Friday, October 7, 2011

Burgeoning of the Common Man

The Koch Brothers, Billionaire Owners of the Tea Party
The Tea Party is not really a "grassroots" movement. It was begun and funded by the billionaire Koch brothers—and then ordinary folk began showing up at their rallies. And it quickly became obvious that the Tea Party was a gathering place for right wingers, but yes, attendees are ordinary folk in every other sense of the word. I was present at a well-attended Tea Party rally right here in my city. Obama was already President, and it seemed that the main agenda item was anti-Obama messages on signs and in the attitudes of the attendees.

On the other hand, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which seemingly sprang up overnight and is now into its third week is a grassroots movement. As I said in a previous post, it may dissolve as quickly as it arose. There are no financiers with a personal ax to grind funding this honest to goodness movement. It runs on people power, the 99 percenters who show up with their homemade signs, not the slick, mass-produced signs one sees at the Tea Party rallies. But in three weeks the movement has spread around the world, a thousand cities and growing. People of all walks of life and political persuasion want to participate. It has taken on a life of its own.

In the United States, people are so fed up with the too-big-to-fail banks and the too-owned-by-big-business-to-do-anything-for-ordinary-citizens congress that they show up at these rallies to lend their voices to the protests. We gather energy and enthusiasm from one another—even those of us who are a thousand miles away from Wall Street. Why? Because the banks that were bailed out and have now turned around and started sticking us common folk with burgeoning fees on credit cards, debit cards, and additional fees on our limited bank accounts; these banks are everywhere, set up to grab our hard-earned money any way they can. (If you haven't already, close your Bank of America, Chase or other national chain bank to a hometown bank.) Meanwhile, Congress is catatonic. It's business as usual at the banks and no action as usual in Congress. The politicians are too afraid to act and jeopardize their jobs, lest they displease someone to whom they are beholden. And apparently it is not to the common citizen that they are beholden. Votes are done in political party blocs, rather than cast by thinking individuals with no ties to one party or another.

And yet...there is a vast middle between all the extremes, those who vote for the person, not the party, who sometimes vote Republican, sometimes vote Democratic, sometimes vote Independent. These are the ones who appear to be joining the Occupy Wall Street movement, bringing with them individual reasons for supporting this growing sentiment.

I am an independent voter. I'm a registered "Independent," but that means nothing politically, because I vote for the person of either party who I think is most reasonable, judicious, and who is actually able to see shades of gray. I sometimes support the same candidate each time he or she comes up for re-election, but only because that senator or representative has acted in good faith while in office. I might not agree with that person on every issue, but I have certain issues that must be supported by a candidate before I vote for him or her. If the candidate, once in office, sells out on those issues, I do not support that person the next time.

My single vote doesn't add up to much, but when it intersects with a million other voices, it begins to gain power. I've hit the mark a few times and the candidate I supported won that particular time for that particular office because I and a whole lot of others happened to agree when we individually stepped into the voting booth.

I believe the Occupy Wall Street movement is an effect of many people happening to agree at this time that what Wall Street represents, who Wall Street represents, has got to be changed fundamentally. How this translates into change in the 2012 election cycle remains to be seen. I do not need a litmus test pledge be signed by any candidate whom I support. That smacks too much of what the Koch Brothers' Tea Party requires in its litmus test of a candidate. And, again, the Tea Party is not a grassroots, people-powered movement, although ordinary people have joined it.

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