The chattering classes are peddling a new meme designed to control the narrative surrounding the arrested adolescents who’ve been camping out in lower Manhattan, raging against the machine. Earlier attempts at shaping the story tried to characterize the protests as an American Arab Spring. That petered out when the liberal opinion factory realized that this storyline leads toward regime change, not the reelection of failed incumbents.
So now a new positioning is being market tested. Behold, the Tea Party of the left! It should be fun to watch this play out before it collapses under the weight of its own contradictions.
And speaking of contradictions, the original protestors have no hope of defining themselves because, quite simply, there is no there there. Their incoherent demands range across the vast junkyard of leftist thought. The proto-movement is at best a media vacuum waiting to be filled; the protestors’ slogans as empty as the heads of the celebrities rushing to pose in front of them. Hence, a new force is stepping in to both finance the disturbances and repurpose their aim.
Still reeling from their defeat in Wisconsin as well as the shellacking they are taking as numerous states pull back from the brink of bankruptcy, unions are in dire need of adrenalin. Increasingly irrelevant in the private sector, with membership shrinking as fast as the industries that unions have destroyed or chased out of the country, only the public sector offers any prospects for growth.
The problem, though, is that teachers, civil servants, and the like are not cut from the same cloth as teamsters, miners, and longshoremen. Burly blue collar ruffians have never shrunk from cracking skulls to get their way. Unionism and violence go hand in hand, as without the willingness to resort to physical intimidation, up to and including arson and murder, there is no way to control workers who are not union members from replacing strikers who walk off the job.
But effete, coddled, white collar government employees? Can you see them bashing heads? Not a chance. Littering, vandalism, and making a public nuisance, maybe, but they don’t have the moxie to draw blood. So why not do what every other industry does when there is dirty work to be done?
Enter the scruffy, volatile, nothing-to-lose Occupy Wall Street protesters. What better fodder to serve as shock troops for a movement knocked back on its heels? Feed them, flatter them, bring them porta potties so they stop pooping in the streets, and hand them printed signs with the message of the day. Then bus them to the location of whoever it is you are trying to intimidate, whether a governor or a corporate CEO, and voilà, you’ve got a volatile rent-a-mob ready for mayhem as the TV cameras roll (along with plausible deniability when the sparks start to fly).
Remember the trashing of Seattle when the WTO came to town? Get ready to see it again. Not any time soon, as the first hard freeze will send most of these witless warriors back to their parents’ couches. But in the spring, as the campaign to reelect the president heats up along with the weather, things are going to get ugly. And when they do, remember that we have seen this before.
Syntagma Square, Athens, is the stage upon which the ultimate Greek tragedy acts out the death of the entitlement state. As civil servants, pensioners, anarchists, and anti-capitalist protestors rage against greed while clamoring for a free meal ticket, it’s not hard to see what the dead end of democracy looks like.
Which is why the union strategy of making common cause with the Occupy Wall Street protestors is ultimately going to backfire. Americans are not Greeks. The attempt to paint crony capitalism and market capitalism with the same broad brush is not going to succeed here. American exceptionalism may be slow to wake up when threatened, but the real Tea Party has demonstrated that we are not completely asleep.
Americans will eventually figure out the difference between the crooked bankers and politicians that feed each other from the public trough and the genuine job creators whose success is based not on political pull and taxpayer bailouts but on good, old-fashioned free market competition. The former deserve to be pilloried for their plunder, but most Americans are comfortable with the wealth earned by the latter. Witness the reaction to the passing of billionaire entrepreneur Steve Jobs, a wealth-creating market capitalist if there ever was one.
The choice is ours. Will we follow the unions and their minions down the road to Greece? Or will we return to our roots as the only constitutionally limited government of strictly enumerated powers that has ever graced the Earth?