Occupy the campaign: Make government serve the 99%, not the 1%

by John MaBeath Watkins

Driving up to Capitol Hill yesterday evening, I saw Occupy Wall Street protesters walking down the hill in the other lane. It always warms my heart to see people marching against the powers that be, but it occurred to me that it was deuced cold out there, and not the sort of conditions humans evolved for.

We are naked apes. Our ancestors evolved in the tropics, and other than our giant brains, the great genetic innovation for humans is their loss of body hair, which allows us to shed heat better than our hairy prey and engage in successful persistence hunting.

If we were polar bears or grizzlies, camping out on pavement all winter might be tenable. We'd just crawl in our tents and hibernate, the ultimate in passive resistance. But we are the naked sons and daughters of Esau, that hairy man, and continuing to occupy all winter is neither comfortable nor good strategy.

At some point, the same thing is going to happen to OWS as happened to the Tea Party, when the anger that the public sympathized with has been expressed and the tactics start to grate on people's nerves. Their popularity will decline, but will they have achieved the kind of political change the Tea Party managed?

It was an easy transition for the Tea Party, which is made up primarily of politically active Republicans. They just took their enthusiasm and organization and took over a big chunk of the Republican Party, intimidating the party in such a way as to practically dictate its policy stands.

It's tougher for the OWS crew to turn their enthusiasm into political influence, because about 70% of them are political independents who are fed up with all the powers that be, not just one political party. The trouble is, once you've made the transition from colorful representative of the way a lot of people feel to total pain in the arse, what can remain for such a group?

I'd say the next step is to occupy campaign events. When a representative of either party holds a town hall meeting, they should meet people who may not be of their party, but represent the feelings of Americans who aren't being properly represented by a political party.

Both parties are getting big donations from Wall Street, and both need to have their feet held to the fire to serve the voters, not the financiers. I saw a quote from a Wall Streeter claiming that politicians needed to "remember who their constituents are." He wasn't talking about voters, because there just aren't that many people working in the finance sector. He was talking about campaign financing.

In short, he was saying those congressmen needed to remember that they were bought and paid for, and they needed to stay bought.

We, as citizens, need to remind them that they are public servants, not the servants of the fat cats who can donate more money. We need to cut through the deceptive rhetoric of the 1% that tries to divide and conquer the 99%.

For example, people who advocate a flat tax claim they want to simplify the tax code. Well, the tax brackets aren't what's complicated in the tax code, it's the myriad of exemptions written in opaque prose that the 1% have lobbied for. It's complicated and opaque for a reason -- they don't want you to know who the tax giveaways are going to.

We've simplified the tax code before, and lowered the top rate, under Ronald Reagan. So what happened? The 1% paid their lobbyists to write exemptions back into the code, while leaving the top rate alone. Now they want to repeat the process, lowering the top rate again, eliminating the exemptions that are defended by the less powerful interests, then over the years riddling the tax code with a Swiss cheese of exemptions again.

There are a variety of scams like that being sold to voters, and the way to fight back is to educate people, and tell our elected officials that we know what's going on and won't stand for it. And there's an obvious way to do that:

Occupy the campaign.

Don't occupy congress, they've got the force to push you out of there. Occupy campaign events, that's where the candidate is taking a sounding to learn how constituents feel.