If, at lunchtime today, you had happened upon Bain Capital’s Manhattan headquarters on the corner of 57th Street and Lexington Avenue, you’d have seen a giant inflatable Bane figure standing sentry outside. United NY, a group of community organizers, was staging a protest.
We were promised one hell of a show:
The same day that Mitt Romney delivers his nomination acceptance speech a giant 13-foot-tall monster will be delivering a press conference from the steps of Bain Capital in New York City. After several workers recount their real-life horror stories of working for Bain-owned businesses, BAIN will detail how his economic approach of slashing incomes, destroying jobs and gutting businesses will be applied to America as a whole.
In reality, as are so many such protests in Manhattan, it was a damp squib. A few community organizers were hanging around, chanting about wanting things “now,” and excitedly spouting buzzwords to anybody who would listen — “dignity!” “a fair wage!” “rise up!” “unite!” – but the press contingent outnumbered the participants and the members of the public hovering on the periphery were united only in a question: “What is this?” Predictably, the whole affair fell apart after 30 minutes and the inflatable Bane was decommissioned. A let down all round.
Other than it being such a non-event, what struck me most was the length to which these people are prepared to go in order to defend President Obama’s record. Unlike with Occupy, which boasted equal opportunity vitriol, the community organizing and union communities seem still to be true believers and their plagues are aimed at one house only. I spoke to a very nice but unforgivably ill-informed older gentleman. First he gave me the usual schtick about how Bain murders everybody who works there and sends their remains to China in order to be sold to weapons manufacturers who don’t even have the decency to be fuel-efficient. Next, I heard a lot about “the people,” whose alleged will seemed to tally more closely with his desires than with anything the polls would reflect. And then he told me that Obama was a man of decency who needed to be reelected. I asked him why he had so much faith in the president, especially if things were as bad in the country as his protest signs seemed to suggest. He explained:
I don’t accept the idea that he or Democrats had control of both the House and the Senate because when we have Conservadems, so in other words as many Democrats who are actually concerned about er their concern for people is very limited so in other words as they try to get legislation in what did we find we found that some legislators starting bargaining for more and more and more for themselves so simply that whether a Congress is Democrat-controlled or Republican you don’t have the people there that you need.
I agreed that this was a real problem and looked around for a clean exit.
Nontheless, his basic sentiment was echoed by another woman I spoke to. She told me that Obama would have fixed the country if it weren’t for the Republicans, who have deliberately stopped him from “bettering America.” “Why would they do that?” I asked. She didn’t really know, but said it had to do with “greed” and assured me that she knew people who had been “looking for work for two years now” and that if Mitt Romney came in, “more jobs would be lost.”
That was the most sense I got out of anybody. Half of the protesters spoke no English (from which I’m inferring nothing except that, well, they didn’t speak English) and the other half appeared to have spent so long talking to other people who agreed with them that they had forgotten how to explain their positions to skeptics. After all, buzzwords are only effective if the listener agrees with you.