The “Occupy movement” has devolved into Hipsters of the Flies — dens of crime, squalor and internecine power struggles. As health and safety concerns grow, city officials around the country are moving to break up protest encampments. The movement is not popular, even with the young or the poor.
Democrats, from Pres. Obama on down, once sympathetic, may try to rhetorically distance themselves from the protest themselves as the public mood sours. However, they really cannot avoid aligning themselves with the OWSers. Ideology and the reflexive turn to class warfare in an election year are big reason for this, but the answer is both more complex and more simple than that.
It is more complex because — as noted by Kenneth Anderson, David Brooks and Walter Russell Mead among others — the Occupy protests are primarily an intramural fight among the factions of the Left. As Brooks would have it, this is a fight about Blue Inequality, not Red Inequality. But these analyses — perhaps because they are primarily intellectual pursuits — tend to gloss over the more simple aspect.
The Occupy protests are about jobs. The Occupiers are unemployed and they tend to have a certain class of college degree and cannot find a certain class of job. Anderson strikes close to the heart of the problem with Blue Inequality:
The lower tier is in a different situation and always has been. It is characterized by status-income disequilibrium, to borrow from David Brooks; it cultivates the sensibilities of the upper tier New Class, but does not have the ability to globalize its rent extraction. The helping professions, the professions of therapeutic authoritarianism (the social workers as well as the public safety workers), the virtuecrats, the regulatory class, etc., have a problem — they mostly service and manage individuals, the client-consumers of the welfare state. Their rents are not leveraged very much, certainly not globally, and are limited to what amounts to an hourly wage. The method of ramping up wages, however, is through public employee unions and their own special ability to access the public-private divide. But, as everyone understands, that model no longer works, because it has overreached and overleveraged, to the point that even the system’s most sympathetic politicians understand that it cannot pay up.
The upper tier is still doing pretty well. But the lower tier of the New Class — the machine by which universities trained young people to become minor regulators and then delivered them into white collar positions on the basis of credentials in history, political science, literature, ethnic and women’s studies — with or without the benefit of law school — has broken down. The supply is uninterrupted, but the demand has dried up. The agony of the students getting dumped at the far end of the supply chain is in large part the OWS.
The part Anderson likely gets wrong is the part about “everyone” knowing the model no longer works. As Mead wrote pre-OWS, the Blue Model was very much about selling people security within that model. And while it’s true that model has been crumbling for some time, the establishment was still selling gullible youngsters on the dream of permanent jobs, however much Matt Welch might be correct in calling them on it (the dysfunction of higher education fuels this phenomenon).
This is why Dems cannot pretend to ignore the Occupy movement, but must at least express sympathy with its general thrust. The angst of the OWSers echoes within the class that currently occupies the types of jobs the OWSers want; that class encompasses the Democrats’ core constituencies. It is the street iteration of the “emerging Democratic majority” versus the collapse of the Blue Model. If progressivism stops being a jobs racket, it loses much of its power.
This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
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