President Obama is intensifying his identification with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This is truly frightening.
It would be one thing for Obama to practice benign neglect, to communicate that everyone has a right to protest without really commenting on the movement itself.
But it must be unprecedented for a president of the United States to suggest an affinity for radical leftists who despise capitalism and seek to upend the economic and political system.
I’ve watched enough video and seen enough commentary out of the Occupy Everything crowd to understand who these people are. They are not average people out of work who want jobs, or mainstream Democratic Party reformers who believe in more regulation and government programs.
These are stereotypical leftists who want wrenching change that cannot be achieved by democratic means and that would require the type of government or third party intervention into the economy and people’s lives that is incompatible with democracy.
But Obama has thrown in with these people, starting with his press conference statement earlier this month that they are expressing “the frustrations that the American people feel.”
Sunday, during his dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, he cozied up further.
As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.” They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing. Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.
But he also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there must be the possibility of reconciliation; that any social movement has to channel this tension through the spirit of love and mutuality.
If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain.
Sure, he talks about the need for “love and mutuality,” but that’s a fig leaf. These hate-filled extremists are not going to start feeling love and mutuality for corporate America, and Obama knows it.
What exactly does Obama mean when he speaks approvingly of a “challenge to the existing arrangements” and “peace without justice is not peace at all.” These are very provocative things for a president to say, particularly while aligning himself with hard core leftists.
As if to make sure things were perfectly clear, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest Sunday adopted the phraseology of the movement and suggested Obama would fight for its goals.
The president will continue to acknowledge the frustration that he himself shares about the need for Washington to do more to support our economic recovery and to ensure that the interest of the 99 percent of Americans is well-represented.
Obama is a former community organizer who was rated the most liberal member of the Senate. These kinds of protests are in his blood. He is no more able to condemn them than he is able to reject himself.
It’s disconcerting that this president appears to harbor some radical notions. What scares is when he is supportive of those who would make such ideas reality by toppling the system he presides over and has pledged to defend.