Many say the current presidential race is the most uncivilized in modern American history. Civility in public discourse, why it seems to have hit a new low and long-term implications for the democratic process.
A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll has revealed that more people support the Occupy Wall Street movement than the Tea Party. The spark for the movement came from “Adbusters” – an anti-consumerism magazine based in Vancouver. It proposed an “occupation” of Wall Street on September 17, 2011. The idea caught fire. Since the first protest, “occupy” movements have sprung up in across the country from Seattle to El Paso,Texas. The movement has been accused of being a “mob” and a front for special interests. But progressive politicians are increasingly trying to harness the movement’s support. Join us to discuss the appeal of the movement and its impact on American politics.
- Corryn Freeman volunteer, Occupy DC/K Street
- Joshua volunteer, Occupy Chicago
- Michele Pendergast volunteer, Occupy San Francisco
- Jonathan Smucker volunteer, Occupy Wall Street
- Ken Vogel chief investigative reporter, POLITICO
- Jim Tankersley reporter, National Journal
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When Occupy Wall Street began a little over a month ago, public opinion was largely hostile to the protesters. But in that brief time, interest in and support for the movement has surged. Joining me to talk about whether the movement has the capacity to endure into the next month and even next year, here in studio, Ken Vogel of Politico and Jim Tankersley of the National Journal.
MS. DIANE REHMWe'll also be joined by Occupy Wall Street volunteers Jonathan Smucker in New York -- he'll be on the line with us the entire hour -- Joshua in Chicago, Michele Pendergast in San Francisco and Corryn Freeman here in Washington, D.C. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook, or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MR. KEN VOGELHey, it's a great pleasure to be with you, Diane.
MR. JIM TANKERSLEYGood morning.
REHMGood to have you with us. And let me start with you, Jim Tankersley, because I know you recently visited Zuccotti Park in New York, where the Occupy Wall Street movement is camping. Lots of people have suggested the movement is nothing more than a bunch of college dropouts, hippies and homeless people. What did you find?
TANKERSLEYWell, I found that it's the opposite of that. I mean, there are certainly a large contingent of college students or unemployed people, but it's -- what the movement is in Zuccotti Park and is spreading across the country really feels like a start of a conversation. Zuccotti Park is almost like a big street fair through which regular New Yorkers stream to talk to folks, to read -- they have a whole political lending library -- to listen to the drum circle that just beats on and on and on.
TANKERSLEYAnd what comes out of it is people come back, and then they come back again. And it's growing. They see it as a place in which their voices can be heard. These are folks who are frustrated that the system is not hearing them.
REHMAnd turning to you, Ken Vogel, we have a recent Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll that suggests the movement is now more popular than the Tea Party. Why is this happening, do you think?
VOGELWell, it's happening because there is a great and deep strain of anti-establishment feeling in America at this point. We've had this for quite a few years since, really, the tail end of the Bush administration when public opinion was turning very strongly against the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, the downturn in the economy, the bailouts of the banks, which, let's not forget, started under Bush.
VOGELIt's the reason why Barack Obama was elected. He tapped into that anti-establishment feeling with his hope and change message expertly, and he rode it to the White House. It's also the reason why the Tea Party rose up in opposition to Barack Obama and what they saw as unchecked spending by his administration and, again, to -- by the Bush administration as well. Now, you have Barack Obama and the Democrats as the establishment, and there is yet another anti-establishment moving that is gaining steam in this Occupy movement. And it is the newest and the latest anti-establishment movement.
VOGELIt only stands to reason that voters, people, more generally, would view it if not favorably, at least with mixed emotions, much like they did with the Tea Party when it first rose up. And if you remember, the Tea Party also was very popular in polls early on when it was sort of amorphous with Republicans, Democrats and independents, arguably even more popular than we're seeing the Occupy movement today.
REHMSo, Jim Tankersley, how alike, how similar, or how different are the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements?
TANKERSLEYWell, I think Ken is right in that they definitely share a frustration with the establishment and a frustration with the sense of the direction of the country with an idea that opportunity has ceased to be as bright and powerful for people like them as it was in the past, where they are very, very different, first off, in the objects of their frustration. You know, Occupy Wall Street is frustrated at the financial system and, in general, at Wall Street. Tea Party, in general, frustrated at government.
TANKERSLEYBut more so, the Tea Party really had the feelings of something that was going to turn into and did turn into a political movement. Occupy Wall Street doesn't feel like that. You don't get the sense they're going to run a slate of candidates anytime soon. It feels, instead, more like a movement trying to change the conversation from the outside as opposed to from the inside.
REHMAnd turning to you now, Jonathan Smucker, you're a volunteer at Occupy Wall Street. You tell us and me and our audience what your specific goals are.
MR. JONATHAN SMUCKERI think if you talk to a lot of different folks at the park or at any of the occupations across the country or any of the support actions across the country, you're going to get a lot of different opinions. And I would echo whoever it was who said that this is really a civic space. This is the start of a conversation. And, I think, more than the start of a conversation, it's the start of a demand. It's the start of pressure to do something about how out of control the consolidation of wealth and power has become in the society.
MR. JONATHAN SMUCKERWe're at a breaking point. We're at a breaking point with our civic institutions, with people's dreams about their future, about the deal that people -- Americans have counted on for years. And so I think you have a lot of different ways of articulating what the goal is. To me, though, this is a social movement. And the role of a social movement, historically, is to create pressure in a direction and to change the conversation, to change the national narrative. And I think this has done remarkably well in the past month of changing the narrative.
MR. JONATHAN SMUCKERPolicymakers, folks on Wall Street, the conversation about what's going on in our economy, what's going on in our democracy has changed radically in a very short time because of this really audacious action.
REHMJonathan, tell us just a little about yourself, how and why you got involved.
SMUCKERYeah, sure. Well, I live in Providence, R.I. I'm actually from a small rural area in rural Pennsylvania originally. And, to be honest, I was very skeptical of this when I first heard about it. I heard about it a little bit before it started. And then, even up until a week-and-a-half after it started, I thought, you know, this just looks like the usual suspects, and I was doubtful. And the staying power of this really eventually moved me, and I thought to myself, you know, these folks have picked the right target.
SMUCKERThey are at the doorstep of the culprit of the problems that we're facing, the economic crises, the democratic crisis that we're facing. They've stayed with it. And if I sit here waiting forever for the perfect movement, the perfect expression of how I feel, I'm going to wait forever. History is going to pass me by, and I thought, you know, I got to get down there. I got to see if I can lend a hand because this seems like it. That seems like the symbol that a lot of us have been waiting for, folks who are willing to stand up at the doorstep of Wall Street and say enough is enough.
REHMTell me how you are feeding yourself, how you are bathing, how are you, you know, just keeping up with the ordinary day-to-day aspects of life?
SMUCKERSure. Well, I have to admit that I am maybe not as committed as everybody there. I haven't been sleeping there. I have a problem with insomnia as it is, and I've been working a lot to help out. So I've been staying with some friends on the couch, but, you know, there's working groups. It's amazing. I heard last -- there are so many pieces in motion, it's hard to keep track. But I heard that there's 50 working groups just at Liberty Square that are...
REHMGive me an example.
SMUCKERYeah. So food, you know, there's food being served all the times so that people who are there can eat without having to continue to dish out a lot of money. There is support pouring in from all over the country. It's amazing. There's a site -- something like care packages from America. I forget what it's called. It's a Tumblr that shows some of the letters of support we've been getting. So people are sending pizzas. They're sending support. They're sending clothing.
SMUCKERSo there's a lot of support that folks are getting, and I think that shows the breadth of this movement. I think it's wrong to look at the park and say, this is where the movement is. This movement has struck a chord, and people are looking and resonating with it from across the country.
REHMIs the movement, in your view, looking ahead to 2012?
SMUCKERI -- you know what? I can speak for myself. I'm looking ahead to 2021. I'm looking ahead 10 years from now. I want to look back on this moment 10 years from now. I want most Americans to look back on this moment 10 years from now and think, this was the beginning of America rediscovering its conscience, its sense of collective action, its sense of collective purpose, its sense of we can do things together. We don't have to be resigned. I want to look back 10 years from now and think this was the beginning of a movement for economic justice and democratic participation.
REHMIsn't there some risks that you could actually drive support away from President Obama who came in -- let's face it -- with the same ideals as you have professed? What do you do then?
SMUCKERWell, I would challenge President Obama and anyone in office that, if they're worried about us being a threat -- a social movement being a threat, well, then they need to deliver. They need to fight harder for us. They need to get some things done. It's not -- in my opinion, it's not the role of social movements, at least in this stage of the game, to be worried about what the politicians do. It's our job to change the dialogue in the country, to show that people are fed up, and, you know, it's going to be -- there's going to be a huge burden if this movement gains momentum as -- if it continues to.
SMUCKERThere's going to be a burden on politicians to be serious about these issues if they want to maintain any validity....
SMUCKER...and if they want to maintain office.
REHM...Ken Vogel, do you want to comment?
VOGELYeah, I do. It's interesting to hear both Jim say that the Tea Party did not have the feel of an electoral movement -- or rather did have the feel of an electoral movement from the beginning. You could tell that they were going to channel their energies into politics. And also to hear Jonathan say that he's looking forward to 2021, he wants to affect the dialogue, this is very similar to the exact talk that you heard from the Tea Party movement.
REHMShort break. Right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the Occupy Wall Street movement. We have two reporters here in the studio: Ken Vogel of POLITICO, Jim Tankersley of National Journal. On the line with us for the entire hour is Jonathan Smucker. He's a volunteer for Occupy Wall Street in New York. He joins us from the NPR studio there. In just a few moments, we'll hear from other volunteers at Occupy Wall Street in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Ken Vogel, just before the break, you were talking about the beginnings of this movement and how it could evolve.
VOGELThat's right. Much like the Tea Party movement, there was a very vigorous debate early on about whether to exclusively focus on issues shaping the debate in much the way that you hear Jonathan in New York with the Occupy folks talking about shaping the debate, going beyond an election cycle, going to 2021 as opposed to looking exclusively at 2012. That was the debate that we heard in a Tea Party movement. And, in fact, there was opposition within the Tea Party movement early on to weighing in electoral politics, endorsing candidates, raising money, airing ads.
VOGELThis type of stuff that we commonly associate with politics was regarded as sort of a corrupt vestige of the establishment political system, and so there were folks who wanted to stay away from it. Eventually, though, there was the realization after some debate that in order to truly sustain the movement and its goals and to advance its goals, there was the need to get involved in electoral politics. And you saw the results of that very vividly in the 2010 mid-term elections when, arguably, the energy behind the Tea Party movement, if not the movement itself, swung the election to Republicans.
REHMIs that a possibility here, Jim Tankersley?
TANKERSLEYI think it's more likely that what you're going to see is a longer version of that, if you see it at all. What the Occupy protestors who I talked to in New York said over and over again was how disillusioned they feel with the process and how they just don't feel like anyone listens to them in Washington. Why would you work within a system, which, in their view, only communicates to people with money?
TANKERSLEYAnd they believe they stand for, you know, the 99 percent of Americans who aren't big donors, who don't make a lot money and who aren't getting their voices heard in Washington, so, until they can change the system to get those voices heard, they don't see a lot of point in working within it.
REHMAnd joining us now is Joshua. He is a volunteer with Occupy Wall Street. Good morning to you.
REHMJoshua, tell me what your own aims are, how you got involved in Occupy Chicago.
JOSHUAI became Occupy -- involved in Occupy Chicago -- just over the years, I became very frustrated and disillusioned by the influence that those who have more, you know, money or more political power, more economic power had over the political process. It became very frustrating because, I mean, we've been talking to our kids that this country was meant to represent the people, to represent those who elect and have the elected represent them.
JOSHUASomething went very wrong, and we began to see signs in the economy with, you know, the 2008 crash. We saw, you know, recently, the instability of the market. You have the destabilization of the euro, and they're all connected globally. And it's almost the corporate corruption in the United States is beginning to spread outside of the United States.
REHMI gather that Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not been exactly a friend of the movement.
JOSHUAThere have been a lot of problems involving Rahm Emanuel. He will not allow us to camp out in Grant Park. We've been evicted twice, leading to about 300-plus arrests. The Chicago Police Department has been, you know, fairly cooperative with us. However, Rahm Emanuel (unintelligible) the orders to not let us stay. We've been having to move our equipment around because we're not allowed to have a permanent encampment. So our entire base camp is mobile at the moment.
REHMSo you have to move from one place to another because you keep getting evicted?
JOSHUAWell, we keep getting evicted from Grant Park. We have a -- Grant Park is closer to the more touristy areas of Chicago. However, our base operations are coming out from the Chicago financial district where we have all our food, and we have our, like, you know, posters and the drums and all the equipment, electronics. And those, we have to move around the intersection because, if they stay put too long, the police will, you know, take it away from us.
REHMJoshua, tell me a little about yourself, how you got involved.
JOSHUAI became involved when I had to stop by and began to speak to several people. I had -- I've been to Egypt. And I had been able to learn a lot from Egyptians and Egypt about ways to approach social media and ways to approach, you know, public relations. And I really felt that I can really bring a lot to the movement, so I was able to help out.
REHMYou're a college student?
JOSHUAI am in law school.
REHMYou're in law school. And what about the community around you? What kind of support do you see or not?
JOSHUAWe see massive amounts of support, actually. People drive by us honking. People stop by all the time to say, we support you, we stand with you, we're in solidarity with you. People have donated food to us. People donated blankets to us, donated, you know, basic necessities that's really, you know, let us know the community stands with us. It's actually an amazing display of solidarity within Chicago.
REHMAnd how many members do you think you have?
JOSHUAWe can range anything from 300 to -- we've seen up to 4,000 people.
REHMAnd, what, it picks up on weekends?
JOSHUAI've actually seen several thousand on a Monday afternoon -- Monday morning.
REHMHow long do you intend to stay there?
JOSHUAI intend to stay until legitimate political discussion within our government as to ways to better represent us and to reinstate democracy is started.
REHMHow would you define legitimate political discussion?
REHMHow would you define what you're asking for, legitimate political discussion?
JOSHUAWhen the politicians begin to ask questions and debate in the interest of, as what we say, the 99 percent. Currently, the debate and discussions going on Congress and, you know, among various interest groups and groups within the U.S. government, it's those who funded campaigns, those who hold political power, those who they used to work for, you know, previous corporations that many government officials used to work for.
JOSHUAAnd what we want to see is a move away from that. We want to see a move more towards, well, those who elected us have these issues. They have these problems. How can we address them?
REHMJoshua, thank you for joining us.
JOSHUAThank you so much.
REHMAnd turning to you, Jim Tankersley, you hear this -- I mean, how can a movement like this gain the kind of influence it's asking for?
TANKERSLEYWell, it's tricky, and there are different roots. One possibility is you ally yourself gradually over time with some established political forces. I mean, that's part of what happened with the Tea Party movement. Some big money came in then aligned itself with that. The most likely possibility that would be for the Occupy movement will be labor unions who they feel real solidarity with many of the protesters.
TANKERSLEYBut I think the more immediate and probably more lasting impression they can make is just what our two volunteers have been talking about in terms of changing the conversation. And think about -- just a few months ago, all that anyone in Washington was talking about was deficits. Now, you hear a lot about, you know, very broadly about inequality, and you're also hearing quite specifically about things like student loans. So there actually is a conversation shift. The question is, how enduring is that, and can you keep it up?
REHMWhat do think about that, Jonathan Smucker?
SMUCKERYeah, I mean, I think that there's going to be ups and downs. I mean, again, I take the 10-year approach here. I think that the economic conditions here in our country and the state of our democracy is structurally broken. It's going to take a long time to fix that. And I think those conditions are going to keep this movement growing. It may have ups and downs. The media may be declaring it dead sometime this winter, but I think we're going to continue to see waves of this over time.
SMUCKERI think the big difference between the Tea Party -- I don't think that the Tea Party and this are like a left-right kind of mirror image. I think that's wrongheaded to look at it that way. I mean, sure, it's legitimate to look at some parallels where people engage in a civic space, right? We have that in common. But I do think -- I would echo what Vogel said. The Tea Party did a good job of latching on to anger in the country. They did a very, very good job of that.
SMUCKERI think, though, that the emergence of what we're seeing right now -- one, we're seeing a much, much more diverse movement when you look in terms of race, in terms of youth involvement, in terms of class. There's been demographic studies -- I can't cite them right offhand -- of the Tea Party movement. And we're looking at a much, much more diverse movement, and a movement that's growing more diverse by the day. The NAACP just endorsed on Monday, and that's significant.
SMUCKERBut the thing I wanted to get at here is one huge difference between us and the Tea Party, this movement and the Tea Party -- when I say us, I mean a broad us -- is the Tea Party was unwilling to name economic factors. I mean, they kept looking at politicians in government as the only source of the problem. And we're looking at the inner section between government or elected officials and the influence of wealth and power and Wall Street and big banks. And that really is, in my opinion, the root of the problem.
SMUCKERI think most people feel that that's the root of the problem. So if the Tea Party was unwilling to name that, probably partially because of the backing of billionaires like the Koch brothers, I think, when a movement comes along that is willing to name that, I think it's going to resonate more with more people. And I think that's why you're seeing such favorability in polls for this movement.
REHMAll right. And, Ken Vogel, in Greece and Spain and elsewhere, you've got unions backing these movements. What about the relationship between the labor unions and Occupy Wall Street?
VOGELWell, it's significant, Diane. And, in fact, there was a debate within the union movement, within the labor movement, about whether to get involved, how to get involved. It's not that there is not a universal answer, but what we see in New York is some of the big unions actually getting involved and organizing the protesters, sending staffers down there, providing food, providing legal assistance.
VOGELAnd, basically, the labor movement is at a low ebb. The labor movement is looking for energy, and this is -- this makes sense to them. Not only does it align ideologically with many of the sort of core tenets of the labor movement over the last several decades, but, in fact, it's a way for them to infuse their movement, which has suffered some huge losses with anti-collective bargaining efforts in Wisconsin and other states to really reinvigorate itself. So it's a wise move by them, and it helps the Occupy movement.
REHMKen Vogel, he is chief investigative reporter for Politico. Jim Tankersley is at National Journal. On the line with us from New York is Jonathan Smucker, a volunteer for Occupy Wall Street. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And joining us now is Michele Pendergast. She is on the line with us from San Francisco. Good morning to you, Michele.
MS. MICHELE PENDERGASTGood morning, Diane.
REHMI gather right across from you in Oakland, police have arrested a number of protesters while trying to evict them. Can you tell us what happened?
PENDERGASTYes. So early Tuesday morning, Oakland Police used tear gas to evict Occupy Oakland protesters. Yesterday evening, around 4 p.m., Occupy Oakland protesters took to the streets to protest and to push for a re-establishment of their encampment, which is currently at -- or was currently at Oscar Grant Plaza. Police showed up once again, launched another assault of tear gas and rubber bullets. I hear that there were children, and there were disabled people within the crowd as well. It's quite a horrifying experience for everyone involved.
PENDERGASTBut the Occupiers are saying that they have a promise to reconvene every night at 6 p.m. until they are able to reoccupy their space.
REHMTell me what your particular group's aims are.
REHMCan you tell me what your particular group's aims are?
PENDERGASTWell, first, I would like to say that I don't speak on behalf of Occupy SF. I think that's one thing that's fairly consistent through every occupation, is that no one member represents their location. So we all speak on behalf of ourselves. I'm speaking on behalf of myself when I say this. Our aim really, I think, as far as I understand it at Occupy SF, is to start dialogue. I think that these occupations are pockets of consciousness that are popping up globally.
PENDERGASTSo these aren't merely protests. They're more so serving as learning communities where people that haven't been paying attention can come get the resources they need to make informed decisions about the economy and other failing institutions. So it's more about engaging that community dialogue that, I think, everyone else has been kind of saying this morning as well.
REHMThere's been a lot of talk about the 99 percent. Would you consider yourself part of that 99 percent?
PENDERGASTAbsolutely. If I can give a bit of background, I grew up in Durham, N.C., so I'm originally from the East Coast. I'm from the South. I come from poverty. I went to university on my own accord, believing that that would be the solution when, in fact, it kind of meant very little. So I moved out West to get involved in progressive, not necessarily liberal, but progressive conversations, got my first job in a nonprofit that I loved. I couldn't afford to live in the city. I got a for-profit job, and I wasn't fully satisfied and fulfilled with that.
PENDERGASTThe way I joined the movement was I joined a march with 10,000 other individuals in San Francisco. And then the very next day, I came for -- to participate and defend the camp against the police raid that occurred -- I believe it was last Monday morning, early in the morning. It's sort of like a repo man, the way they come out in the middle of the night. So, for me, it was more about making that decision. I could either continue living as an individual working in the system where I've got mine, I'm done, or I could work with my community to try to enact real social and economic change.
REHMAnd tell me what conditions are like there for you.
PENDERGASTThings are -- well, it's interesting. I can look at it from an outsider's point of view, from more of a practical point of view -- and, of course, there are always things that we could criticize. But I -- San Francisco, at least, is focused on pollution. So I see a lot of beauty when I see the community. I see a lot of diversity. I see a lot of problem-solving. I think that we're really focused on finding whatever this common thread is that ties us all together.
PENDERGASTAnd I honestly think that might be what's so confusing, ironically, for politicians, for city officials, is that they don't seem to understand what the movement is about. But, really, if you come down to camp and have a conversation with individuals, you'll know pretty quickly what it's about. It's about that dialogue. It's about getting conversation going. It's about awakening from this slumber of apathy.
PENDERGASTAnd so you see conservatives standing next to anarchists having an actual conversation. We previously did not have a space for this, and now we do. And now you can go into a cafe and have a conversation with somebody that doesn't look anything like you, and you can at least start a conversation, try to find what you do have in common, where you can go.
REHMMichele Pendergast, she's a volunteer at Occupy San Francisco. Thank you, Michele, for joining us.
REHMAnd short break. Right back.
REHMAnd we're going to open the phones. I know many of you want to know more, want to learn more about what this Occupy Wall Street movement actually is. Let's go first to Rockville, Md. Good morning, Peter. You're on the air.
PETERGood morning, Diane, and thank you for having this show on. I really -- I've been down to McPherson Square several times, and I really appreciate that they're getting more coverage in a venue like this. I wanted to comment on the -- some of the previous comments about the Tea Party versus Occupation. The first thing I want to say is echoing the diversity. As someone who's in his 50s, it strikes me as amazing, the un-self-conscious diversity that's down there. In my generation, we had to consciously invoke diversity.
PETERYou had to have affirmative action. You had to reach out. You had to think about it. It was always self-consciousness. Here, it's completely un-self-conscious. It's very different. And what I think is going on here is more than a political movement. It's a cultural movement. And the consequence of that is they're not just looking at electoral politics, looking beyond electoral politics about the society we live in, and they're building something that's going to endure.
REHMAll right. I wonder how you see that, Jim Tankersley.
TANKERSLEYWell, I mean, I certainly think that that's what I hear again and again from the folks of these occupations, that this is bigger than politics. This is bigger than just a political movement. I think one of the implications of that is -- and I've written about this a bit -- is that how do you then translate that so that your political leaders will listen? It is -- and I see this in a non-mocking way. It's very Taoist almost.
TANKERSLEYThe movement is the movement. But when you start talking about what the movement is, it's not the movement anymore. So this is -- how do you translate that to politicians who respond to money and sound bites?
REHMAnd, Jonathan Smucker, that's to you.
SMUCKERYeah, you know, I think the caller is right that it's not just a political movement. It is a cultural movement. And I would even say that it's a moral movement. And what I mean by that -- I mean, I was raised -- I'm 33 years old. I was raised to think that, as a society, we have a responsibility to take care of each other, to nurture each other, you know, even to always be looking for how to bring out the best in each other. And I think most Americans were raised to believe this.
SMUCKERSo what happened -- you know, we have had a real turning of that. We've had to indulge to the solution of somehow greed is good that we've heard over the past couple of decades, and that somehow we can have, you know, just straight-out selfishness, unmitigated in the economic realm, and that's not going to bleed into the fabric of our lives and our moral universe. So I think we have some folks saying, hey, actually, we want a society like that. And we're not faulting business folks who want to make money, right? That's fine.
SMUCKERBusiness folks should be able to make money. Small business people should be able to start something, make money. That's great, right, but there is a space we have to have as a culture to come together and say yes. But we also have to plan and take care of each other and make sure that the consolidation of wealth and power doesn't mean that the folks who have the most are also rigging the game for the future. And that's what's happening.
VOGELYeah, I mean, that is a message, a sort of social justice message that, in many ways, is consistent with traditional liberal democratic messages. And that's why, if there was a logical alignment for this movement within the partisan construct that drives our politics, it would be with the Democratic Party. And you see the Democratic Party, Democratic politicians, from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi on down grappling with to what extent they should embrace or encourage this movement because there are potential risks, and they're great.
VOGELNot only could the movement sort of veer off into incendiary rhetoric, which we've seen a little bit of already in small pieces from some of these protests, but, also, they could open themselves up to hypocrisy charges because they raised money from Wall Street and a lot of it. And it could hurt their ability to do that.
REHMLet's go to Albuquerque, N.M. Good morning, Alfred.
ALFREDHi, Diane. It's really great to be on. Thank you so much for taking my call.
ALFREDI just wanted to inform your listeners, along with Oakland and Atlanta, last night, the (Un) occupy Albuquerque protest was also evicted. We had roughly 300 people in our crowd, and about 30 of them were arrested. The rest of us were pushed to the sidewalk. We had one person that tried to rush the police lines and was tackled. When the rest of the protesters tried to go in and pull him back, they were all pepper sprayed. I don't really know exactly what the plan is yet 'cause I had to leave a little earlier than most everyone else.
REHMDo you, I wonder, Jim Tankersley, see much of these protest movement turning into clashes between police and protesters as the movement grows and expands?
TANKERSLEYI think that that's a huge question. Clearly, the longer that folks stay in public places, particularly if they don't have permits, the chances grow that you're going to have more clashes like this with police, particularly in places where mayors don't want to have these sort of permanent encampments, like you see in Zuccotti Park. On the flip side, I saw a lot in New York a lot of interactions between police and protesters where both sides were taking great pains to diffuse them.
TANKERSLEYAt one point, I saw one protester talking a small group out of clashing with police because he said, look, they've been good to us. They've been respectful. Let's not escalate this. So I think the folks in the movement in New York, at least, are very conscious of not wanting to clash with police for clashes' sake.
REHMAll right. And now, let's turn to Washington, D.C. Corryn Freeman is with us. She's a volunteer with Occupy D.C./K Street. Good morning to you, Corryn. Thanks for joining us.
MS. CORRYN FREEMANGood morning, Ms. Rehm.
REHMPlease call me Diane, Corryn. And...
FREEMANGood morning, Diane.
REHM...I know that K Street, for those who don't know, is certainly a reference to the lobbying firms here in D.C. that have their offices there. Tell me what your experience has been and whether you think K Street is somehow representative of the corruption that the Occupy Wall Street movement has seen.
FREEMANWell, I believe K Street, honestly, is the perfect place for the Occupy D.C. Movement to be because it is the lobbyists' haven of the United States. This is where many of -- all of the Wall Street corporate lobbyists, you know, make their homes, lay their beds, so they can head over to Congress during the week to do their corporate biddings. We like to -- at Occupy D.C., we like to look at ourselves as just a sister movement to Wall Street.
FREEMANWall Street brought the emphasis on corporate greed, corporate personhood, unlimited campaign financing. And here we are at Occupy D.C. just bringing in the political aspect and the political tie to those corporations funneling money into our congressional system by the lobbyists on K Street.
REHMHave you had any indication that members of Congress might be listening to what you all are doing?
FREEMANNo direct indication. However, you know, you see things on Twitter. You see things on the Internet that certain senators and certain congressmen have been made aware of what is going on with the Wall Street movement and with what's going on on K Street. I think, earlier today, I actually read a tweet by a senator talking about the tax breaks that some major corporation -- I can't remember which one -- had received. Bank of America, that's -- Bank of America received $1.4 billion tax returns from the IRS when they made $4.4 billion.
FREEMANSo I do see that they are paying attention. They have not yet -- well, from what I've seen -- directly engaged the -- engaged in conversation with us, but they're aware.
REHMCorryn, tell us about yourself.
FREEMANWell, my name is Corryn Freeman. I'm a senior political science major, philosophy minor at Howard University, yeah, full-time student.
REHMFull-time student. How are you managing to be a part-time volunteer then?
FREEMANIt's hard, but I'm passionate about this. Whenever I'm not in school, I'm at the Occupy movement, or I'm doing something for Occupy K Street. I'm very involved on my campus, but I make sure that I make time for this because this is very important.
REHMCorryn Freeman, she is a volunteer with Occupy D.C./K Street. Thank you, Corryn.
REHMAll right. And let's go back to the phones, 800-433-8850. To Vivian in Long Island, N.Y. Good morning. You're on the air.
VIVIANGood morning, Diane. Thank you so much for this opportunity.
VIVIANActually, I'm an elected official in Suffolk County. And I've been down to Wall Street a few times, and I'm so impressed by the people down there and their commitment. I believe it's very different from the Tea Party in as much as they're talking about getting together as a community and making government work for the 99 percent. And as I remember the Tea Party, one of the basic messages was to shrink government and let -- get government out of their lives.
VIVIANAnd, as a matter of fact, Jonathan, I just want to let you know I have a box full of boots that I'm bringing down to Wall Street this weekend to keep people's feet warm. But my question is this, I would like to see -- or I would like to know when the -- there are specific issues that can be addressed by the Occupy Wall Street people -- folks. I mean, there are many parts of the President Obama's jobs act which really reflects some the philosophies of Occupy Wall Street, and some of the goals can be reached through that or the Consumer Protection Agency.
VIVIANYou know, Elizabeth Warren said so much of what is being said on Wall Street. And, of course, you know what happened with her confirmation. So I would like to know from Jonathan or one of the other people on the phone, whether they're expecting to be very direct in policies and statutes and laws that are out there and in supporting parts of them.
REHMThank you, Vivian. Jonathan.
SMUCKERYeah, thank you. And thank you for being an elected official who is serious about delivering on issues. I wish you the best with that. I think that the strongest and most successful social movements in history have always tapped into multiple concerns that are important to a lot of different people. And it's not our role to fully articulate that and come out with a fully developed platform, at least not at this stage.
SMUCKERBut it is the responsibility of our movement to create pressure, to move society in a direction, to create a cultural movement that creates political pressure. And if we do that successfully, I think windows will open to fight for this or that specific change, and...
REHMHow are you going to know when the time comes that you can end this movement?
SMUCKERI don't we think we can end this movement. I think this movement is about reclaiming civic space. It's about redeveloping the idea of the citizen and civic engagement. This is America rediscovering collective action, collective purpose. And so I don't think that there's an end. I don't think there's a neat solution that will say, hey, we've arrived, and now we can go back to just sitting in front of the television. This is us, you know, rediscovering our purpose with each other.
REHMJonathan Smucker, he is a volunteer with Occupy Wall Street. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And now let's go to Roanoke, Va. Good morning, Adam. You're on the air.
ADAMGood morning, Diane. I appreciate you taking my call.
ADAMI'm a small business owner. And I've been very involved with the Occupy Roanoke movement. And your folks are pretty much hitting it on the head. This is one of those things you kind of either get it in your gut, or you don't get it. And it's really a bit broader movement that encompasses a lot of different ideas and a lot of different methodologies. And the nice thing about it is that people are realizing that collective action has -- is being done by consensus. And the general assemblies that are held will spawn different initiatives.
ADAMThe initiative that I've been working on in Occupy Roanoke is one to sweep the Congress. The idea that we run citizen representatives that are non-party bound, that commit to serve just one term, just the 2012 term, and then leave. They commit in making the decisions -- listening to everybody, making decisions based on what's best for their grandchildren's grandchildren and to only take money from the local constituencies and then to return to the citizenry after one term.
ADAMSo, you know -- but that's not an Occupy Roanoke or Occupy Wall Street initiative -- group of people to have this conversation...
REHMAll right. I'm afraid you're breaking up on us, Adam. But I do appreciate hearing your goals. And, perhaps, as we've heard from Jonathan, your own personal goals represent one point of view. I want to take one more call from Rock Hill, S.C. Good morning, Hilary. Very quickly, please. Are you there, Hilary? Okay. Let's try Groton, Conn. Good morning, Richard.
RICHARDGood morning, Diane. Thanks for getting to me. Where we are today is no accident. It was predicted just before the second Bush election by a number of people, including myself. But, more significantly, Paul Krugman wrote a series of articles in New York Times about the impending failure of government. The cost was skyrocketing, tax cuts for the rich. The failure of government services such as Katrina. Now, what I think we're agreeing with between the Tea Party and the 99 percenters in Wall Street is this failure that we're at today. The question is how we solve it.
RICHARDThe Tea Party wants to eliminate government, essentially, or downsize it, where the 99 percenters in Wall Street wants good government. What Vivian said was right on, and what Jonathan talked about the American rediscovery of our civic responsibilities is exactly what we're all about.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling, Richard. Where do you see this going, Jim Tankersley?
TANKERSLEYI think that what we're going to see is the next few months is a inflection point, where either the movement grows and gets even louder and really starts to make a bigger and bigger impact across the country, not just in New York, but in places like Oakland and Wichita and wherever, or we're at the sort of -- the winter comes, and it kind of fades a bit.
REHMKen Vogel, where is it going?
VOGELI agree. It's an inflection point. I think that, contrary to what you hear a lot of the callers and the organizers and activists involved in the movement saying, it, in fact, does need organization. It needs money. It needs some of the things that they really frown upon in order to sustain itself and really have an impact in American politics.
REHMKen Vogel, reporter for POLITICO, Jim Tankersley, correspondent for National Journal, Jonathan Smucker, a volunteer for Occupy Wall Street. Thank you all so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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