Let Us Now Occupy Reality

occupy violence“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Unless you’re a Democrat then the win part might be dicey.” – Gandhi, mostly.

“Mr. Kane you’re going to need more than one lesson. And you’re going to get more than one lesson.” –Gov. Gettes to Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane

We had the Arab Spring. The suffocating power elite who had so much at stake diminished these upstarts as mobs, filthy rabble, even, according to the late Muammar Kaddafi, rats. Almost every one of our politicians and pundits across the board lauded these uprisings as grand examples of the exquisite expression of the people which we value so much; horrified were they all that violent force was used against their own people, simply for demanding to be freed of economic repression and heartless, greedy leaders.

At this writing we’re in the middle of what might be called American Autumn, with the “Occupy” movement, raison d’être is the demand to be freed of the economic repression of Wall Street, and their heartless greedy puppets aka our “leaders”. They are also being called mobs, rabble. Rats – this from the same people who lauded not just the Arab Spring revolts, but the vaunted “Tea Party” uprising. And we’re starting to see an “OK that’s enough” attitude spreading, Tiananmen Square-style, from Oakland to Atlanta.

Overwhelming force is being used to beat back this expression of popular frustration. One sad, ironic result recently was the devastating injury to one protestor hit by a tear gas canister – an Iraq War veteran. He survived that violence, which presumably was a battle to end the fearsome methods of a dictator who used his police for such duties… only to be wounded by police using fearsome methods in the home of the brave, land of the free.

The ridiculous force of cops, which, at the behest of political leaders, hosed civil rights marchers and anti-war protestors, as it always does, serves to embolden the protestors, swell their numbers, and outrage the citizenry, the liberal punditry and at least some of the politicians.

“Occupy” is in the third stage of Gandhi’s meme about how non-violent resistance, and civil disobedience works (quoted above). We have seen the movement ignored. Then we saw it ridiculed. Now we’re seeing it being fought.

The next step: “… then you win.”

It’s all happened rather rapidly, but “the win” stage is what I’m most curious about. Is it a “win” just to be noticed, to get others saying “I agree. The corporations and their duplicitous political puppets are destroying us.” I would think a “win” is when the powerful are forced to act, make changes, end despicable policies whether they want to or not. After all, this is a government of the people.

There is only one “win” from the Occupy movement that is most plausible – and that is at the ballot box; at least that’s been the rule in this country up to now. We ultimately make changes at the ballot box. Yes we did some shooting in 1776, and in the 1860’s, but we’ve settled down. (That there is a strenuous movement afoot to suppress the vote, and rig the voting machines may be discussed in a different essay). But for now, in what shredded remnants of this country I grew up in are left, we win when popular sentiment overwhelms the ineffective and the bought-and-paid-for at the ballot box.

Clearly Occupy, to me, is a direct reaction to not just the corporate greed and power, but, de facto, the Republicans in Congress, in state houses and legislatures and indeed on local boards who are doing only their bidding.

So in other words, Occupy frustration should find allies in the Democratic Party, or hope in the Democratic Party. If the Occupy’rs don’t translate their outrage into votes, as the Tea Party did, or, by extension, translate their power into overtaking the Democratic Party, as the Tea Party took over the Republicans, to effect these changes, then what is the point of it all?

But nevertheless, I keep hearing disturbing refrains of “both parties are the same”, “they are both doing it”, the Democrats aren’t progressive enough, this is a non-partisan effort. Even Michael Moore, who I thought had learned his lesson from the Nader experiment of 2000, is of that mind, dissing Obama along the way – as if this movement, however big it might grow, will magically change all by sheer numbers, and fervor.

Perhaps, but not any time soon in the realm I like to call reality. And time is most assuredly running out.

So unless the Occupy’rs end game is some fantasy of a new American Revolution where well armed guerilla militia start battling redcoats (or tweed coats or whatever the Koch Brothers wear), then all this hullabaloo will be a bunch of hullaballoo, with Mitt Romney in the White House and two or three more Scalias and Thomases on the Supreme Court. And, PS No more occupations of any place. They’ve privatized prisons. They’ll build enormous Guantanamos right here, no need to actually go to Guantanamo.

Two elections have screwed us up in recent memory – like in the last 11 years – and have turned this country in a direction from which we may never return. And Democrats are pretty much responsible for both.

One was in 2000, when there was a fatal flirtation with Ralph Nader which came to a devastating head in Florida, and then the aforementioned SCOTUS. Gore and Bush were somehow considered two sides of the same coin, so it was a perfect time to get a third party going once and for all. Clinton was great, but boy, was he a DINO, and a blue dog. So horribly ugly long story short, the result was Bush and Cheney for eight years. A grand example of how not only was perfection the enemy of the good, it was the murderer of the good. The lesson of that misguided Nader adventure was learned over and over and over and OVER again with each horror. And there wasn’t much we could do about it to reverse the error. It’s like electrocuting a prisoner (say in Texas): yes, he’s learned his lesson but it’s a moot point since he’s not around to act out his lesson learning.

Nobody could have foreseen the full scope of the horror of a Bush administration in 2001. Well, except for me. I knew. OK OK I’m sure one or two others did too. But I really knew there was no good end to it when during that 2000 election, it was revealed Republicans were giving money to Nader’s Green Party in key swing states. And they weren’t giving it back. Of course they were. They knew Nader would draw off disaffected Democratic voters.

In 2004 Michael Moore, a Nader supporter, famously begged him not to run in 2004. Of course egomaniacal Nader did anyway, but it wasn’t all that necessary. Bush managed to eke out an electoral win, this time via Ohio. The Republicans didn’t need Nader; they simply rigged the Diebold voting machines, and additionally made it incredibly hard for Democrats to vote as a bit of added insurance. The Diebold machines were implemented because the punch card method – you know, with the hanging chads – were discontinued, thanks to the Luntzian named “Help America Vote Act”. It was an added bonus of the Katherine Harris Florida debacle.

2006 and 2008 saw impressive Democratic victories – well, we were motivated, and when there are such huge numbers voting, no amount of rigging can stop the tide. At least not with 2006 and 2008 technology. And who knows how much the Republicans wanted to win in 2008 anyway, what with that financial meltdown and all. They knew any poor Democrat would have his hands full.

The second devastating election: 2010. This time, the disaffected Democrats didn’t go to the polls to vote for some third party maverick and hand the vote to Republican lawmakers. No, disaffected Democrats stayed away in droves, allowing Republicans to vote in an overwhelming majority of extreme right wingers… not just in congress, but in state houses and state legislators in what heretofore had been fairly blue blue states.

Boy that’ll teach us.

The Dems are like Charles Foster Kane: evidently 2000 wasn’t lesson enough. We needed another one in 2010. And we got it. And we’re still getting it. And it’s not clear that it won’t be the final lesson.

Perfection, enemy of the good, struck again in 2010: Obama not liberal enough. Obama didn’t go for the public option hard enough. Obama relentlessly trying to compromise with Republicans.

Unfortunately, despite the abject horrors of the Republicans, those sentiments stubbornly persist.

Reality, it’s a good place to live. We should start visiting it. SOON.

The Republicans, they may be bat shit crazy, but they have their feet firmly planted in planet reality. We need to do the same.
Yes I have the same suggested solutions but they are rooted in political fantasies I entertain. But we live here, now. What do we do here, now?

See, while it is arguable that both parties feed from the same trough, one group in this country does not EVER believe both parties are the same. And that group is known as Republican Voters. And they don’t believe it with furious fervor.

It seems as though only Democrats fall into that derangement, and act on it.

We do not have the Nader luxury – we didn’t even have it in 2000. We do not have that stay-at-home-and-occupy-Liberty-Park- all-day luxury. Time to act. Time to register voters, get them their goddamn “ID’s”, or fight those efforts in court. Time to primary blue dogs. Time to work with all the fervor we have to re-elect Obama.

Occupy Wall Street and its progeny worldwide is a god send. The outrage is a good thing, and like a fever it is catching. And politicians better get out of the way if they can’t lend a hand. It is serving to cleanse the Luntzian fog – we are beginning to focus, and see who the Wall Street protectors are, who the Wall Street lackeys are, who the union busters are. We are seeing the precious things the government provides. That the deficit is bullshit right now, and anti-abortion bills are distractions and Obama’s birth certificate is total smokescreen.

bob illes

But now, as election time draws nearer that we think, it’s time to occupy another space: REALITY. The outrage must be put into electoral action. This ain’t Cairo, and we ain’t gonna pour into banks or government buildings. We might bend our iPods. Yes the other side does have guns and billy clubs, but the cops are part of the 99% too. They’ll figure it out sooner or later, just like all those Tea Party people are probably getting it, bit by bit.

The revolution actually IS being televised. But TV shows get cancelled. If the Occupy movement doesn’t start getting involved in the process and take their power to a vote, it will be as short lived a show as My Mother the Car.

And if 2012 election goes very wrong, there won’t be much point in occupying America because there won’t be much America left. Lessons learned or not?

Robert Illes

Republished from the VDU newsletter, Margie Murray, Editor


  1. says

    I like your discussion and definition of what a “win” is…. or could be. That is always a key question that rarely gets addressed. But, your solution and push to the ballot box is not only plausible, but necessary and a good way to get things started. I hope the general peeps realize major change doesn’t happen in 4 years… it would be hard in even 8 years.

  2. says

    The article’s first sentence IS a quote from Gandhi – perhaps his best. Despite all the problems and ramifications in defining and sustaining ‘win’, the quote in and of itself is an inspiration which has sustaining power. Thank you Mr Illes for this reminder!

  3. says

    Replier David S asks the pertinent question. Obama is a DINO, his performance has been a combination of knavery-foolery-wimpery (in what proportions it is both hard and irrelevant to guess). So where’s the alternative? We need a PRIMARY alternative!!

    If no Democrat will step up and be an alternative, the Democrats WILL die and moreover will demonstrate that they might as well (and deserve to) die. Geez, in 1968, against a much more talented and achieving president, Democrats did stand up and offer themselves as alternatives.

    As for the other past episodes. Yes, both Gore and Kerry demonstrated a fatal malfeasance by not doggedly standing up for those who voted for them. And, while I myself have little or no enthusiasm for Nader, there’s no point blaming him for Florida 2000. It would be far more to the point to blame the nominal Democrat, let’s call her Madame Butterfly, who set up Palm Beach county’s notorious ‘butterfly ballot’, thereby ensuring invalidation of thousands of intended Gore votes.

  4. Alan8 says

    The 1% own BOTH corporate-funded parties, and your rationalization of the Democratic Party as the best we can do is the kind of thinking that has gotten us Democrats implementing the REPUBLICAN agenda as fast as they can.

    This is YOUR FAULT and the fault of other DUPES like you who give the Democrats your unconditional support!

    The Democrats just passed THREE MORE NAFTAs (with Korea, Panama, and Columbia). and this is the fault of DUPES LIKE YOU!

    The Democrats are planning huge cuts to Social Security, and this is the fault of DUPES LIKE YOU!

    Democrats VOTED FOR the fascists on the Supreme Court, so your threatening us with more right wingers on the Supreme Court if we stray from the corporate-funded Democrats is LYING PROPAGANDA!

    100% of Senate Democrats voted to approve the fascist Scalia to the Supreme Court! Are you aware of this?

    We TRIED voting Democratic in 2008. Remember “change we can believe in”? Instead we got CORPORATE FASCISM: The uniting of corporate and government power against the people!

    And if you vote for EITHER of the two corporate parties, YOU ARE SUPPORTING THIS FASCISM!

    The Green Party is the non-corporate alternative. Here’s a sample of what the Green Party stands for (http://www.gp.org/tenkey.shtml ):

    Every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives and not be subject to the will of another. Therefore, we will work to increase public participation at every level of government and to ensure that our public representatives are fully accountable to the people who elect them. We will also work to create new types of political organizations which expand the process of participatory democracy by directly including citizens in the decision-making process.

    All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment. We must consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations, and society at large, barriers such as racism and class oppression, sexism and homophobia, ageism and disability, which act to deny fair treatment and equal justice under the law.”

    5% of the vote will get the Green Party matching Federal funds, and will send a message to the corporate parties that WE THE PEOPLE are not giving up OUR democracy without a fight!


    P.S. Gore WON Florida in 2000 — Look it up! He then conceded a won election; You can’t blame Ralph Nader for that!

    • David S says

      Where is the 99% candidate in the Democratic Party presidential PRIMARY?

      We need someone to step up NOW regardless of whether they think they can oust Obama.

    • Scott Peer says

      Don’t forget, Kerry, the Democrat, won Ohio in 2004, and the election as well. But he didn’t contest the clearly stolen result in Ohio. And don’t forget that in 2008-2009 Democrats controlled both houses of Congress plus the Presidency, but failed to even revoke Bush’s regressive tax cuts, much less end the wars or bring justice to bank crooks. The real action is in the primaries, and the fact that no Democrats are running against Obama smells fishy. Obama and Congress should be either doing their jobs or pulling out of the next election, as LBJ did. Pick one, but do something honorable (and no, being a toady does not count as honorable).

    • says

      Yeah Gore won except the wrong people were counting, evidently so he lost 5-4. In any case, a recount wouldn’t even have been necessary if Nader hadn’t insisted on running there – sucking 95,000 away from Gore – and essentially FOR Bush which is my point. HOW DID THAT WORK OUT FOR YOU? My support for Dems is not “unconditional”, it’s just a FAR FAR lesser of two evils, at this moment, in this REALITY – also the point of the article. And getting lesser all the time. I said they both feed from the same trough, but there was actual legislation helpful to people the last time the Democrats ran congress. But thanks to pissed of libs staying away in 2010, we got Rick Scott and John Boehner. HOW IS THAT WORKING FOR YOU? You can stay away, or vote for Naders all you want, till the Scott Walkers of the world get their way and remove your vote entirely. Or more realistically, you can change the Democratic Party from within, as the tea party did the Republicans. Boy did they! Cause they may be nuts, but they are committed, and not in firedoglake la la land, dreaming of something that won’t be achieved before the Scalias of the world crush whatever democracy we have left. Again, get real.

      • Alan8 says

        You dishonestly blamed Ralph Nader for Gore losing. He could have demanded a recount. And the Republicans got FAR MORE votes from Democrats, than total votes for the Green Party, yet you don’t blame them.

        Gore was an architect of NAFTA. If he takes so much corporate money and sells the people out to so many corporate interests that people don’t want to vote for him, HE DOESN’T DESERVE TO WIN! It’s called “democracy”.

        Democrats have consistently sold the people out to corporate interests. Besides NAFTA there’s the Patriot Act, health care, and not prosecuting the rich and well-connected, e.g. the banksters that ruined our economy, the Bush-Administration torturers, the neocons that staged the 9/11 false-flag attacks, and the corporate-government alliance that is illegally tapping ALL our phone, and recording ALL our emails and texts to use at some future date, however they please..

        Democrats have backed the insane corporate wars that are drowning us in debt, and murdering thousands for no clear goal other than enriching the wealthy defense-industry owners.

        Democrats have backed force-feeding us UNLABELLED genetically-modified frankenfoods for their corporate paymasters, and (as Wikileaks has revealed) are trying to force European countries to reverse their ban on feeding this garbage to THEIR citizens.

        The Democrats have been ITCHING to cut Social Security, despite the lip service. They’ve been gutting the Constitution one small step at a time. They’ve been pushing for more nuclear power plants. They’ve asserted the “right” to imprison indefinitely, torture, and execute AMERICANS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN CHARGED OR CONVICTED OF ANY CRIME!

        Is THAT enough reality for you?

        You’re a DUPE for the duopoly’s “good-cop/bad-cop” SCAM that’s ushering a new era of FASCISM.

        And you’re not going to change the Democratic Party “from within” like the Tea Party, WITHOUT billionaires like the Koch brothers financing you. You call that “reality”?!

        We (the 99% and the Greens and other progressives) REJECT the duopoly’s rigged game, which will only lead to MORE corporate control of OUR democracy.

        And THAT’S reality.

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