Empower dissent with the ballot box
By Rich Cohen
The unprecedented Occupy Movement has given the American people a voice for their grievances and for their hopes, and in doing so have rattled the elites who are now recognizing the moral force behind the cause that is taking root in the public consciousness.
But to keep the public on our side, we must demonstrate that their concerns are our concerns and are being acted upon with wisdom, skill and urgency.
Every grievance, every issue we care about, from student debt to foreclosures, from environmental challenges to living wages, from attacking countries that did nothing to us, to providing a doctor to anyone who needs one, will not be decided on its own in the streets we occupy, but in the buildings we don’t.
The outcomes that matter most to us are decided almost entirely in one particular building, the U.S. Capitol, which right now is ruled by corporate majorities controlled by Wall Street. If we are serious about our grievances and truly committed to making this country our own, then “We the People” must occupy the U.S. Congress, the major power center of the United States, and be there with our own majority control.
Only by winning a 218 seat majority in the House of Representatives and a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate, will we have the numbers necessary to actually shift power from Wall Street to us.
Without those numbers there is literally no way to take control of our country. We have two choices. We can either aim high, honoring ourselves by taking power, or remain on the outside looking in and endlessly reacting, constantly defending ourselves and forever appealing to corporate politicians.
Hopefully we’re learning that agitating and pleading alone will never get us more than a watered down imitation of what we need. The question is, are we reactors or deciders?
As deciders our first step is to occupy our neighborhoods with relentless face-to-face, house- by-house, street-by-street congressional district campaigns that succeed in electing members of Congress who are not beholden to Wall Street and lead to our ultimate occupation of the Congress.
We have the people to get it done, but do we have the will?
We should expect more from ourselves than just calling attention to our grievances or hoping that a Washington or local politician will throw us a bone. If what we are doing is really more than just beating up on the “bad guys,” then we must link our street dissent to the ballot box with the single-minded goal of taking majority control of the Congress.
That’s where the power is and where we need to be if getting our problems solved and reaching for our best as Americans is why we are really here.
An electoral strategy combined with ongoing visible street occupations (around foreclosed homes, student debt, etc.) that doesn’t just talk to our 99 percent, but mobilizes them, are the two essentials for reclaiming and remaking our country.
Rich Cohen is a member of Occupy Portland.