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October 13, 2011

Time's Poll Claiming #OWS is Popular Stacks The Deck

Of course.

Here's the question asked:

Q11. IN THE PAST FEW DAYS, A GROUP OF PROTESTORS HAS BEEN GATHERING ON WALL STREET IN NEW YORK CITY AND SOME OTHER CITIES TO PROTEST POLICIES WHICH THEY SAY FAVOR THE RICH, THE GOVERNMENT’S BANK BAILOUT, AND THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM. IS YOUR OPINION OF THESE PROTESTS VERY FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE, VERY UNFAVORABLE, OR DON’T YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE PROTESTS TO HAVE AN OPINION?

As Philip Klein notes, that is a push-poll type question making the best possible case for Occupy -- the three planks they claim are #OWS's platform are all popular, aren't they?

But #OWS has a lot of ideas that aren't so popular that Time Magazine forgot to poll -- like their idea that taxpayers should pay for all these layabouts' student loans. Time kindly omits that agenda item.

Two thoughts:

Obama is a failure. And not just any kind of failure. A spectacular failure that's bringing down the whole of the left.

Portnoy observes: "What I believe is happening is that the left is reading the handwriting on the wall and resigning itself to the harsh reality [that] the man they trusted to 'fundamentally transform America' is on the verge of being unelected."

We'd go a step further. Not only does Obama's re-election look to be in serious jeopardy, but his presidency has been an almost unmitigated disaster for progressive liberalism, nearly every tenet of which has been revealed to be untenable either practically, politically or both.

Taranto says that given such a full-spectrum failure, the left is now turning to nihilism.

That is one way to understand why so much of the liberal establishment is rallying behind Krugman's Army, as the "Occupy Wall Street" protests are known. Everything they believe in has failed, so they are turning nihilistic.

Sometimes the nihilism is good-naturedly goofy. The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson: "Occupy Wall Street and its kindred protests around the country are inept, incoherent and hopelessly quixotic. God, I love 'em. I love every little thing about these gloriously amateurish sit-ins." Vaginal monologist Eve Ensler, at the Puffington Host: "What is happening cannot be defined. It is happening. It is a happening."

But there are menacing themes and tactics too. "We may, at long last, be seeing the rise of a popular movement that, unlike the Tea Party, is angry at the right people," wrote former Enron adviser Paul Krugman last week. Krugman's New York Times colleague David Brooks notes that Adbusters, the magazine credited with the idea of the protests, was "previously best known for the 2004 essay, 'Why Won't Anyone Say They Are Jewish?'--an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy." The demonization of "bankers," "plutocrats" and "the 1%" echoes age-old anti-Semitic tropes.

I don't think that's quite right.

Let us begin with the assumption that the Democratic Party has long been a stealth socialist party. Whereas in Europe socialists are forthright about identifying themselves as such, socialists (and communists) have long posed in America as simply favoring additional "fairness" in the system.

They pursued an incrementalist agenda, one new "fairness" fix built on the last. Over the course of 60 years, it sure would look like a fundamental transformation of the nation into full-blown socialism, but (apart from FDR's massive changes to the capitalist system during the Depression) it was done bit-by-bit.

They adhered to the lesson of the old wives' tale: A frog will leap out of a pot if tossed into boiling water, but if the temperature is raised little by little, he won't notice, and won't leap out. He'll wind up just as cooked as in the first scenario, but he won't fight his fate. (I'm told this is perfect bullshit but this isn't about the science of frog-cooking.)

But for this model to work, the incremental changes must be successful or, rather, perceived as successful, or at least not harmful.

To enact a revolution in this slow-motion way, you need to be able to point back at recent "successes" in the expansion of government and say, "Well, that didn't kill the economy, so we can be reasonably confident this next innovation won't, either."

Obama's spectacular, can't-bear-to-watch failure has scotched that model. Socialism-by-incrementalist-steps is largely dead at the moment. Even Republicans -- long derided as scaredy-cats who would, when offered a Democratic plan to increase spending on a program by $50 billion, counter-offer the "conservative" sum of $30 billion -- are no longer all that afraid to simply say "No."

So with the incrementalist model no longer viable, I think the left is panicking, and beginning to agitate for revolution in one big gulp. The equivalent of turning the water up to boiling immediately, and hoping that if the water is hot enough the frog will be cooked too fast to save itself.

What else do they have? Consider this is pretty standard behavior. A team that's behind by 21 points begins throwing a lot of low-probability bombs to the endzone, doesn't it? A weary and punched-up boxer begins throwing wild haymakers praying that one good punch will land. A company on the brink of bankruptcy begins doing things they never considered previously, like falsifying records, stiffing vendors, and other bad behaviors.

All this is evidence of desperation, of course. When all seems lost, one can either succumb to depression, or begin lashing out in last-gasp spasms. The #OWS movement -- the addled footsoldiers of the deranged general Paul Krugman -- are now in Hail Mary mode.

There is good that come from this -- they are outing themselves as socialists. Doris Kearns Goodwin "wet herself," as JWF said, over #OWS, saying they were doing exactly what her husband advised in a book long ago, and that book sounds, from her description, like a plan for enacting a socialist revolution.

Does that overstate it? Well, I looked up this book that Doris Kearns Goodwin kept praising, and found out the full title is:

Promises to keep : a call for a new American revolution

... and this description would seem to confirm its basic Marxist orientation:

Goodwin, an adviser to presidents Kennedy and Johnson and an architect of the latter's Great Society programs, here joins the chorus of voices demanding fundamental reform of our democratic capitalist system. His agenda for renewal calls for converting military industries to production of civilian commodities, revamping the tax code to eliminate maldistribution of income, granting workers greater participation in management decisions, overhauling lax regulatory agencies, and enacting new laws to prohibit unproductive mergers and leveraged buyouts. Goodwin sees both Democrats and Republicans as mired in corruption and beholden to vested interests. He advocates an enormous reduction in campaign spending and demands free, equal TV time for all office-seekers. He would dismantle the ghettos, rebuild devastated urban areas and establish residential work and training programs for young people in inner cities. All of this, he forewarns, would mean higher taxes. A populist manifesto geared to an intellectual audience, this succinct essay sets forth a visionary, if seemingly impractical, plan to revitalize our ailing economy. Author tour. Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

This tends to happen after a political repudiation. The party that gets clobbered begins rejecting the old ways of doing things -- which in this case would be stealth socialism -- and begins insisting on something new, something that might work, because, at least, it hasn't failed before, as it hasn't really been given a chance.

On the right, the Tea Party (and then parts of the establishment) began agitating for a full-throated unapologetic conservatism, filled with laissez-faire impulses that have been political heresies since FDR destroyed the old libertarian vanguard in the 30's.

But on the left, it's also a move to a more purist, more honest politics.

What do they want? Socialism.

When do they want it? Now.

As Election Day 2012 approaches, I expect to see this tendency towards confessions -- "Yes, I'm a socialist, what of it?" -- accelerate.

Because what's left?

This brings me back to the Time poll. The Tea Party is supposedly less popular than #OWS. But that's because the Tea Party has concrete policy goals, many of which are controversial -- the American public likes spending money it doesn't have -- and has fought tooth-and-nail for these agenda items for two years.

What has #OWS fought for, so far? Time Magazine presents their agenda as a gauzy populist reform movement which -- incidentally -- could also be used to describe the Tea Party. The Tea Party, of course, despises the crony not-capitalist system, too. (Where OWS and the Tea Party differ, of course, is on which alternative model to pursue. For the Tea Party, it's genuine capitalism; for OWS, it's socialism.)

But in fighting -- and sometimes winning -- for a controversial agenda, the Tea Party has of course lost popularity with the public, which likes spending money it doesn't have, doesn't like being bothered with starkly binary policy choices, and hates being involved in political squabbling.

So far OWS is, according to the media, pretty much just against bank bailouts (to which the Tea Party says, "Welcome to the party, pal!").

But what happens when OWS starts pushing for its actual agenda? Will that actual agenda be greeted, as Doris Kearns Goodwin seems to think, with a warm embrace?

Or will their actual goal of massive redistribution of wealth from the productive winners in the economy to the nonproductive losers be a bit controversial, too?

I think the latter.

So I think OWS can keep it's ten-points-better-than-the-Tea-Party level of support as long as they don't actually try to influence the political system.

The moment they do -- and Joe Taxpayer gets wind of the plan that he should pay for Peter Permanent-Student's seven years at Bennington College -- I think they're going to be a bit unpopular themselves.



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posted by Ace at 01:43 PM

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