Meanwhile, if you come up short of murder, there’s really nothing you cannot advocate. Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Frances Fox Piven, Jeremiah Wright, Spike Lee, Van Jones: The hard-core celebrity Left can support anything, say anything, and mainstream liberalism just doesn’t care. Point out that the Liberty Park Commune is chockablock with Communists, anarchists, and truthers, not to mention the perfect cast for an Escape From New York remake, and mainstream Democrats will immediately change the subject. Suddenly, the only issue is the protesters’ “right to protest.”
So far, most of the criticism from the right has focused on the cognitive dissonance and plain old hypocrisy of Democrats who embrace the patchouli-soaked hordes as a wonderful flowering of democracy, an American Arab Spring, even though they saw the tea-party movement as recrudescent fascism. Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi — a multimillionaire from an old machine-politics family who shared political control of Washington for two years — says of Occupy Wall Street, “I support the message to the establishment, whether it’s Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen.” This is the same woman who, as speaker of the House, wrote (with Steny Hoyer) in USA Today that American citizens protesting Obamacare at town-hall meetings were “un-American.” Mainstream Democrats look at the radicals with a parent’s love, seeing idealism and hope and passion and (fingers crossed!) mobilizing power that will yield electoral victory. They put on their rose-colored glasses and see a Norman Rockwell painting made flesh at Liberty Park. Middle-class Americans look at the same scene and see a convention of glue sniffers and shoplifters.
The same thing happened in the 1960s. At the 1968 Democratic covention, the police went hard on the protesters after days of provocation and insults. Mainstream liberals took the rioters’ side. The protesters were “idealistic, demonstrably brave, concerned for their country and their fellow men,” Tom Wicker famously wrote in the New York Times. “The truth is that these were our children in the streets, and the Chicago police beat them up.” Liberals and radicals alike were profoundly moved by the chants of “The whole world is watching!” And they were right, at least figuratively: The American people were watching, and polls showed that the American people sided with Mayor Daley, the cops, and, by extension, National Review and Richard Nixon, by a two-to-one margin. Those weren’t their children.
But all that is ancient history to today’s Democrats. Their desperation, their tea-party envy, their psychological need to indulge their inner revolutionaries, their 1960s nostalgia: All these things contribute to the gob-smackingly idiotic impulse to embrace the tumescent lumpenproletariat without heed to their agenda or their leadership.
This can end in several different ways. The least likely is the one the Democrats are betting on: a popular protest movement that can be successfully channeled into meaningful electoral victories and liberal reforms. Not only are Democrats backing the wrong horse for that, the horse they’re backing isn’t even in the race; it’s running in an open field toward some utopian land of loan forgiveness and free government cheese. The most likely end is that, like the flies swarming the protesters, the protests themselves will die off with the first frost. Of all the reasons that comparisons to the Arab Spring are nonsensical, the most obvious is that these bozos started in the fall. It’s going to get cold just in time for midterms. That will leave only the least photogenic and most radical kids behind.
But the medium-plausible scenario is that Occupy Wall Street will turn ugly — sorry, uglier. Frustration over the inability to convert their unspecified demands for sweeping change into action will breed bitterness. Attention addiction will elicit ever-more-idiotic antics and stunts. Yet mainstream liberals will continue to support the occupation of Wall Street and its companion movements just long enough to reconfirm everything they’ve worked decades to disprove. And when things go bad, the cheap dates will take great offense at anyone who dares to notice that they’re tramps.