Occupy a Political Party
Last Wednesday, I shared my concerns for the sustainability of the Occupy movement as we see it now – without an agenda, a strategic plan, or a leadership structure. I suggested that an agenda be built around the demands suggested by Roger Ingalls.
This past weekend, I suggested to a friend of mine that the biggest challenge should possibly be bringing the Occupy moment, with its agenda and values, into the Democratic Party.
He strongly protested. “Barack Obama has failed us,” he said. “The democratic leadership is part of the 1%,” he declared. “Once we join the system, we will be compromised and become a part of it.”
I tried to take him to task. I don’t believe Barack Obama failed us, I think we failed him. We created a mass grassroots movement to sweep him into office. We cried with pride at his inauguration, and then we went out for sushi and two years later, the Republicans were in a position to block everything the President had talked about during the heady campaign days.
Why did we let up? What on earth made us think that one man could change Washington? Where did we find the arrogance to think that the Republican machine would simply roll over and lick its wounds in silence?
As we celebrated the amazing Change We Can Believe In, and told ourselves that Yes We Did, the Republicans were plotting how to fight back. I don’t blame them; we would have done the same, no?
Whatever you might think of the Tea Party, they have galvanized the Republican Party. Whether this is good or bad, might be highlighted by who becomes the Republican presidential candidate. Actually it might be bad no matter who is voted in, depending on your political perspective. But for the Republican masses, they want the Tea Party behind the candidate, because these are engaged and empowered people.
So where do we take the Occupy movement? We take it into the Democratic Party and we decide not to hand over the keys. We become empowered partners who work not only for four more years of the most visionary and intelligent President that most of us can remember, but we fight on to give him a Congress that will work with him and not against him.
There are those in the Occupy movement who will have trouble with this. They have worked hard to create a momentum based upon commitment and values, rather than power and ego. But their biggest test will be to continue to deny their own power aspirations and ego without getting disillusioned by entering mainstream politics.
This is a win: win for everyone who believes in a left or liberal agenda. For the Democratic Party to do this, they need an army of grassroots activists who are feeling empowered despite the blows rained down on us from Wall Street and big banks. They need the energy of the Occupy movement and the Occupy Movement needs a political party to let our President do what he set out to achieve.
Most of all, this is what America needs. It is what a sinking Europe and a poverty-stricken Africa needs. It is what those seeking to throw off the chains of autocracy and fanaticism need.
A strong, democratic, and moral democracy must emerge for the world. And it can begin with the next step that the Occupy movement takes. I hope they are willing to take that first step. And I hope the Democratic Party has a strategic understanding that they must welcome a new generation into their hallowed halls.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).