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Monday, October 24, 2011

Lora Lucero: Open Letters to Democrats and Republicans on Occupy Wall Street (OWS)

32572_1490148059567_1409943325_31274466_3382950_nThis is a guest blog by Lora Lucero, a long-time resident of Albuquerque, NM, an adjunct professor of law at UNM and the Natural Resources Director for the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.

Open Letter to Democrats
As a fellow Democrat, I “get” your enthusiasm for the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and the protesters gathering in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos and Las Cruces. These young people, old people, veterans, union members and others are putting their bodies on the line and their voices to the bull horns for many of the same values that the Democratic Party considers its bedrock principles. I don’t speak for the OWS but we’ve all heard that their demands include social and economic justice for all Americans, accountability from Wall Street for the mess it has created and reining in the influence of corporations, lobbyists and money in our elections. 

We may not be able to camp out and sleep on the ground with them, but we certainly want to show our support and align ourselves with the OWS energy. A couple of examples of Democrats supporting the OWS this week, however, raised alarm bells for me.

The UNM Teach-In at the Student Union Building presented good speakers all week on topics of interest to the OWS movement. I attended one day and heard a CNM professor talk about the history of protest movements and the importance of organizing strategically to grow the OWS movement. He then urged the OWS protesters sitting in the audience to redirect their energy into electoral politics, and specifically urged them to support a specific Democratic candidate running for Congress in CD-1. I cringed when I heard this, even though I personally support his candidate.  

The second “cringe” moment occurred this weekend when I heard that Democrats were going to march with the OWS and carry their Democratic Party banner. Ouch!  

Let’s be frank. The 99% (as the OWS protesters call themselves) have a lot of work to do to grow the OWS movement. They need our support and active participation. Every Democrat should attend at least one Assembly meeting at Yale Park next to the UNM Campus Bookstore.   

Truthfully, however, the OWS movement would not have captured as much of the popular outrage among Americans if the Democratic Party had been true to its bedrock principles over the past twenty years. Many Democrats see very little difference between the political parties. Young people even question the wisdom of voting --- and I don’t blame them.

The Democratic Party has failed the 99% and should acknowledge its failure. I don’t believe we have much to teach these OWS folks, but we can certainly learn alot. Having spent hours watching and listening during their Assembly meetings, I know these young people have wisdom beyond their years.  

Please don’t misunderstand me. I encourage people of every stripe to actively engage with the OWS movement, but let's do so humbly and with respect, as individuals who identify with the hopes and aspirations of the 99%. Individuals can support the OWS by:

  1. Donating pizzas and eats 
  2. Donating warm clothing and bedding
  3. Donating supplies for signs, bullhorns, flashlights, etc.
  4. Attending Assembly meetings and actions as individuals
  5. Increasing the OWS visibility in the community by writing letters to the Editor, talking to neighbors and putting up a 99% sign in your yard.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has a lot of work to do to regain the faithful, perhaps the subject of another letter. But please don’t try to turn the OWS movement into a partisan movement. It isn’t and it won’t be. As one OWS leader said at the UNM Teach-In last week in response to the discussion about organizing: “It is complex when we have such a diverse group. We need to speak about our commonalities, but also acknowledge the differences and respect how we see the world differently.”

Open Letter to Republicans:
As a life-long registered Democrat, I don’t “get” you but many friends and family members are registered Republicans, and so I want to extend an invitation.  

Please check out the Occupied Wall Street (OWS) movement in your town. When you hear protesters shouting “We are the 99%” --- please know that they are building a movement big enough for everyone.  We may have very different ideas about how to fix things, but I suspect we can find agreement on what is broken.  

The growing income disparity in this country impacts us all. The lack of accountability by our government and corporate America should alarm everyone. The diminishing prospects for my granddaughter’s future are shared with your grandchildren. 

We don’t have to agree on everything, we just need to listen respectfully. That is exactly what I have seen at every OWS meeting that I have attended. 

People with divergent views and opinions come together to share, discuss, hash out and decide together what direction to take. I was stunned and thrilled when a middle-aged, self-identified Tea Party person attended and shared her ideas with the OWS folks. They listened to her deeply and with respect. She was heard and could see for herself how her words were influencing the group.

This is a watershed moment and we’re lucky to be alive to witness it. Let’s not be mere observers though.

This is a guest blog by Lora Lucero. To submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

October 24, 2011 at 03:31 PM in Democratic Party, Guest Blogger, Occupy Wall Street (Everywhere), Republican Party | Permalink

Comments

You couldn't be more wrong.

This is a two party country. Either the Democratic party or the Republican party will control the branches of government. The only question is which of the two parties will win, and what that party's policies will be.

The Republican party has been clear and forthright in its goals and aims: make the rich richer, no matter how many poor and middle class people you have to drive into penury to accomplish that goal. Most Americans are getting screwed, in what used to be called an unnatural orifice, without benefit of lube.

The guys in the castle on top of the hill have created a monster. Either the rest of us get the (strictly metaphorical!!) pitchforks and flaming torches, or we're going to be lunch for the monster.

Either the Democratic party embraces the people with the torches and pitchforks, and gets in front, and leads us all in our assault on the castle, or we've given up our democracy. Right now we've got the party of the rich and selfish, opposed by the party of the timid and the compromisers.

It's too late for reasonable accommodation and dispassionate compromise. We've tried that for too many years, and it's gotten us an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, a policy of killing American citizens without any due process, and the Republican health care plan from 1993. If these were still the days of Nelson Rockefeller you'd have a tenable position, but they aren't, and you don't. Your position, as John Yoo (or was it Addington? they all look alike to me) is, in these modern times, merely quaint.

The DPNM has been utterly worthless. People have argued with deep conviction about paltforms and policies, to absolutely no effect. Candidates don't care about the party, voters have allegience only to candidates (if anyone) and politics looks like a mob of Democratic Saxons with spears running into a phalanx of Republican Romans with bronze swords.

So I'm glad the party was there showing its banner. If the party keeps doing that, I might actually support the party rather than being merely a registered member. Now is the time for Democratic candidates to actually stand with the protesters in the literal sense of actually showing up and standing in public, rather than merely the rhetorical sense of issuing press releases saying that they stand with the (ill-defined) goals. As someone else might have said, you're either with the protesters, or you're with the Republicans - and you go into an election with the opposition you have, not the reasonable and rational loyal opposition you wish you had.

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Oct 24, 2011 5:02:02 PM

We might both agree that the DPNM needs to organize and get people out to vote. But the DPNM will not lead this parade because 1) the parade is non-partisan, 2) the parade is larger than any political party, and 3) the strength of this parade is that it may truly represent the 99%. That's not just a catchy slogan.

I want to see Republicans, Tea Partiers, Greens, and even witches and goblins join this movement. And I think this people's movement can represent them all -- not just the Democrats. But it will require a new way of listening. Fortunately, these young people occupying our cities and towns know how to listen to all. Direct democracy is a wonderful thing to behold.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Oct 24, 2011 10:37:58 PM

"Direct democracy is a wonderful thing to behold. "

What direct democracy? What democracy, for that matter? The people protesting, along with most of the people in this country, have absolutely no voice, no say, no power in the governance of this country. Direct theater, yes, but theater is not democracy; -cracy means 'rule by', and we're certainly not seeing rule by those people.

How can you possibly claim that these protests are "non-partisan"? That's nonsense.

The demand is for justice. Economic justice in particular. That's certainly something that the Republican party has opposed with every power at its disposal. Either the Democratic party embraces and re-affirms its traditional support for justice, or the Democratic party has no principles whatsoever.

The Democratic party traditionally has been the party to support justice for organized labor, justice and safe working conditions for unorganized labor, fair and just treatment of the disadvantaged and minorities. The Great Society, please remember, was a Democratic initiative.

Listening is wonderful. Really, let's all have a nice sing-song and listen. But either we insist on a legal, economic, and social system that delivers justice for everyone, or we're sunk.

The DPNM doesn't need to organize and get its people out to vote - the DPNM needs to actually act in support of justice.

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Oct 24, 2011 11:12:01 PM

Michael:

The DPNM needs to do both IMHO. Elected Dems need to act in a manner consistent with the best ideals of economic and social justice, AND they must also organize to get out the vote.

If you personally support the Occupy Wall Street movement and the (Un)Occupy Albuquerque folks, I urge you to take action TODAY.

The UNM Administration is threatening to evict them from campus today. Come to Yale Park near the UNM Bookstore to stand in solidarity with them at 9:00 AM (or anytime throughout the day).

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Oct 25, 2011 7:34:53 AM

The faux liberal reformers, whose abject failure to stand up for the rights of the poor and the working class, have signed on to this movement because they fear becoming irrelevant. - Chris Hedges
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/a_movement_too_big_to_fail_20111017/

Posted by: David | Oct 25, 2011 11:15:25 AM

Lora:

What does your statement "Elected Dems need to act in a manner consistent with the best ideals of economic and social justice," mean?

Apparently it doesn't mean 'get out and actually stand with the people demanding justice, get your supporters and your money and your power behind the demand for justice.' Apparently for Democratic politicians in NM today it means 'have your campaign issue a press release without interrupting your schedule of fundraising events.'

I think Chris Hedges, supra, has a point. The Democratic party has become merely the more angst afflicted branch of the party of unrestrained personal selfishness. We're for lower taxes, cutting entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security, ending our invasions of foreign countries with all deliberate speed, and then feeling vaguely guilty about it.

If the Democratic party, and Democrats in office or seeking office, won't join the fight for justice, why on earth should I ever support another Democratic candidate?

The Democratic Party is the only organizational structure available that has even a snowball's chance of delivering justice. Third parties will always fail. If you're not willing to help the Democratic Party deliver justice, you're with the Republicans.

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Oct 25, 2011 12:50:28 PM

Why rubber stamp either corporate party?

Posted by: David | Oct 25, 2011 1:15:39 PM

"Why rubber stamp either corporate party? "

No third party has any chance of actually winning political powewr in this country. Weve seen John Andrson, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader2000, the Greens, and others now forgotten, and not one has actualy won enough elected officed to make much of a difference.

That leaves people with three choices:
1. Stay home, and buy the lube you're gonna need;
2. Capture one of the major political parties;
3. Emigrate to some civilized country, if they'll have you.

Lora apparently doesn't think that justice - particularly economic justice - is a political issue.

I do, and the only path I see that leads to legal change goes through one of the major parties. I think the path through the Democratic party is slightly easier.

You don't need to pay for an Accu-weather (tm) meteorologist to know which way the wind blows. Either we can take hold of the reins of political power - and I think that can only happen through taking control of the Democratic party - or we're trampled into bloody gore.

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Oct 25, 2011 4:24:26 PM

The NMDP, the grassroots/active members elected to precinct, ward and central committee posts across the state are largely progressive. Yet, these are not the people who "run" the party.

The party platform is largely irrelevant to candidates who may or may not stand for what the grassroots stand for, and the party cannot enforce a "party line" because the party cannot raise funds to compete with the private fund raising that must be done by individual campaigns to be "competitive" in today's political climate.

I believe Michael has a point that if a candidate does not get out and support #OWS, then there is a disconnect between the campaign and the people. It is a cause that any true Democrat should support, IMO.

But the #Occupation may not welcome candidates as much as they welcome the citizen who also is a candidate. I think there should be understanding about that.

Posted by: bg | Oct 25, 2011 4:53:42 PM

Let me ask you this Lora. How many Teaparty affiliates have you encountered at these protests?
OWS has issued a declaration and believe you me, it is an anathema to the extremely well funded radical Right that has over taken a noisy 30% of the electorate and more than half of the government. The declaration is even to the extremely uncomfortable left of our mainstream Democratic politicians.
Consider that Obama spent his term in office trying to get along with Republicans only to earn disrespect on both the left and the right. Being a wishy washy movement will likewise earn disdain.
OWS should be associated with the Democrats and welcome Democratic support whole-heartedly and so emulate the Teaparty becoming a juggernaut force to contend with in the Democratic party. OWS, like the Teaparty should be demanding and enforcing ideological purity along the guidelines of the declaration... or else. OWS should be forcefully demanding a government of socio-economic justice and eco-justice purging our politicians, government agencies and our justice system of those that compromise the well-being of the working citizens and the environment for the sake of greed and profit.
How far down does this nation have to go before we have our much needed swing towards socio-economic and eco-justice? If we dither too long, the working class of the nation will erupt and our options for peaceful revolution will narrow.
Right now, the only option for peaceful change towards socio-economic and eco-justice IS TO TAKE OVER THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
So, stop fooling around because I am one of the 99% and I am scared out of my wits just making ends meet every month and anxiously worried about where we will go and how we will maintain our dignity like most Americans these days.

Posted by: qofdisks | Oct 26, 2011 7:29:42 AM

Volcker, Amy Goodman and Chris Hedges talk about OWS.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/292982/charlie-rose-paul-volcker-a-discussion-about-occupy-wall-street?src=h&kme=Link+Html+Queue#play-queue

Posted by: qofdisks | Oct 27, 2011 1:33:35 AM