If you haven’t heard about this already, the NY Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 voted to join the protestors in the financial District of New York City, and so have the Verizon union members. Other unions, including the Teamsters (yes, those Teamsters who once supported Ronald Reagan) have issued public statements of support for Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests. Here’s a link to a business publication about this story:

A member of TWU Local 100 told a reporter that they would join the protest Friday at 4PM. […]

Occupy Wall Street has been picking up some decent support from unions in the past few days. Yesterday we reported that the Teamsters Union declared their support for protestors, and we also found out that the United Pilots Union had members at the protest demonstrating in uniform.

Today we learned the Industrial Workers of the World put a message of support on their website as well.

… Verizon union workers have joined the protestors in NYC.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/a-massive-union-just-voted-to-side-with-the-wall-street-protesters-2011-9#ixzz1ZNNy1Cpz

It should be noted that OWS is a non-violent protest movement despite the best efforts of the conservative media and blogs to spin the story that they represent thugs, criminals, etc. Indeed, the only real violence we have seen has been from certain NYPD offciers and commanders (I don’t wish to impugn all of the members of the NYPD by the actions of a few), particularly this individual, Tony Bologna (how apt a name):

It would be foolish at this point for National Democrats, especially members of the Progressive Caucus to keep standing on the sideline. Whether the heads of the major Democratic Party organizations (DNC, DSCC, Obama for America, DCCC, etc.) like it or not, the people (mostly young people, but that is changing, too) have decided the Democratic Party is not an effective mechanism to change the system, a system that is bleeding old and young alike, not only of money, jobs but also hopes and dreams.

My question for the major national Democratic political leaders is when will you come out to actively support OWS and attend the protests yourself in a display of solidarity? I won’t hold my breath, but it is my belief that failing to join with the people who organized this movement, or at the very least express support for the protestors, will be detrimental to Democrats in the 2012 elections. Whether you like it or not, these people are a major part of the base that helped Democrats obtain control of Congress in 2006 and elect the President in 2008. If the party ignores and abandons them, hoping to shove them under the rug, while still maintaining cozy relationships with Wall Street financiers who would love to see a Republican in the White House, as Senate Majority Leader and as Speaker of the House–well, I see that as the Democrats collectively offering Wall Street and Republicans the opportunity to cut Dem candidates off at the knees in November 2012.

The country is ripe for the message the protesters are pushing, even if no one in Big Corporate Media is willing to accept that yes, they do have a message. And that message is not hard to divine: simply stated, it is time to stop enabling the casino operators and Banksters on Wall Street and fight for the working poor and middle class, the elderly on fixed incomes and everyone else who has seen their dreams deferred extinguished by the “Protect the Top 1% Firsters.” Why do you think the Republican candidates try so desperately to portray themselves as populists and not as aiders and abetters of the corporations and speculators who robbed us (we the people and our governments, state, local and federal) with their full acquiescence during the Bush years?

Because they fear a Democratic party that would actually support and promote a genuine reform movement and a reform agenda, rather than the one that exists now: weak, indecisive and still trolling for campaign cash on their knees from the very same people who hate their guts. Let me quote to you these words from Glenn Greenwald with which I agree:

A [significant] aspect of this progressive disdain is grounded in the belief that the only valid form of political activism is support for Democratic Party candidates, and a corresponding desire to undermine anything that distracts from that goal. Indeed, the loyalists of both parties have an interest in marginalizing anything that might serve as a vehicle for activism outside of fealty to one of the two parties (Fox News’ firing of Glenn Beck was almost certainly motivated by his frequent deviation from the GOP party-line orthodoxy which Fox exists to foster).

The very idea that one can effectively battle Wall Street’s corruption and control by working for the Democratic Party is absurd on its face: Wall Street’s favorite candidate in 2008 was Barack Obama, whose administration — led by a Wall Street White House Chief of Staff and Wall-Street-subservient Treasury Secretary and filled to the brim with Goldman Sachs officials — is now working hard to protect bankers from meaningful accountability (and though he’s behind Wall Street’s own Mitt Romney in the Wall Street cash sweepstakes this year, Obama is still doing well); one of Wall Street’s most faithful servants is Chuck Schumer, the money man of the Democratic Party; and the second-ranking Senate Democrat acknowledged — when Democrats controlled the Congress — that the owners of Congress are bankers. There are individuals who impressively rail against the crony capitalism and corporatism that sustains Wall Street’s power, but they’re no match for the party apparatus that remains fully owned and controlled by it.

But much of this progressive criticism consists of relatively (ostensibly) well-intentioned tactical and organizational critiques of the protests: there wasn’t a clear unified message; it lacked a coherent media strategy; the neo-hippie participants were too off-putting to Middle America; the resulting police brutality overwhelmed the message, etc. etc. That’s the high-minded form which most progressive scorn for the protests took: it’s just not professionally organized or effective.

As Glenn notes, these criticisms seem at best wrong-headed and misinformed, and at worst the result of sheer envy that someone other than “professional” Democratic activists are being held up as champions of the “little guy and gal.” Yet, why would a young man or woman, a recent graduate say of a university who cannot find a job or can only find work that is menial in nature, much less the vast numbers of other, older unemployed and under-employed Americans, not feel legitimately that the President and the Democratic Party let them down?

I know some don’t like to hear the comparison, but FDR was willing to be hated in order to pass legislation that would save Wall Street and Big Business from their own greed and short-term thinking. Obama, despite being hated no matter what he does, has consistently presented himself as a man willing to compromise with the very political adversaries who would impeach him if they could, and who have stated that their only goal is not to help the country’s economy improve and lessen the suffering of the millions of people harmed by the “Great Recession,” but to defeat Obama in 2012.

Appearances (or as we now say “perceptions”) are everything, and the Republicans and conservatives, and their wealthy funders such as the Koch brothers, have been winning the perception war since the day Obama took office (some might even argue since before he took office). The perception, which I believe is an accurate one for the most part (though it really doesn’t matter what I believe), is that Obama has been too weak or too compromising in negotiating with conservative Democrats and Republicans and too reluctant to aggressively back promote progressive policies and his progressive supporters. The other perception many hold is that he has been too willing to embrace policies that Republicans supported when Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich ruled the House roost in the mid-90’s. I won’t bother with all the evidence that supports these perceptions because that isn’t my point. The point is that this is how many Americans, right or left, view Obama and by association the Democratic party. You cannot change those perceptions unless you are willing to take aggressive and, yes, risky actions to reverse them.

And yes, I know about Obama’s “Jobs Plan” but is anyone listening to him at this point? Not among the many working class and rural white Americans who have been deceived by the Fox News propaganda machine, not among many in his own party (as evidenced by the news of discontent with Obama’s continual attempts at rapprochement with the House Republicans and Speaker John Boehner during the debt ceiling debacle) and certainly not among many of the very activists whose tireless efforts in 2008 made the election of our first non-white President a reality three years ago.

The major accomplishment that the Obama administration and his defenders point to again and again is the health care reform legislation known as the Affordable care Act. Yet, as many of us know, that legislation is deeply flawed, gave away far too much to the Pharmaceutical and Insurance Industries and has not yet been viewed by the public as a panacea for our health care systems failures–and with good reason. People are still paying too much for lousy insurance, many of the most important provisions of the bill don’t kick in until 2013 or later, and if the Republicans win the presidency in 2012 (something I think is far more likely to occur than many Democrats realize) the ACA will be repealed and Paul Ryan’s “Killing Medicare Softly” proposal will be reinvigorated and re-introduced in Congress.

Yet, even assuming Obama wins re-election, in 2016, if this economy has not completely reversed course, guess what? Say hello to Mr. or Ms. Republican President who will work to repeal the ACA and kill Medicare as soon as he or she takes the oath of office. As it is, Medicaid might already have been terminated long before 2016 depending on what happens over the next half-decade. Meanwhile, nothing is being done to create jobs now despite all the rhetoric issuing from Washington.

Yet, in the face of this inaction it is the Republicans, especially the Tea Party version, who are united. By their sheer stubbornness they are destroying our economy by refusing to take any action that would increase demand for goods and services. Many progressives, meanwhile, are in disarray, and President Obama’s main concern appears to be re-election by any means necessary.

Sadly, his political advisers seem to think that the protestors on Wall Street and other young activists not under his campaign’s direct control are his enemies and not the allies he needs, and that his party needs. They are needed because the Democrats lack a true populist counter-movement to the Tea Party extremists, who despite their unpopularity in the polls continue to dominate both the rank and file of the Republican base and a significant faction of its elected officials. Considering the media advantage these radicals enjoy, I find it difficult to believe that Democrats will make major gains in the House and Senate in 2012 so long as the American people are not presented with a alternative movement from the left, one just as dedicated and just as devoted to their causes.

The OWS may appear to be just DFH’s at present, but I believe that any Democrat who stands up to actively and publicly support them will benefit from doing so. Elizabeth Warren seems the most likely Democrat who might take that plunge, but I would settle for anyone, even people out of power such as Howard Dean. The more the Democrats ally themselves with these young people, the more this movement will grow, the more it will diversify and the more attention it will garner.

Frankly, I sincerely believe this may be a turning point in our democracy. The Democratic party can sit on the sidelines and watch to see if they survive the negativity and deliberate refusal to cover the movement by the media elites, or they can jump in with both feet now and promote and support this movement.

I’d prefer the Democratic party stand for something other than “We’re Not as Bad as Republicans,” which other than the 2008 election seems to be the party’s default position over the course of my lifetime. Is it a risk? Sure, but one I believe will best serve the the Democrats in the coming elections and our country’s people in the long term as well. If Democrats do not act to support this movement, however, I believe they simply cede the field to the Republican activists and Christian Dominionists, while sheltering behind their safe walled blue enclaves hoping the people will someday wise up and return them to power. Well, I have news for you, the last time that strategy of passive defense worked in politics was — never.

So what is it going to be, Mr. and Ms. Democratic Politician? Stand and fight beside the people you say you support, or sit this one out because that’s what the conventional wisdom is whispering in your ear?

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