Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Year That Could Change Everything

With twelve months to go before The Election, Occupy Wall Street has to morph soon into more than a messy mirror image of the Tea Party without its political focus.

Half a century ago the emotional energy of street theater protest was not enough to save America. We started the 1960s with a Cuban Missile Crisis victory of JFK followed by the Civil Right Act and Great Society dreams of LBJ, but the rage over Vietnam and what it did to the economy gave us Nixon, four more years of war and Watergate.

The stakes are even higher now—-2010 showed that the ballot box is what counts and, if the nation is to be spared who-knows-what under Mitt Romney or whoever with a compliant Congress, those who are horrified at that prospect must do more than vent their anger.

Body-rhetoric demonstrations have to be quickly converted into political organization and effort, and channeled toward success at the polls next November.

That means forgiving the failings of a finger-in-the-dike presidency and rallying behind not only Barack Obama but House and Senate candidates such as Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and others to defeat Tea Party House freshman who have been holding even John Boehner hostage for the past year.

Expressing moral outrage is fine, but OWS protesters should recall how Ralph Nader fervor gave us George W. Bush instead of Al Gore in 2000 and start doing the hard scut work of raising money and ringing doorbells for 2012.

All this recalls 1964 when historian Richard Hofstadter gave “the paranoid style” a name during Barry Goldwater's run for the presidency against LBJ:

"American politics has often been an arena for angry minds...who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority...a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy."

Half a century ago, Goldwater lost decisively when he claimed that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"

Today, Mitt Romney and his GOP foes make Goldwater look like a flaming liberal, and the only way to stop them is to avoid emulating them.

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