Peter Beinart is becoming a real truth-teller–about Israel, and now about our own country. Yes, Occupy Wall Street has yet to articulate a “clear critique of unregulated capitalism yet, let alone a concrete agenda for reform.” But by providing a lightning rod for non-right wing frustration with business as usual and by decoupling the left from Obama (not that Obama, for his part, has ever been coupled to the left), it is a harbinger of a real sea change in our politics and potentially much bigger than itself.
What we are witnessing in Zuccotti Park actually represents an improvement over the Obama campaign. That campaign was largely about faith in one man. The Occupy Wall Street movement, by contrast, represents a direct reckoning with the most powerful forces in American life, forces that are not voted in and out of office every two or four years. And it represents a belief that young Americans must force that reckoning by themselves. No politician will do it for them. Those instincts are exactly right, and we’ve never needed them more.
Obama’s first term proves not only that trans-, bi-, or post-partisanship is an illusion, but that our system is fundamentally broken. If Obama himself comes to understand that, he may be able to tap some of those dissident energies in time for 2012. If he doesn’t and we elect a Republican by default, then all bets are off. A President Perry, Cain, Bachmann or Romney not only won’t be able to fix our economy–they’re not going to restore anything like normalcy either.
Hope is off the table. Now everybody is demanding change.