It’s hard to know how to react to the apparently escalating protests on Wall Street.
On the one hand, you can just roll your eyes. The numbers aren’t very big, especially for New York, and every generation has its “useful idiots.” I’ve been one myself. The demonstrations appear to be just another float passing by in the grand media parade.
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On the other, however, we live in incendiary times, with our country — indeed, the world — hanging by fingers over an economic precipice. Almost anything can happen. In fact, strike the “almost.”
That’s why the situation is particularly volatile. And it’s not reassuring that the protestors, most of them anyway, seem to have no specific ideology. Some people, notably Glenn Beck, are calling this vagueness deliberate; a ruse after which the protest will show its true (red) colors. And indeed none other than Frances Fox Piven of Cloward-Piven fame has registered her excitement over the demonstrations.
Cloward-Piven, some readers may recall, is the strategy calling for the overloading of the U.S. welfare systems in order to bring down the state and replace it with a putative socialist utopia. Given our times, that could happen all by itself, without the prodding of demonstrations.
Of course, that socialist utopia would contain within it the seeds of something drastically worse, both economically and socially. But that doesn’t seem to bother the usual suspects at Moveon.org, etc., whose ideological allegiance to the 1930s remains intact and who are now, according to Forbes, moving heavily into the Wall Street situation, simultaneously planning a “virtual march.” (If your Internet connection slows down, you’ll know whom to blame.)
An additional factor in all this is something I might call “Tahrir Envy.” Misbegotten — in fact, in most ways disastrous — as they were, the demonstrations in Cairo’s main square have caught the fancy of the world’s youth. They want to be part of it, even to the extent that vast numbers of Israelis (actually dwarfing the Wall Street demonstrations even though drawing on a far smaller population) have camped out in the streets of Tel Aviv, seeking their version of economic justice — all this with Israel one of the few developed countries relatively unaffected by the economic downturn.
“Tahrir Envy,” indeed. Everyone wants to be part of the show, and the insatiable media needs a subject. Factor in too something that might be called “Tea Party Envy.” The left, historically the ones making the noise, were shocked, appalled and, yes, envious of the tea party being the prime focus of attention over the last couple of years. They yelled and screamed imbecilically of racism, and now they have a demonstration of their own. (They won’t stop them from screaming racism, of course.)
Where will this all lead? In the short term, I’m betting on the good sense of the American people, who will ignore the demonstrators while evicting the current president in November 2012.
But that’s only in the short term. Without a miraculous economic turnaround (emphasis on the miraculous), a President Romney, President Perry or even a President Cain is going to have hell on his hands the day he enters the White House. We are in the land of “be careful what you wish for.” Or, to employ another cliche, the Chinese curse about living in interesting times could not be more accurate.
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