is counterproductive, irrational, and lacking any semblance of public relations planning. In short, this movement lacks adult supervision, the kind which would encourage them to craft a message capable of convincing those outside the nuthouse’s walls that this project is worth considering.
Since the inception of the Tea Party movement in 2009, Democrats have tried to court centrist voters by highlighting the most absurd statements and actions of that movement’s loyalists. Their goal has been to lure those in the center away from the Republicans by using the Tea Party as an example of how conservatives are detached from political reality. Now the radical left wing is on the verge of causing those who were somewhat put off by the red hot Tea Party rhetoric to consider that the pasture may not be any greener on the other side of the fence.
The clash of the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement is a battle royal of those on the polar extremes of the ideological spectrum. This clash leaves the majority of citizens out in the cold and wondering who will speak for them. One side is reflexively against anything the government does and the other side is automatically against everything the private sector does. Their weaknesses lie at the heart of their orthodoxy, which assumes the need for dogmatic opposition to anything beyond their own ideological leanings. In reality, citizens know that neither the government nor the private sector is right or wrong one hundred percent of the time.
Unfortunately for the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the numbers are not on their side. The Gallup tracking poll that asks citizens to place themselves on the spectrum as being either liberal, moderate, or conservative shows that the left is a clear minority in this country. A combined 77 percent reported to be either conservative or moderate with a scant 21 percent claiming to be "liberal" as of August 1, 2011. Perhaps the other two percent are already zombies.
If a movement like Occupy Wall Street wants to have a lasting impact on American politics in a way that is conducive to the formulation or reformulation of public policy, they must make an effort to appeal beyond the fraction of citizens already in agreement with them. If not, their efforts will be in vain as they will inadvertently inflict political damage on their guy Barack Obama and the Democrats who run the risk of being identified with a movement that is far outside the mainstream of American politics.
The radical Occupy Wall Street left and the Tea Party right (along with the Ayn Rand anti-government acolytes) continues waging an ideological war over utopian goals of either crippling the capitalist system or bringing the wheels of government to a grinding halt. Meanwhile, the rest of us are asking for real answers, genuine solutions, and sober leadership. Deliberation, compromise, prudence, and moderation must come ahead of extremist political poppycock. Both sides need to depart the Land of Make Believe and rediscover the world of political reality.