NYC protest against the bailout

Clusterstock, a financial blog, was not impressed

“They were protesting everything. There were guys with petitions against the war. A lady who opposes breast cancer. Who doesn’t oppose cancer?” our correspondent Brian Van Nieuwenhoven told us. He described the protesters as a collection of misfits, crazies, tourists and some people who actually seemed to know about and oppose the bailout.

Why can’t we have better protesters?

Sigh. A friend of mine went to a big antiwar protest a few years back and came back disgusted. She said, I oppose the war, but these people are crazy, and what’s up with all irrelevant causes?

This is not the way to build a mass movement. The Left complains about being marginalized but too often does it to themselves. The bailout is a perfect issue for the Left to organize on. A protest about it should be focused on that issue only and should have speakers from across the political spectrum talking about why the bailout should be opposed. That’s how you get mainstream attention and get the protests onto CNN and in the NY Times. Because the point of protests is to get media attention, not to preach to the raggedy choir.


  1. Bob,

    I both agree and disagree with you on this. I recall whilst in LA back in 2003 when we were organising demo after demo in Hollywood. A friend of mine at the time, who I would describe as broadly sympathetic to our views on the war, said that whilst he would like to go to an antiwar demo the people he’d come across walking by the last demo to get to his apartment in Hollywood succeeded in putting him off. I thought at the time that this was more a reflection of him than of the demo, just a very poor excuse not to get off his ass and do something. But that’s me thinking as someone who was already active and had managed to get past the little obstacles and excuses we make trying to resist what we know will be the crossing of a mental Rubicon from the comfort zone of inactivity to activity.

    The ‘movement’ doesn’t do itself any favours, esp when it’s in the weak state it is now. In my view too many get involved attracted to an alternative lifestyle, replete with its own dress code, lexicon, and norms of behaviour. But it’s not about that. The movement should be the means to the end and not an end in itself.

    An old miners union leader in Scotland put it best when he described it as ‘building a movement and not a monument’. What we have now is a monument, with each rally and demo reduced to a cathartic exercise for those participating in giving expression to their anger, regardless of how it might impact on public consciousness, how it might build the movement and make it stronger.

    In the process opportunites are lost and you end up with what we have now – a defeated and demoralised movement that’s clean out of ideas.

    Lessons need to be learned.

  2. That mass immigration rights march in LA a few years back was an example and a caution of what can happen.

    It was over one million people, the biggest march ever in LA. Sue and I handed out flyers for two hours until we ran out, and the marchers were still coming. The inspiring thing was the marchers themselves. It wasn’t just the Left, it was everyone; Mom, Dad, and the kids, people who never marched before. And it was Latino radio that organized it, DJs like Piolin who normally aren’t political.

    But there was no overriding goal and focus, the coalition leadership was split, and within a few months, the power of that amazing day had mostly ebbed.

    I think people in the streets can be an important rallying symbol, but more than that is needed. You also need friends in high places who can lean on Congress (or are in Congress), broad-based support of churches and community organizations, and the like.

    That’s why the financial crisis is such a perfect issue for the Left. It affects everyone. Given the right approach and platform, you could have the Chamber of Commerce endorsing events. And they can mobilize people the Left could never hope to reach.

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