As the world impatiently awaits a statement of purpose and list of demands from the Occupy movements across the country and world, former Charlotte, North Carolina mayor Pat McCrory perhaps unintentionally and unwittingly framed it perfectly in a television interview last week: “You can’t allow the people to take over.”
How telling a remark. In Mr. McCrory’s world power resides where it is supposed to – in money and those who control it – politicians and political parties, corporations and lobbyists, wealthy special interests – but certainly NOT in the people. Is it any wonder a “people’s” movement has erupted in frustration?
The U.S. system of democracy was founded on the principal that government is to be responsive to the people it governs. Every citizen is entitled to feel authentically represented (a government of, by and for the people). But if that was ever so, it clearly is not today. In the world of money and the power it wields, the people are not supposed to see inside the black box or glimpse the “wizard” behind the curtain.
It is therefore unthinkable that the people should take over. For if they did the people would quickly see that those sworn to represent them instead represent the interests of corporations and special interests. They’d have proof that financial markets really are rigged, and the firms responsible are fully aware of what they do. They would understand that more old bridges will fall, that nuclear energy is still unsafe, that toxic particles in our air are causing their nine year old child’s asthma; that global warming is a reality, even more advanced than previously thought. Suppose they knew that voting districts are craftily manipulated to protect political parties and incumbents, not to produce fair election results?
Suppose they became aware that by the time new legislation is signed by the president, it has been eviscerated of its intended meaning, will spend years in court to be further crippled, and that inadequate funding will undermine enforcement? Suppose marchers in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure understood that regardless of how much money they raise, the antidote to cancer lies in curtailing the pollution of our air and water and food? Suppose they understood how the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case is and will continue to unleash hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars from unknown sources to crush and manipulate election outcomes?
One could unspool this list for hours. And at its very core … is money. The United States of America isn’t working! Our democracy isn’t working! And powerful elites say, “you can’t allow the people to take over.”
The Occupy movement presents a challenge to these elites. Until a philosophical principle and list of demands is stated, they can’t begin the rumor presses, can’t co-opt a message, can’t manufacture attack slogans and battle cries intended to bury the movement in a wall of noise. They simply don’t know how to squash it.
And that is exactly why so many at the forefront of the movement have resisted such specificity. They come together, people from everywhere, with the courage to gather in a peaceful act of outrage and solidarity – to say this emperor is naked. Lest you think these people stand alone, an Associated Press poll issued this week indicates that more than a third of the American people support the movement, and that 58% are “furious” about America’s politics.
Nothing will change until our democracy is effectively insulated from the power and influence of private and corporate money. The Occupy movement understands that, as do those Americans who support it and the 58% who are furious about American politics. It’s time for America to have a conversation about money and power and democracy. That conversation will not be started or led by government, by political parties, and certainly not by powerful corporate interests. So it must be started by the people.
“You can’t allow the people to take over?” Well, we’ll see!