Indeed, those who are most critical of the occupation protests often appear to be the most ignorant of them. As I noted the other day, Herman Cain has asked why people are protesting on Wall Street but not at the White House. Cain clearly has no idea what he is talking about, as Occupy DC has been camped out a block away from the White House for two weeks. Alex Jones has argued that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are pawns of George Soros, since otherwise they would be protesting at the Federal Reserve. Yet OWS protesters have staged numerous demonstrations outside the Federal Reserve building in New York, as have protesters in Boston, Chicago, Washington DC and elsewhere. One of the most common criticisms that has been leveled against the protests is that the demonstrators are "disorganized and incoherent." Yet they are organized and coherent enough to have created an infrastructure to maintain their presence for a full month while gaining the attention of the national and international press.
But back to Brooks. There is a critical contradiction at the heart of Brooks' analysis. He is among the handful of commentators in the corporate media who have come out in support of Americans Elect, along with other moderate and centrist advocates such as Matt Miller at the Washington Post, John Avlon at The Daily Beast and Tom Friedman at the New York Times. As regular readers will surely understand, I am not unsympathetic to this position. In his article, Brooks backs a recent piece by Miller. He writes:
Look, for example, at a piece Matt Miller wrote for The Washington Post called “The Third Party Stump Speech We Need.” Miller is a former McKinsey consultant and Clinton staffer. But his ideas are much bigger than anything you hear from the protesters: slash corporate taxes and raise energy taxes, aggressively use market forces and public provisions to bring down health care costs; raise capital requirements for banks; require national service; balance the budget by 2018.But what are the reforms that Brooks himself champions? He writes in his intro:
Do tax reform, fiscal reform, education reform and political reform so that when the economy finally does recover the prosperity is deep, broad and strong.Let's put aside the fact that there are already organized working groups at Occupy Wall Street that are specifically devoted to fiscal reform, education reform, political reform and so on. Notice anything missing from the NYT columnist's list of necessary reforms? That's right, electoral reform. If we are going to break free from the Republican-Democrat political straitjacket that has paralyzed our politics and emaciated our political discourse, if we are going to implement the ideas that can be found in the ideal "third party stump speech," it will require serious electoral reform. It will require experimentation with everything from alternative voting methods to ballot access reform to proportional representation to independent redistricting reform to open primaries and so on. Yet such ideas are nowhere to be found among the proposals forwarded by Brooks, though they are common currency among the real radical moderates in the third party and independent blogosphere. The operative flaw in Brooks's analysis becomes clear in the concluding lines of his article. He writes:
Don’t be fooled by the clichés of protest movements past. The most radical people today are the ones that look the most boring. It’s not about declaring war on some nefarious elite. It’s about changing behavior from top to bottom. [Emphasis added.]False. It's about changing behavior from the bottom up! The notion that the types of reform advocated by Brooks himself can be accomplished "from top to bottom" reeks of authoritarianism and the delusional messianic faith in the imperial presidency common among Republicans and Democrats alike. Real change will begin from the bottom up. And it will begin with reforms that level the playing field for the 99% who are unrepresented by the two-party state and duopoly system of government. Brooks may fancy himself a radical but he fails to get to the root of the problem.