Observing Republicans scurrying so frantically to their battle stations in the face of a national surge of support for Occupy Wall Street alerts one that beyond their usual Pavlovian reflex to bark like Chihuahuas at any potentially threatening sound or movement, this is real panic. And well it should be, what with a battery of polls for several weeks showing not only direct support for the movement itself, but large numbers of Americans identifying with the underlying point of view and commensurate outrage.
Given that the Occupy movement is the public face of a severe critique of thirty years of economic policy and insidious economic trends, it is easy to understand why the right would seek to minimize its scope, attempting to portray it as confined to a band of allegedly motley subversives rather than a broader middle class and working class moment of clarity. Perhaps the simple fact that the uproar appears so belated shocks the right’s sense and complacence that such a moment would never come. Many a wrong perception was reinforced by the 2010 Republican bonanza no doubt, though it was largely a simple referendum on unemployment. And if as a conservative long ago you became confident enough in your ability to move the bottles of snake oil off the shelves at a brisk pace, that you went so far as to put “Snake Oil” on the label of the bottle itself without any significant dip in sales, why worry?
Of course, it has compounded the foolishness of dragging out the anachronistic hippie meme that the Luddites have reverted to throwing in the kitchen sink, comically attempting now to smear the movement as antisemitc or jihadist, and summoning the specter of every faux nemesis that pops into their pointy little heads. The haplessly exhumed anachronistic slanders are going to baffle anyone under 40, and strike the rest as goofy in the eleventh year of the new millennium. The words hippies and communists just are not what they used to be as a vocabulary of scarification. Even words lose a step or two with age.
And in fact this is not merely a revolution against economic abominations (though that would be plenty), it is a revolution born of frustration with a counterfeit public square, a skewed, inadequate and bastardized public debate about American life. It is the visceral penetration of a blanket of adulterated public discourse that has kept covered or out of sight a discussion of truly salient political and economic reality for too long, a discourse so wretched even the president of the United States has been subordinate to it much of the time, he and fellow Democrats seemingly resigned to making peace with every deceptive narrative.
One smells the fear on the right that a very large cat has been liberated from a small bag. While in some cases these are Americans on the right who have inhaled so much of their own perfume they by now are convinced it is their natural smell, to some extent conservatives understand and always have that if the body of facts strongly dispositive of the harmfulness of their prescriptions and policies to the interests of the majority of American ever made it to the bright light of day, acute public rejection would follow soon. Whether this scenario is near at hand or not, who knows? But the right envisions it, if the profusion of their sweat or their wild stabs at demonization and stigmatization are any indication. Anti-semitic, communistic, jihadist hippies, really?
As taken aback as the right has been, and surprised as many on the left were by the materialization of the Occupy movement, Occupy is the tip of a tremendous and nefarious iceberg of damning economic, historical and ideological realities looming beneath the surface. One cannot really overstate the magnitude of what has been done to the American middle and working classes over several decades now, and more broadly to the nation’s economy and social fabric.
When it comes to the protracted and systematic dismantling of the regulatory apparatus that produced economic collapse, the punishing realignment of the tax system, the blithe engendering of historic income and wealth disparity, the vicious siphoning away of GDP to only a few, the transformation of the financial sector into a byzantine kingdom of supernatural greed, social destructiveness and moral malfeasance…in sum, to the atrocious rigging of the economy and the political system, the depth and vastness of what has occurred is staggering.
And methinks there is palpable fright in the land of conservatism that the sum and cumulative grisly details of this recent economic and political atrocity will be coming to a city plaza, newspaper, cable channel, political campaign near you, and a multitude of Americans’ consciousness in the near future
My advice to the mobilizing scarecrows, skeleton suits and booger men of the American right is to dig deep into your trusty grab bag of slanders, caricatures and epithets. You’re going to need them.