To anyone out there who still thinks that Occupy Wall Street is little more than a public nuisance that deserved to be forcibly swept away in militarized police raids, watch this real quick:Robert Reich was the U.S. Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration, and he's been one of the staunchest defenders of the 99% long before #Occupy set up camp. And I wish it wasn't a MoveOn plug, since that will certainly cause plenty of folks to dismiss the message out of hand. But it's really just a simple, nonpartisan paean to democracy.
The central point of the video, the one that is so important, is this: Under its current mode of operation, American society encourages supremely wealthy individuals and corporations to use their resources at will to influence democracy. But our laws will evidently not tolerate the peaceable assembly of concerned middle-class citizens.
I frankly can't see how someone could not be outraged by this dichotomy. After all, if it were, say, libertarian activists wearing hats made out of teabags camped out in front of the White House to protest government overreach, Fox News and the conservative political establishment would be appalled by any use of police force to remove them. But when its hippie, collegiate, and radical-looking folk protesting the outsized influence of corporate greed, sure, break out the pepper spray and billy clubs.
Money has clearly and unambiguously become the predominant factor in modern politics -- we see it in the successful efforts to scuttle climate and clean energy legislation, we see it driving the weakening of important environmental protection laws, we see it working to keep massive oil subsidies in place for the most profitable companies in the world. And protesting, organizing demonstrations, and taking to the streets is the only viable recourse we've got. It's why the first amendment remains the most vital pillar of American democracy.
Whatever your political persuasion may be, recognize that when we begin condoning the use of brutal force to quell peaceful protest, a grave threat is registered to the quality of democracy itself.