By Adam Seeman, Special to the Chronicle
As some of us know, a ragtag band of protesters have assembled outside Wall Street, almost a thousand in strength, decrying Wall Street's influence over the political process in this country. Called to action under the initial demand of a presidential commission to end Wall Street's sway over politicians by an anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters, the protesters now call for many things: a 50 cent surcharge on stock trades, ending the Federal Reserve, raising taxes on the rich and the corporations, etc. Amongst their midst are libertarians, conservatives, socialists, progressives, and anarchists who have all gathered because they know this country is headed in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, they picked the wrong place to protest.
The problem with protesting on Wall Street is that government actions aren't carried out by Wall Street, they are carried out by Washington D.C. Perhaps the protesters believe that government actions are the result of Wall Street, but practically, the U.S. government officials that could even possibly be affected by the protest are the New York senators and the 4 or 5 representatives from the areas surrounding Manhattan. With such small percentage of congressmen affected, how much legislative change can reasonably be expected? If you take out the New York Congressmen already relying on Wall Street, then, by my calculations, you'd have no Congressmen willing to take the case to Washington.
If the idea was to protest on Wall Street to attract Washington's attention, that effort is also misguided. There are elected officials in Washington who would gladly respond to a couple hundred people camped outside their door requesting for change on Wall Street, our president being one of them. Indeed, as the Tea Party has shown, this is the only real way that elected officials seem to respond to public pressure at all.
Instead, by protesting on Wall Street, the protesters are actually snubbing Obama and his congressional allies, saying essentially "You don't have the real power anymore, so we are going to try to influence the people who do have it." I'd like to believe the protesters aren't protesting at Washington because already know that Washington is useless but with many protesters calling for more government control and regulations, I am left puzzled by their intentions.
Perhaps the idea of the protest was to intimidate the Wall Street executives themselves, but what some news commentators are calling a "circus" isn't going to intimidate anyone. While the array of protesters may seem like some slice of America, joining together to fight one oppressive system, the simple fact is that together, the protesters will never agree on what is wrong with Wall Street.
No conservative would favor redistributing the wealth as some socialists call for and no socialist is going to support ending the Federal Reserve. As the protest elongates, more conflicting groups will arrive on seen. This protest movement, with its good intentions, will implode.
The Van Jones Foundation's attempt to move the protest in a progressive direction is already one indication of the forces that will tear this protest apart. While occupying Wall Street seems like a great idea to finally get back at financial executives that everyone blames for sending our country into depression, having a protest against non-politicians leads to nowhere.