Unpleasant truths for the Occupy Movement 

And could 2012 mean the end of Michigan’s black reps. in Congress?

Just about everybody seems excited about the Occupy Wall Street-inspired protests currently sweeping the nation. Michael Moore himself, filmmaker and patron saint of Flint, has been dashing around various cities, attempting to inspire the protesters.

"There's no turning back, is there?" he challenged the occupiers in Oakland, Calif., where, last week, a poor veteran of our war on and in Iraq nearly got killed when he was apparently hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by the local police.

"NO," the crowd roared back enthusiastically. No turning back. Right on. Moore claimed the movement, if that's what it is, has already "scored a number of victories in our first six weeks."

Like what?

Well, "we've killed despair and we've killed apathy," he said, claiming this was the start of a "watershed moment."

That would be nice, if it were true.

But I doubt it. Here's a contrary view, from a cranky old cynic. The high priests of greed, the bailed-out bankers and the plutocrats who own the nation aren't really worried about Occupy Wall Street.

Not one bit.

Sure, a few nervous right-wing editorial writers and radio talk show clowns are railing against the movement and telling lies about the demonstrators, in part because they think that's what their masters want. But the smart capitalists, while they are keeping a watchful eye on the protesters, aren't really concerned.

Here are three reasons why: 

First, the Occupiers have no coherent agenda. They think bailing out the rich was a terrible thing, especially since so many people have no jobs, nor prospects of jobs.

But what are they demanding the government do about it? Do they have any program? Not that I can see. Two weeks ago I blundered into an "Occupy" protest on a crisp fall day in Traverse City, of all places. They were a band of mostly merry folk holding signs, waving and trying to get cars to honk, and having a good time.

What their demands were, if they had any, was not at all clear.

Occasionally they ducked into a nearby bookstore and ordered hot chocolate. If I were a bailed-out banker or other parasite, I might even think the Occupy protests were a good idea.

They haven't really threatened anything — so far — and allow those screwed over by the system to let off steam.

The second reason J.P. Morgan's successors aren't quaking in their tuxedos: No politician of any stature has stepped forth to lead the movement and propose a coherent program of action.

Not even, for example, making the rich "1 percent" or even 5 percent pay their fair share in taxes, or suggesting we use some of the money we are using to destroy Afghanistan to rebuild Detroit.

Again, do you see anyone, even U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist, stepping forward to rally these folks around an agenda? Nope, uh-uh, can't be bothered. Yes, inequality is bad, but what do they want to do about it?

And, finally, the third reason the plutocrats aren't breaking a sweat is simply this: It is getting cold outside. That's right. Winter is coming. Are Muffy and Brian and their grandma going to be out in those tents in Grand Circus Park in February? Especially without any one thing they are pressing the government, any government to do?

You know the answer. Think back. Remember the big globalization protests in Seattle in 1999? Remember the round of protests against globalization that swept the nation and the world in 2007? What did they accomplish? Did they stop globalization?

Are the protesters still on the job, demonstrating, agitating, demanding equal pay for equal work nationwide? Again, you know the answer. They went back to school or back to work.

Or back to el barrio. That doesn't mean all this is hopeless. Some stupid police brutality might help energize this movement.

Somebody with guts and brains could still come forward and seize this moment to try and remake the world. But it won't be easy.

Consider this: The civil rights movement of the 1960s and the anti-Vietnam War movement of the '60s and '70s were coherent and focused, and the demonstrators knew exactly what they wanted.

They eventually succeeded. But getting there literally took years. Overthrowing this corrupt system might be a lot harder.

No one fights harder than those who have money and want to hang on to it. I'm not putting the cause down; this may be the most important battle we could ever wage, if we want to save democracy. 

But if you think it's going to be easy, think again. 


No black congressmen? Last week, I wrote about state Sen. Bert Johnson's decision to challenge longtime U.S. Rep. John Conyers in next year's Democratic primary in the 13th District, which is primarily Detroit and western Wayne County.

Since then, state Sen. Glenn Anderson of Westland has also jumped into the race, and state Rep. Shanelle Jackson of Detroit is making noises about running. Anderson is white; the rest are African-American. This is a district that is about 56 percent black. 

But do the math. If there are three reasonably strong black candidates and only one white one, the odds have to favor the Anglo.

Much the same is the case in the 14th District, where two incumbents, Gary Peters and Hansen Clarke, are locked in a primary battle that will end one of their careers, at least for now.

Again, the district has a small black majority — but whites tend to turn out in greater numbers, putting Clarke clearly at risk. And now Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence is thinking about getting into the race. Lawrence, who is fresh from back-to-back defeats for county executive (2008) and lieutenant governor (2010) might be advised to lay low for awhile, lest she get tagged as a three-time loser.

If she does get in the race, however — and maybe even if she doesn't — it seems entirely possible that Clarke could lose. Michigan has had two black congressmen since 1965. But it is easily imaginable that as a result of redistricting, that the number of minority representatives we send to Washington could soon be zero.


... and speaking of corruption:. We've become so blasé that most of us barely blinked when Matty Moroun managed to buy enough legislators to prevent the badly needed new Detroit River bridge from even coming up for a vote.

Remember these names: state Senators Mike Kowall, Mike Nofs, and Geoff Hansen, all Republicans. These are political scum — there is no more appropriate word for it — who took what amounted to legal bribes from Moroun, and refused to allow a bridge to be built that would have cost taxpayers nothing and created 10,000 jobs.

Plus, it also would have made us competitive in the future, and got the state more than $2 billion in federal highway funds. These people sold you out for a few thousand dollars. They should be horsewhipped, impeached and driven out of town.

But, hey! I forgot. That's the free enterprise way. Incidentally, a couple Democrats, one of whom also took money from Moroun, also pulled the rug out from under us by not voting at the last moment.

I'll have more on this, and on them, in a future episode of our long-running series on the Death of our State's Economy.

More by Jack Lessenberry

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