Friday, October 7, 2011
Progressives are rapidly claiming the mantle of the fearful and isolated Americans who are using social media to share their non-political stories of huge student debt, sinking mortgages, crippling health-care bills, dead-end jobs or endless unemployment.
On Wall Street and in D.C.’s Freedom Plaza, on twitter feeds, webpages and Facebook pages, the experienced and organized cadres of progressive activists are positioning themselves as the representatives of this fearful public.
Incumbent Democrats, eager for their own tea party, laud their allied progressives as the heroes of an “American Spring” to a media that is also eager for a left-wing version of the highly successful small-government movement. Boosted by their funds and media-savvy professionals, several unions, MoveOn.org, CodePink, Rebuild The Dream and numerous other established groups have thrown themselves into the New York and D.C. protests.
But they’re snatching the media’s focus and the public’s recognition away from a real — although unfocused — wave of public concern about the downward slide of the economy.
That unaffiliated worry can be glimpsed on Tumblr’s ‘wearethe99percent’ channel, where hundreds of people describe their fears about debts and jobs — usually without pushing any political agenda other than “Occupy Wall Street!” or another city — and can be seen among some of the non-political people who congregate in Washington, D.C’s McPherson Square.
The progressive groups “are not us,” said Wes, who says he is a non-political and non-partisan protester against government corruption. He won’t give his name because he’s got a job in government but he says that he stays in McPherson Square, only a block away from the White House, and avoids the progressives’ marches on Capitol Hill. If the McPherson group “ever allows its message to be taken over, it will become ineffective,” he said, adding that the left “is as corrupt as the right.”
“My last paycheck was $20. How can I live on that?” said Sara Moline, a cosmetic saleswoman who has had little interest in politics until now. She’s was holding a sign on K Street, and trying to avoid the nearby “crazy people” who are pushing their ideological agendas, she said. Asked what caused the recession, she fell silent, and then said “people got themselves into this mess.”
“This is more of a local group” than the progressives’ march, said Rooj Waziri, an unemployed marketing-grad who owes $30,000 in student debt. The group “is just a bunch of people who are frustrated …. we just want money out of politics,” she said, adding that the group is being supported by Code Pink and MoveOn.
The group in McPherson Square fluctuates in size, but it is smaller than New York’s “Occupy” protests. The non-political people mingle with a rotating cast of outspoken progressives who are quick to offer themselves and their well-practiced comments to TV and print interviewers.
Early Wednesday afternoon, 13 media people interviewed 11 protesters, most of whom were experienced progressives. A few liberal sympathizers employed in nearby office buildings visited the square to enjoy the protest. “Finally, the cool kids have a party,” said one.
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On Thursday, a lunchtime circle of progressives negotiated carefully with newcomers. Underneath a nearby tree, a balloon-born banner declared ‘Occupy’ while pre-made placards rested on the ground. The placards carried messages such as “I fight for a Union,” “Devolvemos Nuestra Voz” and “End Corporate Personhood.”
Few cited health care concerns or mortgages. Only two placards cited student debt — “Abolish student debt!” and “$ for students, not Sallie Mae.”
That afternoon, the lunchtime group was supplanted by a different set of people, including Moline and Al Wazir, while the progressives — and some of the non-political people — departed to join a loud march led by the progressives from Freedom Plaza to Capitol Hill. They tramped around downtown Washington, and past the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!”
This article was posted: Friday, October 7, 2011 at 8:28 am