To New Jersey I traveled last week, to celebrate the birthday of my mom's 60th year on Earth. At the stellar birthday bash, which featured two huge platters of sushi and a Smorgasbord of Lebanese goodies, all the New York crowd could talk about was Occupy Wall Street.
"I've sent money, but I haven't actually been down there yet," said one 19-year-old who attends college mere blocks from the epicenter of the epic demonstrations. Most Lexus liberals at least experiment with hands-on activism in their youth this young man apparently felt he could skip that stage in his development as a member of the American bourgeoisie.
"Is there any Occupy movement in Madison ?" one journalist asked me. "Not really," I replied. "We've been there, done that."
There are two reasons the Occupy Madison attempts have amounted to, as one friend called them, "a fart in the wind." First, people are weary of protest and second, the most politically active lefties in Wisconsin are focusing their energy on the more tangible goal of recalling Scott Walker.
Wisconsin's left is lucky that it has such venues for expressing its distaste in its political leaders. You have to wonder what would be taking place now if the recalls weren't possible. How long would the Capitol protests have lasted, and would the Occupy movement have rekindled the fire we witnessed in February and March?
The essence of Occupy Wall Street is helplessness. In dire times, many people, especially the young, feel they have no voice in government and traditional political action is futile. Waiting until 2012 or investing hope in the two major parties simply cedes power to the corporate-controlled status quo.
In Wisconsin, people don't feel as helpless. First, the war against Walker has given the state Democratic Party a chance to demonstrate its commitment to progressive ideals, regardless of whether it will follow through on them if it comes to power. As a result, state lefties feel that electing Democrats to replace Walker will represent a major step forward.
Second, there is a clear path to eliminating the enemy. If the recall campaign is successful, Scott Walker could be out in a few months. Hence, people are not hopeless; they are tremendously hopeful.