If the Occupy Chicago movement is looking to validate Newt Gingrich’s admonition to “take a bath and get a job,” or Joe Walsh’s dismissal of its members as “spoiled, pampered, unfocused clueless young people,” it took a good step Monday night, by “mic checking” the 49th Ward Democratic Party meeting, while Ald. Joe Moore was speaking.
In the Occupy glossary, “mic checking” is the act of disrupting a meeting by shouting down the speaker. The Occupiers were upset with Moore for joining his 49 colleagues in a unanimous vote for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget.
“We are here because you and the City Council unanimously chose to support Rahm Emanuel’s budget,” the demonstrators shouted, as Moore stood patiently with his hands folded. “This budget will cut services in Chicago’s poorest communities by 17 percent. Our most underserved citizens will suffer the most. This is not an honest budget."
At the end of the three-minute rant, they chanted “1. We are the people, 2. We are united, 3. The alderman is not our ally.”
Then, according to the video posted on YouTube, an Occupier mumbled, “Let’s get the f--- out of here,” while one of his compatriots snickered. There was almost no applause.
Moore is one of the most progressive aldermen on the City Council. He sponsored the Big Box ordinance, and he distributes his aldermanic menu money through a process called “participatory budgeting,” in which constituents vote on how they want it spent. On his website, he has spoken out in favor of the Occupy movement’s goals. If Moore isn’t Occupy’s ally, the movement has no allies.
The question is, does Occupy want any allies? Occupiers often speak of their disdain for politicians and their disinterest in becoming a wing of the Democratic Party, as the Tea Partiers became a wing of the Republican Party.
But with “actions” like this mic check, they’re repeating the errors of the anti-Vietnam War movement, which became more interested in taking a morally superior stance than in collaborating with a bunch of sellouts who might have helped it build an electoral majority. The American people didn’t like the war, but they didn’t like the anti-war movement, either. The Yippies and the Weather Underground discredited left-wing politics for an entire generation, resulting in a conservative backlash that lasted from Richard Nixon all the way to George W. Bush.
That backlash has run its course. Please don’t start another one. Right now, the Occupy movement has public sympathy, but if the most left-wing alderman in the city is not left-wing enough for them, that sympathy won’t last. Remember, Occupy, you alone are not “the people.” The people of Chicago elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council, who voted unanimously for this budget. If you try to shout them down, you’re violating the democratic principles you claim to support.
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