Some readers have accused me of not paying proper homage to the Occupy "movement." I risk being seen as "a grumpy old man." What — and not getting The Google and The Twitter while telling stories about the old days of taking the ferry over to Shelbyville and wearing an onion on my belt...which was the style at the time? Okay, I suppose Occupy raised consciousness of the 1 percent of the super-rich and the 99 percent of "the rest of us." Good intentions abound. We know more about pepper spray.
Meanwhile, in the real world where real policy is made, the right marches on. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure pulled its funding to Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screening. The reason given is that Planned Parenthood is "under investigation." Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Florida, chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is auditing Planned Parenthood to see if any public funds were used to pay for abortions. The Komen money, about $680,000, was used exclusively by Planned Parenthood to provide breast screening for the poor and under-insured (and most of the organization's activities are not about abortion). On top of this, Komen recently hired an anti-abortion Georgia Republican politician as a vice president. This is not just about the abortion debate: Many "conservatives" now are opposed to birth control.
The result: A nice bank shot that hurts an organization reviled by the right, makes a loud statement against women's freedom of choice and accessibility to health care, and hurts the poor! Nicely played.
Several GOP states want to drug test welfare recipients and the unemployed. Unlike Mitt Romney, these lawmakers are concerned with the very poor, whom they see as lazy takers. This view is backed by the latest "social science" from the vile Charles Murray. Somehow all these good Christian-y "conservatives" think Jesus' special ministry was aimed at the prosperous. Nor do they have a problem with the mass incarceration of minorities for minor drug possession, even though minority drug use is no more than that of whites, and their lifelong exclusion from society as felons. WWJD? Make it even more difficult for law-abiding poor and minority people to vote, as red states are now doing.
Arizona Republicans have a long wish list this year: Enact draconian anti-union bills, eliminate the income tax, dramatically lower taxes on capital gains and teach the Bible in public schools. I guess there was no way to draft an omnibus bill that would allow rich, undertaxed white people to carry guns while teaching the Bible in public schools, busting unions and checking the immigration status of anyone without pale skin. Arizona, once a heavily unionized state, has for decades enjoyed "right to work," meaning its wages are below average and workers have virtually no counterweight to the whims of employers. Elections matter and Arizona Democrats keep losing. (A telling side note: Barry Goldwater's first wife Peggy was one of the founders of Planned Parenthood in central Arizona). The not-a-Lifetime Movie end for the Giffords saga will be election of a Republican to her former seat, and then the complete erasure of this political assassination attempt from collective memory. History is written by the victors.
In Washington state, gay marriage was approved. This is an advance for equality and decency — and whose business is it really aside from the couples involved? — if it survives an inevitable ballot challenge. That sunk gay marriage in California (an initiative heavily funded by the LDS) and Washington is a purple state, not a blue one. In any event, this is small consolation amid continuing victories by the right. At the state level, Republicans control 25 legislatures outright and share control in eight more. GOP governors rule in 27 states. Nationally, if you look at a map of voting patterns by congressional districts, you encounter a continental sea of red offset by a few blue splotches. Fortunately, these are very populous splotches, but barely. No wonder President Obama submits to many of the utterly wrong political assumptions of the right (e.g., government must tighten its belt the same way a family does). Little indicates this imbalance of power, this lack of competition, this strategic and tactical impotence of "the left" will change.
Behind this theocratic, anti-worker, mean-spirited extremism the plutocrats still rule. The too big to fail banks are riskier than ever. No major figure in the financial collapse has been sent to prison.
Given all this, for what, exactly, am I to bow in solemn obeisance to Occupy?
The "movement" even gets the percentages wrong, as undemanding as it would be to imagine all our problems stem from just 1 percent of the population. In fact, most people need to pay more in taxes, even if the plutocrats need to pay much more. Even the poorest, although oppressed by regressive sales taxes and payroll taxes, should pay at least $1 in federal income taxes, as a token of citizenship.
And while the 1 percent have put American politics under unprecedented political sway, that isn't the heart of the problem. It's what's the matter with Kansas, and Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and especially Arizona. It's the 50.1 percent that can be persuaded, again and again, to vote against their self-interests and against the national interest. Many are too ignorant to vote at all. But in our Sarah Palin world, actually knowing facts is considered elitism. So vote-away, Gomer, straight ticket Republican.
The best I can offer is that the right might over-reach and encounter a setback (UPDATE: This appears to have happened with Komen but somehow I suspect it's not over). But even then, we face a long march, or a long nightmare, before a serious political movement can counter and triumph over the reactionaries, theocrats, Randians, nihilists and nuts. In the meantime, #occupy this.