As the Occupy Wall Street protests slowly creep into every major city in the U.S., some have pointed to the futility of protesting, especially when the group is lacking a cohesive ideology. However, we know through the Tea Party that the energy generated from opposition protests can manifest into a new political force that can affect the American landscape. The entrance of the Tea Party has polarized the country’s decision-makers to a conservative angle, and it will take a focused effort by activists, lawyers, and writers alike as part of the OccuParty to challenge their effect. The formation of such a new party would require not only an attack on corporate domination, but also to force change in the government and require them to serve the interests of the “99%”, instead of the “1%”.
In this early stage it is dificult to surmise the ideology of Wall Street protesters, who range from labor union members to unemployed hipsters. However, there is a shared ideological message underlying demands by protestors for the government to increase taxes on corporations. This message controverts the Tea Party mantra, “Government can do no good” as the protestors are calling for more government to take more control over private actors. Such a demand is based on the belief that the government can indeed do “good”, but only when it is free from undue influences through lobbyists and corporate agents.
If one were only to focus on the financial institutions that have muted the voice of the 99%, this movement would have little effect on the decision-making in this country. It was democratic institutions, not companies, who passed laws that allowed for corporations to control the American landscape. It was the Supreme Court of this nation who created a legal fiction that gave corporations the same rights as an average citizen. And thus, even if corporations are fostering corruption and buying favors, it is our democratic officials that are selling those favors.
While Tea Partiers point to this behavior as evidence that governments are inherently corrupt and can’t be trusted, their observation falls short. The central feature of a truly democratic government is that all decisions are based on the informed consent of the people. However, if there is a secret veil of corporate and lobbyist control over WashingtonD.C., then the public is no longer voting based on informed consent and is thus no longer engaged in a democratic process.
The secretive influence of corporations has further been set into law by the U.S. Supreme Court with the Citizen’s United decision that affirmed corporate personhood. This gives the same rights of political affiliation and free speech to corporations as average citizens receive under the Constitution. This means that Nike or McDonalds, worth billions of dollars, is considered a citizen just like you or I when it comes to campaign donations. Soon it will be impossible to run for elections without a corporate sponsor, and thus, it will also be impossible to serve the interests of voters when officials have corporate overlords.
Attacking these principles will serve the interests of the OccuParty by giving them a central unifying purpose: to restore our constitutional democracy by re-equipping citizens with informed consent. Such an action may be viewed as revolutionary by some, but is founded on the basic principle of the U.S. Constitution that requires the government to be subservient only to the people, not to secret interests. One should remember that eliminating corporate personhood would not violate the Constitution considering the document gave no rights or protections to corporations over common citizens.
Along with attacking the government for fostering corporate domination, the OccuParty will need to adopt an ideology concerning the rights of citizens. The protestors have by and large asserted that wealth must be redistributed, with greater access to social services like education and health care. The demands of theOccupy Wall Street protesters are diametrically opposed to the conservative world view that individual rights are supreme above all others. While some may assert that the demands are merely a fools hope, there is a political ideology that lies under the surface.
Germany’s constitution embodies a principle that may resonate with most of the protestors: as the State must respect the rights of the individual, but the individual must respect the rights of their community. From this basic idea, one can call for a redistribution of wealth because while one has the right to accumulate wealth, one does not have the right to do so without assisting their community. Under this perspective, one could advocate for individual rights like gay marriage because they do not negatively effect the rights of the community.
Though Tea Partiers tout Thomas Jefferson as a guardian for individual rights, they forget that Jefferson didn’t believe that the wealthy could accumulate wealth without owing a duty to assist their community. Rather, he purported that while the government cannot interfere with individual rights, people owe a duty to help their local communities. This means that the 1% elites should be required to assist their community by paying for programs like student loan forgiveness or universal health care, for example.
Liberals in America have long-complained about the lack of a viable leftist party that embodied the interests of Democrats and Independents alike, though the Green Party and Libertarians have tried in the past. In order to do this, the OccuParty should take actions both on the street and in court to challenge undue influence by elites on our democracy, and the subsequent lack of informed consent by the people. Further, the party should advocate for a hybrid individual-community rights system as an overarching ideology. Though politics in America has taken a conservative turn with the influence of the Tea Party, the OccuParty could serve as a bastion for liberal philosophy and restore democratic order to this nation at a critical time.
All Power to the 99%.