It was expected and simply understood that most of the country’s elites (politicians, professional media, corporate barons, official party machines, and whoever was in the White House regardless of party, etc) would side with Bank of America, Citi, AIG, and the ghosts Lehman Brothers and Bear Stern against the Occupy Wall Street protests.
All of those people and institutions exist to keep the others in permanent power, and to keep everyone else that’s not a part of that group utterly powerless and marginalized in every meaningful way. They all had a hand in the rampant risk-taking and outright fraud and criminal activity that led to the financial collapse not just in this country, but across the globe.
What’s surprising is how many conservatives who supported the Tea Party movement have sided with the banks and Wall Streetand against the hundreds of millions of Americans that are suffering at the hands of fraud, criminality, and political corruption banding together in a truly populist movement devoid of partisan politics.
But I suppose not necessarily the reasons why, if you take a closer look.
One of the defining traits of the Tea Party movement reflects the defining trait of its official apparatus: the Republican Party. And that’s hyper partisanship. I’ve written before about how issue purity has become so important to movement conservatives that they’ll actually sacrifice the desired outcome of those issues just to “win” on the issue itself and maintain purity amongst the ranks.
That is one of the reasons the Tea Party was doomed to failure. These people saw liberals and the liberal ideology as the problem with America, not the political system and its complete subservience to Wall Street and special interests as they pretended. So their solution was to simply elect more establishment-serving conservatives to Washington and the result was entirely predictable: nothing has changed. Tea Party vanguard Scott Brown took huge donations from America’s largest and most powerful banks during his campaign and then worked tirelessly to water down Wall Street reform in the Senate once elected.
The Tea Party saw him as a hero, but the banks saw them as an investment. They filled Brown’s campaign coffers, got him elected, and he immediately set out to carry out his primary function: to serve the banks.
Despite the Tea Party supposedly forming in opposition to the bank bailouts, their functionaries in Congress worked hard to make sure that even minimal reforms meant to prevent another recession – to prevent the necessity or even discussion of another bailout – were either watered down or blocked entirely.
The Tea Party movement was an abject failure. Rather than draining the swamp of corruption, all it did is replace about 100 Democrats beholden to Wall Street and corporate bribery with 100 Republicans beholden to Wall Street and corporate bribery, which is largely what happened in 2008 and 2006 in reverse. It’s a cycle that never ends because it’s a problem that can’t be solved simply by replacing one open hand with another.
On two fronts, you can already see a natural clash between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party/conservative establishment. The hyper-partisanship alone means the Tea Party could never support an issue that wasn’t theirs to begin with, and the Tea Party’s ideas for solving our problems – more Republicans in Washington (who will get there by bending over for the banks) – is the opposite of OWS: sever the ties between corporate ownership of nearly our entire political process and return it to the people.
The right is afraid of OWS for precisely the reasons it’s such a valuable movement: it threatens the status quo, and threatens establishment power. The power that the Tea Party wanted for itself to use to push forward its own political agenda.
But there is no political agenda here. I’ve heard few calls from OWS to elect more Democrats to solve our problems. To the contrary, they want the vast influence of hundreds of millions of corporate dollars out of politics entirely. They want lobbyists to go home. They want Washington to listen to the people that vote for them, not the people and companies that stuff their campaign coffers. They want the sleazy revolving door between government and already powerful corporations to end.
That’s not a partisan problem so the solution isn’t partisanship.
Here’s President Obama’s current Chief of Staff, Bill Daley:
In December 2001, following his service as U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, he was appointed President of SBC Communications to help reform the company’s image. In May 2004, Daley was made the Midwest Chairman of JPMorgan Chase, following its acquisition of Bank One Corporation, to oversee its operations from Chicago. Daley formerly served on the Board of Directors of Boeing, Merck & Co., Boston Properties, and Loyola University Chicago.
Daley worked as Commerce Secretary, seamlessly slid into the position of chief lobbyist for a major national telecommunications company, became Chairman of one of the country’s most hated and corrupt banks, served as a board member of one of the world’s largest defense contractors and beneficiary of billions in government contracts and one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies under permanent protection from Congress. Then without any opposition at all, he easily slid into one of the most powerful positions in the federal government: Chief of Staff of the President of the United States.
JPMorgan chase is hounded by foreclosure fraud scandals and was at the center of the financial collapse that caused this recession. A significant chunk of Boeing’s business is supplied by questionable government contracts and has possibly illegal anti-union behavior protected by Congress. Merck has been protected by Congress for decades from competition and with unreasonable patent grants and the government has forbidden itself from negotiation from drug prices, which could save it up to 40% on drug spending.
Bill Daley has been a top executive at every one of these companies and for years was paid extremely well to lobby the government to bend over for those employers, and now he’s the second most influential and powerful person in the federal government.
Administrations of both parties have overflowed with people like this because it’s extremely powerful and rich corporations like Boeing and Merck that fund the campaigns of people like Barack Obama, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Scott Brown, Michelle Bachmann, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, and everyone else.
What the Tea Party never understood was that merely replacing old people with new doesn’t address the problem. New people like Scott Brown did what old people like Ted Kennedy did before him. They lined up with their hands out to feed at the Wall Street trough to ensure their election.
At the core of Tea Party/conservative fear and hatred of Occupy Wall Street is the threat it represents to their establishment interests in banal partisan political issues like banning abortion, banning gay marriage, nominating biased judges, starting more Middle East wars, and all the sewage sludge that makes the political process what it is. OWS, if it succeeds at anything at all, certainly isn’t going to make Washington more conservative, so the Tea Party and GOP have largely sided with the “liberal” media, and the banks that received hundreds of billions of tax payer money in bailouts, to attack the only meaningful opposition to that disgustingly corrupt plutocracy we call government.
What a shame and what a waste.