A populist uprising may shape 2012

Mentions of the phrase “income inequality” in print publications, web stories, and broadcast transcripts spiked from 91 times a week in early September to nearly 500 in late October, according to the website Politico — an increase of nearly 450%

From CBS News, by Andy Kroll

(N.B.: We were also helped in Ohio by the Grandmother ad..)

(TomDispatch) “No headlines announced it. No TV pundits called it. But on the evening of November 8th, Occupy Wall Street, the populist uprising built on economic justice and corruption-free politics that’s spread like a lit match hitting a trail of gasoline, notched its first major political victory, and in the unlikeliest of places: Ohio.

You might have missed OWS’s win amid the recent wave of Occupy crackdowns. Police raided Occupy Denver, Occupy Salt Lake City, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Portland, and Occupy Seattle in a five-day span. Hundreds were arrested. And then, in the early morning hours on Tuesday, New York City police descended on Occupy Wall Street itself, fists flying and riot shields at the ready, with orders from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to evict the protesters. Later that day, a judge ruled that they couldn’t rebuild their young community, dealing a blow to the Occupy protest that inspired them all.”

(Columbus OH 20111108)

Instead of simply condemning the eviction, many pundits and columnists praised it or highlighted what they considered its bright side. The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein wrote that Bloomberg had done Occupy Wall Street a favor. After all, he argued, something dangerous or deadly was bound to happen at OWS sooner or later, especially with winter soon to arrive. Zuccotti Park, Klein added, “was cleared… in a way that will temporarily reinvigorate the protesters and give Occupy Wall Street the best possible chance to become whatever it will become next.”

The New York TimesPaul Krugman wrote that OWS “should be grateful” for Bloomberg’s eviction decree: “By acting so badly, Bloomberg has made it easy to see who won’t be truthful and can’t handle open discourse.  He’s also saved OWS from what was probably its greatest problem, the prospect that it would just fade away as time went on and the days grew colder.”

Read between the lines and what Klein, Krugman, and others are really saying is: you had your occupation; now, get real. Start organizing, meaningfully connect your many Occupy protests, build a real movement. As these columnists see it, that movement — whether you call it OccupyUSA, We Are the 99%, or the New Progressive Movement — should now turn its attention to policy changes like a millionaire’s tax, a financial transaction fee, or a constitutional amendment to nullify the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that loosed a torrent of cash into American elections. It should think about supporting political candidates. It should start making a nuts-and-bolts difference in American politics.

But such assessments miss an important truth: Occupy Wall Street has already won its first victory its own way — in Ohio, when voters repealed Republican governor John Kasich’s law to slash bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers and gut what remained of organized labor’s political power.

Commandeering the Conversation

Don’t believe me? Then think back to this spring and summer, when Occupy Wall Street was just a glimmer in the imagination of a few activists, artists, and students. In Washington, the conversation, such as it was, concerned debt, deficit, and austerity. The discussion wasn’t about whether to slash spending, only about how much and how soon. The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent called it the “Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop” — and boy was he right.

A National Journal analysis in May found that the number of news articles in major newspapers mentioning “deficit” was climbing, while mentions of “unemployment” had plummeted. In the last week of July, the liberal blog ThinkProgress tallied 7,583 mentions of the word “debt” on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News alone. “Unemployment”? A measly 427.

This all-deficit, all-the-time debate shaped the final debt-ceiling deal, in which House Speaker John Boehner and his “cut-and-grow”-loving GOP allies got just about everything they wanted. So lopsided was the debate in Washington that President Obama himself hailed the deal’s bone-deep cuts to health research, public education, environmental protection, childcare, and infrastructure.

These cuts, the president explained, would bring the country to “the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was president.” After studying the deal, Ethan Pollock of the Economic Policy Institute told me, “There’s no way to square this plan with the president’s ‘Winning the Future’ agenda. That agenda ends.” Yet Obama said this as if it were a good thing.

Six weeks after Obama’s speech, protesters heard the call of Adbusters, the Canadian anti-capitalist magazine, and followed the lead of a small crew of activists, writers, and students to “occupy Wall Street.” A few hundred of them set up camp in Zuccotti Park, a small patch of concrete next door to Ground Zero. No one knew how long the occupation would last, or what its impact would be.

What a game-changing few months it’s been. Occupy Wall Street has inspired 750 events around the world, and hundreds of (semi-)permanent encampments around the United States. In so doing, the protests have wrestled the national discussion on the economy away from austerity and toward gaping income inequality (the 99% versus 1% theme), outsized executive compensation, and the plain buying and selling of American politicians by lobbyists and campaign donors.

Mentions of the phrase “income inequality” in print publications, web stories, and broadcast transcripts spiked from 91 times a week in early September to nearly 500 in late October, according to the website Politico — an increase of nearly 450%. In the second week of October, according to ThinkProgress, the words most uttered on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News were “jobs” (2,738), “Wall Street” (2,387), and “Occupy” (1,278). (References to “debt” tumbled to 398.)

And here’s another sign of the way Occupy Wall Street has forced what it considers the most pressing economic issues for the country into the spotlight: conservatives have lately gone on the defensive by attacking the very existence of income inequality, even if to little effect. As AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka put it, “Give credit to the Occupy Wall Street movement (and historic inequality) for redefining the political narrative.”

Wall Street in Ohio

The way Occupy Wall Street, with next to no direct access to the mainstream media, commandeered the national political narrative represents something of a stunning triumph. It also laid the groundwork for OWS’s first political win.

Just as OWS was grabbing that narrative, labor unions and Democrats headed into the final stretch of one of their biggest fights of 2011: an up-or-down referendum on the fate of Ohio governor John Kasich’s anti-union law, also known as SB 5. Passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March, it sought to curb the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 police, firefighters, teachers, snowplow drivers, and other public workers. It also gutted the political clout of unions by making it harder for them to collect dues and fund their political action committees. After failing to overturn similar laws in Wisconsin and Michigan, the SB 5 fight was labor’s last stand of 2011.

I spent a week in Ohio in early November interviewing dozens of people and reporting on the run-up to the SB 5 referendum. I visited heavily Democratic and Republican parts of the state, talking to liberals and conservatives, union leaders and activists.  What struck me was how dramatically the debate had shifted in Ohio thanks in large part to the energy generated by Occupy Wall Street.

It was as if a great tide had lifted the pro-repeal forces in a way you only fully grasped if you were there. Organizers and volunteers had a spring in their step that hadn’t been evident in Wisconsin this summer during the recall elections of nine state senators targeted for their actions during the fight over Governor Scott Walker’s own anti-union law. Nearly everywhere I went in Ohio, people could be counted on to mention two things: the 99% — that is, the gap between the rich and poor — and the importance of protecting the rights of the cops and firefighters targeted by Kasich’s law.

And not just voters or local activists either.  I heard it from union leaders as well. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, told me that her union had recruited volunteers from 15 different states for the final get-out-the-vote effort in Ohio. That, she assured me, wouldn’t have happened without the energy generated by OWS. And when Henry herself went door-to-door in Ohio to drum up support for repealing SB 5, she said that she could feel its influence in home after home. “Every conversation was in the context of the 99% and the 1%, this discussion sparked by Occupy Wall Street.”

This isn’t to take anything away from labor’s own accomplishments in Ohio. We Are Ohio, the labor-funded coalition that led the effort, collected nearly 1.3 million signatures this summer to put the repeal of SB 5 on the November ballot.  (They needed just 230,000.) The group outspent its opponents $30 million to $8 million, a nearly four-to-one margin. And in the final days before the November 8th victory, We Are Ohio volunteers knocked on a million doors and made nearly a million phone calls. In the end, a stunning 2.14 million Ohioans voted to repeal SB 5 and only 1.35 million to keep it, a 61% to 39% margin. There were repeal majorities in 82 of Ohio’s 88 counties, support that cut across age, class, race, and political ideologies.

Nonetheless, it’s undeniable that a mood change had hit Ohio — and in a major way. Pro-worker organizers and volunteers benefited from something their peers in Wisconsin lacked: the wind of public opinion at their backs. Polls conducted in the run-up to Ohio’s November 8th vote showed large majorities of Ohioans agreeing that income inequality was a problem. What’s more, 60% of respondents in a Washington Post-ABC poll said the federal government should act to close that gap. Behind those changing numbers was the influence of Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy protests.

So, as the debate rages over what will happen to Occupy Wall Street after its eviction from Zuccotti Park, and some “experts” sneer at OWS and tell it to get real, just direct their attention to Ohio. Kasich’s anti-union law might still be on the books if not for the force of OWS. And if the Occupy movement survives Mayor Bloomberg’s eviction order and the winter season, if it regroups and adapts to life beyond Zuccotti Park, you can bet it will notch more political victories in 2012.”

Bio: Andy Kroll is a staff reporter in the D.C. bureau of Mother Jones magazine and an associate editor at TomDispatch. This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-215_162-57328622/a-populist-uprising-may-shape-2012/

Progressive Victories in Ohio, Mississippi, Maine, Arizona Provide Seven Key Lessons for 2012

The 99% versus the 1% frame is critical to making clear that the problem with our economy has nothing to do with how much teachers, or firefighters, or steel workers, or home care workers, or Social Security recipients make for a living. It has everything to do with growing economic inequality, the exploding financial sector, and an unproductive class of speculators and gamblers who don’t make anything of value but siphon off all of our increased productivity.

From:HuffPost

By:Robert Creamer.

“A year ago the Empire struck back. Right Wing money capitalized on anger at the economic stagnation that their own policies caused just two years before. They brought a halt to the hard-won progressive victories that marked the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Last night the progressive forces tested some of the weapons and tactics they will use in next year’s full-blown counter offensive. They worked very, very well.

Progressives won key elections in Ohio, Maine, Mississippi, and Arizona.

The importance of yesterday’s labor victory in Ohio cannot be overstated. It could well mark a major turning point in the history of the American labor movement -and the future of the American middle class.

The people of Ohio rejected right wing attempts to destroy public sector unions by an astounding 61% to 39%. Progressives in Ohio won 82 out of 88 counties.

In his “concession,” the author of the union-stripping bill, Governor John Kasich, looked like a whipped dog. He was.”

from the Plain Dealer 9.11.11

“Last night’s victory will have a direct and immediate impact on the livelihoods of thousands of middle class state employees in Ohio. It will stall similar attempts to destroy unions in other states. It will turbo-charge the campaign to oust Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who jammed a union-stripping measure through his own legislature. And it will massively weaken Kasich and other Republicans in Ohio.

But last night’s victory also carried critical lessons for the progressive forces throughout America as we prepare for the crossroads, defining battle of 2012.

Lesson #1: Creating a Movement. The industrial state labor battles that culminated in last night’s overwhelming Ohio success transformed the image of unions from a large bureaucratic “special interest” that negotiates for workers and are part of the “establishment” — into a movement to protect the interests of the American Middle Class.

The Republican Governors who began these battles hoped to make a bold move to destroy union power. In fact, they have succeeded in creating their worst nightmare — the rebirth of a labor movement.

That is critically important for the future of unions – which by any measure provide the foundation of progressive political power in the United States. It also provides an important lesson for every element of the Progressive community.

These battles put the “movement” back in “labor movement.”

And the importance of “movement” can’t be overstated. Particularly at a time when people are unhappy with the direction of the country and desperately want change — they don’t want leaders who appear to be embedded parts of the status quo. They want to be part of movements for change.

Movements have three critical characteristics:

    • They make people feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
    • They make people feel that they themselves can play a significant role in bringing about that larger goal.
  • They involve “chain reactions” –– they go viral. You don’t have to only engage people in movements one by one or one or group by group. They begin to engage each other.

Because they make people feel that they are part of something larger than themselves — and that they can personally be a part of achieving that larger goal — movements inspire and empower. And for that reason they give people hope.

To win, Progressives must turn the anger and dissatisfaction with the present into inspiration and hope for the future.

The labor movement turned the battle in Ohio into a fight for the future of America’s middle class. It turned the battle into a fight over the dignity of everyday working people — and their right to have a say in their future. Instead of being about “contracts,” it was about “freedom.”

Lesson #2: It’s much easier to mobilize people to protect what they have than to fight for something to which they aspire.

Every one of the big victories yesterday involved battles that had been framed as attempts by the Right — or their allies on Wall Street – to take away the rights of everyday Americans.

In Ohio, it was the right to collectively bargain about their future. In Maine, it was the right to same-day voter registration. In Mississippi it was the right to use contraceptives –– once it became clear that the so-called “personhood” amendment was not just about abortion, but ultimately about a woman’s right to use birth control. In Arizona, it was the rights of Latino Americans.

And of course, that’s why the Republicans’ plan to privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicare are so toxic for them in the election next year.

Among referenda yesterday, the one progressive setback came in the largely symbolic vote — once again in Ohio — against the Health Care Reform Act’s mandate to buy insurance. The very same people who had voted against taking away the rights of their neighbors to join a union — also voted against being “forced” to buy health insurance.

The whole issue of the “mandate” is the major card the Right has played against the critically important Health Care Reform Act. Of course the whole issue could have been framed differently. The “mandate” to start paying Medicare premiums when you’re sixty-five isn’t framed as a “mandate.” People do it, both because they really want to get on Medicare, and because if they wait to pay premiums until they need it, their premiums go way up.

That’s why a Public Option was so popular with the voters. You got to choose to join something you wanted. But it’s also the way we should have framed the overall “mandate” to get insurance — with premium penalties if you fail to “opt in.”

Once the health care law becomes a fact on the ground that benefits ordinary people, every day, it will certainly become very popular. But that will wait until 2014 when most of its provisions go into effect. Once it does goes into effect, if they try to take away those benefits and the Right will run into a firestorm of opposition.

Of course if Romney is the Republican candidate next year, we don’t have to worry about the “mandate” issue at all. In fact, our attitude should be “go ahead, make my day.” It will be simple to neutralize any attack by Romney or Super-Pacs on Democrats about “mandates” by simply pointing out that the entire question is just one more example of how Romney has no core values — since he authored and passed the Massachusetts health care law built around “mandates.” In the end, Romney’s lack of core values is a much more powerful message than anything having to do with “mandates.”

Lesson #3: Framing the battle is key. In every one of these issue referenda, Progressives won the framing battle.

In Ohio, Progressives made the fight into a battle for the rights of the middle class — part of the overarching battle between the 99% and the 1%.

In Maine, Progressives made the battle into a fight over the right to register to vote. Of course the right wing frame was that eliminating same-day registration provided protection against “voter fraud.” That was pretty hard to sustain given the fact that there had been exactly two instances of “voter fraud” involving same-day registration in 28 years.

The Mississippi “personhood amendment” was framed as a battle over the rights of women to use birth control – not to make “miscarriage” a crime.

Lesson #4: Turnout is king. In Virginia, a Republican candidate leads his Democratic opponent by only 86 votes, so a recount will determine whether the Republicans there take control of the State Senate.

Turnout in the Virginia contests was low.

In Ohio, by contrast, 400,000 more voters went to the polls yesterday than in the elections in 2010. That’s one big reason why Progressives won.

And it wasn’t just inspiration and great messaging that turned them out. Rank and file union members and Progressives of all sorts conducted massive get out the vote efforts in every corner of the state.

After all, victory isn’t just about great strategy, mostly it’s about nuts and bolts — it’s about great execution. In Ohio they had both.

In Arizona, the Latino community mobilized to defeat the author of Arizona’s “papers please” law, State Senator Russell Pearce. He lost a recall election, by seven points, 52.4% to 45.4%. The Pearce defeat is just one more example of how the Republicans play the “immigration” card at their peril — and how important the Latino vote will be to the outcome next year in critical states like New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Florida — and Arizona.

Pearce didn’t count on Latinos going out to vote. They did.

Lesson #5: Progressives win when we stand up straight. We won last night where we stood proudly for progressive values — planted the flag — mobilized our forces and took the offensive.

People in America are not looking for leaders who apologize for their progressive beliefs or are willing to compromise those principles even before they enter the fight. They want leaders who will fight for the middle class, and fight for change; who stand up against the big Wall Street banks and the CEO class that they believe – correctly – have siphoned off the nation’s wealth, and whose greed has caused the economy to collapse.

People are willing to compromise when it seems to advance the common good — but only after their leaders have done everything in their power to defend their interests — and have mobilized them to defend theirown interests.

Lesson #6: The face of the battle in Ohio was your neighbor.

The Republicans bet that they could make public employees the “Welfare Queens” of our time. They bet that they could make public employees the scapegoats for all that has gone wrong with the American economy — that they could divide the middle class against itself.

They bet wrong.

Turned out to be impossible to convince everyday Americans that firefighters, cops, and teachers were greedy villains. Normal voters recognized them as their neighbors — as people just like themselves.

The 99% versus the 1% frame is critical to making clear that the problem with our economy has nothing to do with how much teachers, or firefighters, or steel workers, or home care workers, or Social Security recipients make for a living. It has everything to do with growing economic inequality, the exploding financial sector, and an unproductive class of speculators and gamblers who don’t make anything of value but siphon off all of our increased productivity.

Lesson #7: Progressives win when we frame the issue as a moral choice.

In Ohio, Progressives did not frame the debate as a choice between two sets of policies and programs. They posed the question as a choice between two different visions of the future.

It was a choice between an America with a strong, vibrant, empowered middle class, where every generation can look forward to more opportunity than the one that went before – or, a society with a tiny wealthy elite and a massive population of powerless workers who do their bidding.

It was posed as a choice between a society where we’re all in this together –– where we look out for each other and take responsibility for our future as a country — or as a society where we’re all in this alone — where only the strong, or the clever, or the ruthless can thrive.

If given a clear, compelling choice, Americans will chose a progressive vision of the future every time.”

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partnersand a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.


Emphasis Mine

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