NPR article covers the evolution of dissent to policy
NPR has posted an article detailing how Occupy Wall Street could affect policy in the U.S. through the lens of successful historical protests movements. Many on the right have been quick to bash the protestors for not having a clear consensus on policy goals, but Alan Greenblatt asserts that a lack of consensus is to be expected at this point in the movement’s evolution.
His quote of Nina Eliasoph counters the right’s complaint quite appropriately:
“Movements don’t write legislation. They force open a line of questions that makes it possible for people to imagine new policies. That’s always the first step.” – Nina Eliasoph, Sociologist at the University of Southern California.
So where does the 99% go from here? First and foremost, the movement needs to continue to gain support and maintain momentum for an extended period of time. Even in the face of adversity and the inevitable moment when the 24 hour news cycle gets bored and tries to move on. Secondly, the protests will eventually have to adopt a strategy of working from inside the American political system and appoint leaders and spokesmen (progress has already been made on the latter as more eloquent speakers have been conducting press statements recently).
While many of the protestors might negatively view working arm in arm with the political establishment, unless the 99% takes an active role in offering ideas then any legislation that results from the protests has a greater likelihood of being watered down ala Dodd-Franks.
As Dawkins loves to state, consciousness raising is one of the most important goals in communication. By protesting, the movement forces us all to think about the issue and to confront the income inequality of modern America. By continuing to protest day in and day out, the movement will move from a being minor issue in the political landscape to something that can’t be ignored. Even then the pressure must continue until legislation is not only passed, but the rules are finalized and the army of lobbyists who will attempt to minimize that affects of that legislation are thwarted.
If we are to improve from the lessons of the sixties, we should recognize that even after the big issue is addressed the battle is rarely (if ever) over. The Tea Party, for all its agenda-generated media coverage soon saw its budding political power waste away after it had served the GOP’s purpose in the 2010 election cycle, and there is a lesson in that tale as well.