05 December 2011

Occupy Electoral Politics: A historic opportunity (about to be missed?)

Having previously commented (here) on Republican hypocrisy in refusing to acknowledge that either allowing the payroll tax cut to lapse and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire are both tax increases, or neither is; you can't make any legitimate distinction, I wanted to comment on the wisdom of the payroll tax cut as a centerpiece of Democratic policy right now, and then comment much more broadly on the opportunity Democrats have to reshape the 2012 election. 

Look, I get it that there's very little that can be passed in this Congress, and that extending this reduction in regressive taxes, while making up the revenue with a tiny increase in taxes on the very richest is at least something, I find it meager and grotesquely inadequate that the best we are able to do as a society in the way of stimulating our moribund economy is a tax cut. Tax cuts are very weak stimulus, at best. As policy, this is pathetic.

George Lakoff has recently said that what the Democratic party needs to do is reach out to the Occupy Movement, not to co-opt it, but to (in essence) offer it the opportunity to shape and re-form the party in its image. I agree with this. The only way to counter the power of money in politics is to directly provide in kind what money buys: which is, in large measure, people, organization, and direct action. The "Tea Party" and its Fundamentalist Christianist allies managed to virtually take over the Republican party. Now it's time for "Occupy" to occupy electoral politics. If the Democratic party, led by the president, were to put forward a plan to actually put into effect the program of the occupiers: a financial transaction tax, prosecution of Wall Street criminals, strong re-regulation of the financial industry, reformation of trade policy to restore the production economy of America, major investment in infrastructure and renewable energy development, reform political rules including public financing of elections, end gerrymandering, investment in public works jobs to get us through the financial downturn years still ahead, etc. etc. .... AND were to reach out to the very people who've been occupying the streets and say, we want to get the things done that you have been asking for, so join us, give us not your money but your bodies, your energy, your direct action.... We could a) take the special interest corruption and double dealing out of the Democratic party; and b) sweep to victory on a tide of enthusiasm and commitment not seen since the 1960s.

Polyanna? I say no. It just takes a bit of epic leadership, of which, unfortunately, I see no sign. But no one can convince me that what I just outlined above isn't perfectly possible, even this late in the game. I fear there's little chance it will happen, but the Democratic leaders, and President Obama in particular, will have no one but themselves to blame if next year goes badly for Democrats, because the opportunity for truly historic change is there.

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