In the summer of 2009, screaming Tea Party members calling on Americans to “get the country back” were a common scene at Town Halls organized to discuss President Obama’s health care legislation. “Obamacare” as they called it, was an evil scheme designed to snatch away individual rights regarding health care decisions. It was the Federal Government overreaching once more. Taking advantage of the administration’s and the Democratic party’s inability to properly explain and market the legislation, these activists turned the entire debate into a shouting match of “us versus them.” Instead of focusing on the ailing economy and how increasing health care costs were affecting it, the whole country was dragged into an unnecessary and divisive debate.
The Tea Party movement grabbed this “Obamacare” issue and used it as a wedge and as a tool to push for their version of better governance. Two years down the line, the Tea Party tent has grown into a formidable political and cultural force. Midterm elections proved that this is not a passing fad, and major Republican figures’ eagerness to align themselves shows that the movement is embraced by the party’s mainstream.
Now, in the fall of 2011, angry and disaffected citizens are gathering in various parts of the country, encouraged by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Alarmed by rising income inequality and poverty, America’s stagnant economy, the push for austerity and the unfair tax structure, a group of young activists has gathered on Wall Street in New York, the heart of financial world, to demand change. They “occupied” Wall Street so that the country and the leadership would listen to their side, too.
The Occupy movement is little more than a month old now; and the time for it to crystallize and establish its core has arrived.
Yes, we have heard Margaret Mead’s famous words time and again,“never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” Citizens do carry enormous power to change the system. Changes in the Arab world show that groups of committed citizens can bring down powerful dictators through non-violent struggle.
But the fact remains that, after the initial euphoria wears off, focus, organization, and the way you exert influence matters. Revolutions are glamorous and magnetic, and that is where they end. To carry the burden of expectations, a movement needs to move beyond sloganeering and chanting and get to the real work.
The Tea Party movement did capitalize on controversy created by the health care legislation, but after a while they moved on to organizing, focusing their message and “playing the game” through their supported candidates in the midterm elections. Although some of their tactics were less than kosher, one cannot deny that they meant business from day one.
The Occupy movement has to shift gears now and get on to the specifics.
#What are their main demands? and why are they focused on Wall Street when policy is drafted in Washington, DC?
#Why name the bankers and the business community as demons, when in fact the responsibility for the economic mess also lies on the political leadership?
#It has been a month and, so far, little has been done to create an organization to take this movement forward. How can they hope to bring about change through loosely organized events? Washington is not moved by sloganeering.
They have managed to get the country’s and international community’s attention. It would be a big loss to let this opportunity slip by simply because of a lack of attention to the details.