Save 75% - Only $49.99 for 1 full year! digitalPLUS subscription offer ends 12/1
NewsOpinionOp-Eds

Occupy Wall Street: The revolution will be puppeted

ElectionsBusinessOccupy Wall StreetDemocratic PartyBooker T. WashingtonBarack Obama

Earlier this month, the left-wing magazine The Nation highlighted Joe Therrien as a symbol of the Occupy Wall Street movement. A New York City public-school drama teacher, Therrien was frustrated with the shortcomings of the school system. So he quit his job and "set off to the University of Connecticut to get an MFA in his passion -- puppetry." Three years and $35,000 in student-loan debt later, Therrien returned home, only to find he couldn't land a full-time job. Apparently, a master's in puppetry doesn't provide the competitive edge in the marketplace he'd hoped for.

Mr. Therrien joined Occupy Wall Street, constructing giant puppets and "figuring out how to make theater that's going to help open people up to this new cultural consciousness. It's what I'm driven to do right now."

I think I speak for everyone when I say: Good luck with that.

One other thing: He may not realize it, but Joe the Puppeteer may be for Democrats what Joe the Plumber was for the GOP. (Joe "the plumber" Wurzelbacher was the Ohio man who confronted candidate Barack Obama about raising taxes on small business.)

Thomas Edsall writes in the New York Times that the Democrats have made a fateful decision: "All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up ... of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment -- professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists -- and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic."

After decades of trying, the white working class is now "an unattainable cohort," according to Mr. Edsall and a slew of Democratic strategists.

The most common explanation for this failure is a self-serving and mossy tale about a racial backlash. The most recent version holds that the "tea parties," which are about as white as the Occupy Wall Street movement, amount to a bigoted reaction to a black president. Never mind that the leading tea party contender for the GOP nomination is Herman Cain.

In a less charged environment, the differences between Messrs. Obama and Cain would be seen as a continuation of the great philosophical rivalry between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Du Bois, a socialist intellectual, favored promoting a "talented tenth" -- a black progressive elite focused on state-run, top-down reforms -- while Washington preached self-help and entrepreneurialism from the bottom up.

Today's Democratic Party has an ingrained cultural aversion to the Booker T. Washington school. Liberal elites see themselves as a multiracial talented tenth, planning the economy and guiding society. In power, they lavish support on fashionable but unproductive sectors of the economy, such as green-energy boondoggles, and they buy off big constituencies invested in ever larger government such as public-sector unions, the "helping professions" and even too-big-too-fail businesses.

Their arguments sound economic and empirical, but ultimately they're cultural in nature. The upscale white professionals the Democrats are courting disproportionately share a cultural affinity for government and faith that statist interventions are for your own good. They also believe government needs to help people succeed -- or escape -- the rat race of the private sector. (Remember Michelle Obama's advice to working-class women? "Don't go into corporate America. ... Become teachers. Work for the community.") In his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic convention, President Obama mocked the Booker T. Washington concept of self-reliance: "In Washington, they call this the ownership society, but what it really means is, you're on your own."

Later, Rep. Nancy Pelosi sold health-care reform as a "jobs bill" because "if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent ... your aspirations because you will have health care," she explained as if speaking straight to Joe the Puppeteer. "You won't have to be job-locked."

That might be a compelling message to the white left represented at Occupy protests. The question is whether it sounds condescending or aloof to the rest of the Democratic coalition that wouldn't mind being "job-locked" right now.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. His email is JonahsColumn@aol.com. Twitter: @JonahNRO.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
ElectionsBusinessOccupy Wall StreetDemocratic PartyBooker T. WashingtonBarack Obama
  • Occupy detractors must feel threatened

    Columnist Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has certainly written quite a flamboyant article regarding the Occupy movement ("Occupy movement got America wrong," Sept. 23). In it, he states a disconnect between them and the so-called "middle class," a catch-all term he uses to project his own identity. Most...

  • The importance of Occupy

    The Occupy Wall Street movement was created to make people aware of issues that aren't usually discussed in the mainstream corporate media: the greed of the powerful, the destruction of the environment, violence against women and gays and the perpetual war waged for oil and other resources,...

  • Ehrlich carries 1 percent's water

    In his recent column ("'Occupy movement got America wrong," Sept. 23), Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. illustrates the denial of economic reality in America that is continually propagated by the 1 percent. At the heart of his argument is the idea that the American Dream is alive and well, the happy...

  • 'Occupy' is gone? We'll see in November

    Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column about the first anniversary of the Occupy movement betrays a hubris, a willful stupidity, and the usual threadbare deceptions ("Occupy movement got America wrong," Sept. 23). Such are the building blocks of the corrupt edifice that Occupy seeks to dismantle.

  • Occupy movement got it right

    Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column on the Occupy movement summed up the us vs. them Republican party platform (Occupy movement got America wrong," Sept. 23).

  • Conservatives see media bias no matter the facts

    The usual whining from the extreme right about media bias is evident in a recent letter from Stephen Sewell ("Sun lavishes attention on 'Occupy,' ignores tea party," Sept. 24). The writer is long on allegations and short on facts.

Comments
Loading