NEW YORK (Frameshop) – Barney Frank has added his voice to the chorus of Democrats trying to close their eyes and ignore Occupy Wall Street by (OWS) with the false argument that real change only happens when people vote. Speaking to Rachel Maddow, Frank offered this nugget which passes for Washington wisdom, these days:
It is the prerequisite, I hope, for people getting together and voting and engaging things. and I understand some of the people on occupy wall street are kind of critical of that. They think that’s conventional politics. Well, you know, the most successful organization in America in getting its views adopted is the national rifle association. they are in many cases a minority. But in addition to everything else they do, they very effectively identify who the members of the congress are, the legislatures and vote for them.
There are a series of falsehoods, here, that all shine light on the giant cage that imprisons the political imaginations of our current generation of elected officials.
The first falsehood is that the kind of activity going on in OWS is somehow opposed to “traditional” politics, such as drafting policy proposals, getting out the vote, and voting itself. Barney Frank is an ignorant fool if he thinks the millions of people directly involved in and inspired by OWS are the kinds of Americans who sit around on the couch eating corn chips and playing air hockey while the grown-ups “engage” with politics.
I spent just a short time walking around Zuccotti Park over the weekend and what did I find? Dozens of groups discussing all sorts of politics, ranging from seminar style discussions on economic injustice to step-by-step policy development and deployment. OWS counts among its members some of the most engaged among us.
The second falsehood is the idea that “politics”–which I put in quotes, here, to show exactly how lost Barney Frank et al have become from its actual meaning–“politics” is somehow synonymous with “political party success.” In this case, Barney Frank uses the NRA as his example to explain to OWS that if they really want to be good at “politics,” they need to hire a PR firm, cull money together into a few super PACs, and then retain a K-Street lobbying firm.
In other words, here we have a senior member of the Democratic Party who, supposedly, listens to protest movement decry the corrupting power of money in politics–but who then responds by telling the movement to focus more attention on buying and corrupting politicians a la the NRA if they want to make a difference.
Advice like that is so crazy it would make you laugh. But, wait…Barney Frank was not trying to be funny.
And, thus Barney Frank comes to embody the total cognitive collapse in the generation of elected officials that Americans have voted again and again into office.
We say “get the money out of politics,” the promise change, we vote for them, they tell us if we want real change we need to put more of our money into politics to counter all the money in politics, we believe them, we vote for them again. Rinse. Repeat.
There are some basic reasons why Barney Frank says what he says that lead back to the choices and allegiances he has made to keep himself in office. The more important thing, however, is to see that Frank is attempting undermine emerging change in how people see politics by resorting to gatekeeping–guarding the very definition of what counts as legitimate politics.
Many, many voters and activists are also stuck within the worldview that Barney Frank articulates.
Even worse, many voters who are frustrated by the lack of change that their vote has brought over successive elections are actually comforted by statements of the sort that Barney Frank made. These folks see OWS and cannot understand or relate to it because to do so would mean that their political belief system would start to collapse. And so they get angry, call OWS names, and so forth.
In reality, however, it is not very difficult to see how this idea of “vote for us, we’ll deliver change to you” has failed of late–and, thus, how necessary it is for voters to dig deeper and go beyond the conventional boundaries of what has counted for political action in this country. It is not difficult to see, but it takes people some time to get there.
Many may never get there and will react to OWS with anger and fear, but many more will understand.
It does not really matter if this understanding comes through discussions about unregulated corporations or obscene billion dollar paychecks, or the corrupting effects of money on politics. There are many ways to arrive at the same point: change has not come, things have gotten worse, time to thing bigger.
Barney Frank is not a bad person. He is not a dumb person. He is just a person trapped within a political system whose main obsession is to reproduce itself.
OWS is not trying to better understand how to take up residence within that corrupt system, but is instead looking for ways to shift to a new paradigm. And if Barney Frank has questions about how that process is going, so far, I am sure there are plenty of people in Zuccotti Park who would be willing to take time to talk him through it.