|by Barry A. Liebling
Suppose you are expecting an extraordinary rosy future – your economic status will improve, your career opportunities will continue to get better, you and your neighbors will have a sense of well-being, the world will be an overall better place. Further, suppose you have what you consider to be good reasons for your cheery optimism. What happens if your expectation does not pan out? What if your prospects for enjoying the good life go from bad to worse?
You would have to reconcile your beliefs and check your premises. Perhaps you were mistaken – the rationale you had for anticipating improved outcomes is not valid. Alternatively, perhaps you had it right all along, but someone – or some people – subverted your world.
The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters have been camping day and night in a park in lower Manhattan for more than one month. They have inspired similar demonstrations in several cities within the United States and abroad. Their demands are not clearly articulated, but they chant slogans about opposition to capitalism, to the rich, to banks, and to private corporations.
Members of OWS are not completely homogeneous. They number in the thousands nationwide, and it would be inaccurate to assert that all of them have exactly the same opinions, attitudes, and beliefs. Still, it is possible to characterize the main themes of OWS. Pollster and political commentator Douglas Schoen performed a survey of OWS participants and reported his results in The Wall Street Journal.
According to Dr Schoen’s survey, OWS participants “are bound by a deep commitment to radical left wing policies.” They believe in “radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience, and in some instances, violence.” The survey finds that “an overwhelming majority of demonstrators supported Barack Obama in 2008.”
Note well that radical leftists are nothing new. They have been a major component of the American scene for more than one hundred years. The leftist world view has dominated the mainstream media, the universities, and the civil service for at least fifty years. Large scale left wing demonstrations are not continuous but occur sporadically in response to what “progressives” find offensive. The most spectacular demonstrations occurred in the late 1960s protesting the Viet Nam war.
So what is so special about today’s economy that inflames the passions of the ideological left? It is not simply that the economy is in shambles. The crucial factor is that life in America has deteriorated after President Obama – the man who promised to set the world right – took office and has not improved in nearly three years.
In 2008 Barack Obama’s campaign theme was “hope and change.” Voters with “progressive” orientations were elated that they captured not only the White House but both houses of congress. At last, the leftist ideal of how the government should act could be put into practice. The Democratic majority was able to realize its chief objectives – the 2009 stimulus, Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank financial laws, and a myriad of new regulations. Until the end of 2010 Democrats continued to control the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. Surely, according to the “progressive” mindset, this must lead to prosperity. But it did not.
OWS demonstrators, and “progressives” in general, are frustrated that their expectations of an Obama-centered utopia has not materialized. What went wrong? It could not be that the theory of government intervention and micro management is flawed. Radical leftists have to find a rationale for why their prophesy failed.
If they were to understand how their view of the world is flawed they would give up their leftist ideology and reject their heavy handed government policies. But abandoning collectivism is detestable to those who have a life-long commitment to it. So someone must be deliberately sabotaging the economy for nefarious ends. According to President Obama, his political allies, and “progressive” commentators the saboteurs have been found. They are the rich (millionaires and billionaires), the banks, and private corporations that are more concerned with profits than the “common good.” So disappointed partisans can keep their beliefs if they direct their anger at scapegoats. This is what animates the protesters.
Suppose a progressive is expecting that government intervention will lead to prosperity but the economy gets worse. He could stick to his mistaken world view, but he would be better off reconsidering.
*** See other entries at AlertMindPublishing.com in “Monthly Columns.” ***