That’s probably why news coverage of recent “occupations” has been thin. So far, the only thing most news organizations have talked about is the lack of a figurehead and the 700 protestors arrested for trying to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.
The “Occupy Wall Street” movement began Sept. 17, nearly a month ago. A dozen or so tents popped up along the aforementioned location in New York. A few cardboard signs with clever slogans. The aim was to draw attention to corporatism. Or something like that. In the weeks that followed, it grew to include more members. It grew to include more cities.
At last count, cities across the country were seeing familiar sights. St. Louis, Seattle, Sacramento, Tampa. Reports are hundreds of protestors marched on the J.P. Morgan Chase building and the Federal Reserve in Dallas.
According to ABC News, Vice President Joe Biden weighed in on the issue.
“Let’s be honest with one another,” Biden told an audience at the Washington Ideas Forum. “What is the core of that protest? The core is: The bargain has been breached. The core is the American people do not think the system is fair, or on the level. That is the core is what you’re seeing with Wall Street. There’s a lot in common with the Tea Party.”
Critics of the Tea Party likened them to right-wing lunatics. So far, critics of the OWS (or the 99 Percent, or whatever their name is) have accused them of being too far left (although the reasoning for that is up for debate as they haven’t really been spouting out any ideology). And that’s been the criticism against them, for the most part– the lack of a unified message other than just being discontent with the way big businesses are allowed to operate.
The same criticism was made for some Tea Partiers in their early stages. Back then, show up to a political event and you’d find a range of discontent, from people dressed in full colonial era garb to others holding signs about fascism. Over time, though, it moved from individuals to a collective.
It’s possible the same thing will happen with this new group.
It seems extremism– whether it be to the far left or far right– is the only thing some people are interested in. And that may not be such a bad thing. For decades we’ve had career politicians playing to the middle. It was a safer career that way.
Historically, this country’s politicians didn’t always play it so down the middle. Such was the case with Matthew Lyon, for whom nearby Lyon County is named.
Lyon, a Democratic-Republican in the late 1700s, spit in the face of Roger Griswold, a Federalist. It resulted in a brawl on the Senate floor, complete with dueling fireplace tongs and a wooden cane. He was also the only person, until then, elected to Congress while in jail. Unlike today’s politicians who can’t seem to keep out of lewd or financial scandals, Lyon’s distinction came from violating the Alien and Sedition Act for criticizing the then President.
There’s also the story current Sen. Rand Paul likes to tell about Cassius Clay. Clay was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives three times in the 1800s and was known for carrying an array of weapons for defense as some of political positions were less than popular.
That’s difference between Clay and Lyon and many of today’s politicians, just like the movements that drive them. They didn’t play to the middle or speak to the majority. Politics wasn’t a job or a game. They believed in a way of life and were willing to be a proponent for it, even if it meant being jailed or worse.
They were people passionate about fixing things they believed were wrong. It seems after decades of trying to politically stay in the center, people are getting motivated to take a role in their future.