By TIM CAVANAUGH, Reason.com
Can the Occupy movement survive
an onslaught of bandwagon-joining politicians?
Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution
supporting the Occupy L.A. tent city that has sprung up around City
Hall. Yet this lethal stamp of mainstream approval was generally
applauded by the Occupation forces.
People we spoke with during coverage of the Council vote and the
reaction to it (among those Occupiers who were even aware of it)
indicate something uniquely laid-back and Californian about Occupy
Wall Street got its original burst of energy thanks to
opposition from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Police
Department; Occupy D.C. has a notably prickly
relationship with former Marines; and Occupy Atlanta’s greatest
traction has come from the admirable-but-oddly-handled
to let a U.S. congressman speak, most of the folks we spoke
with at Occupy L.A. think government — including the corrupt and
embarrassing government of Los Angeles — is A-OK.
The Occupiers have settled in for a long stay, with an
encampment that includes a first-aid station, a food tent, a
circulating library, and a full complement of mainstream media
What explains the cozy relationship between some of America’s
most mediocre politicians and a politically eclectic movement that
is at least in part functioning as a challenge to politics as
Part of it might be that state power has so far been exercised
with a light touch. While the early part of the local occupation
now-forgotten arrests, the police are clearly taking it easy.
So are the politicians. We heard quite a few compliments for the
Los Angeles Police Department from the scrufty
Occupiers. Thanks to some last-minute maneuvering by Council
Member Bernard Parks, the support-Occupy-L.A. resolution was
decoupled from a measure that would have involved some new
regulation of banks, so pols could vote for it without having to
make any commitment.
In fact, given the airy nature of the Occupiers’ goals, it’s
surprising that they are getting any resistance at all.
Representatives of local banks and the Chamber of Commerce showed
up to speak to the Council, arguing that banks are big local
charitable givers, generate a lot of tax revenue, blah blah blah.
Why bother making the argument when the people on the other side
are holding out to, as one Occupier told me, “arrest all of Wall
Street and put them in jail”? That sounds menacing but it’s pretty
unlikely. Since I was a child I have been hearing that the United
States is a republic in its death throes and perpetually ten
minutes away from Kristallnacht, but I just don’t see a massive
roundup of stock brokers in our future.
Since Occupy Wall Street heated up, journalists have been trying
to discern the movement’s “demands” (an open-minded approach that I
just can’t recall seeing in the media back when the Tea Party was
in the streets). The consistent desire of Occupy L.A. seems to be
for “change,” but a form of change that is not political in nature.
They’re looking for a change in people’s hearts, and this being
Southern California, there’s a dose of impulse-buy spiritualism in
the mix. This, I think, is the fallacy of trying to discern
political content in what is essentially a chance to go camping
without having to leave town.