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Harvard professor: Tea party, 99 Percent must unify against Wall St. abuses

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 10:02 EDT
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Even as many in the partisan media attempt to embrace or shun the 99 Percent movement, there is another, quieter voice that’s rising, urging unity to fight the greed on Wall Street — and if polls are any indicator, that voice has already found deep sympathy with a great many Americans.

Speaking to a crowd gathered for “Occupy D.C.” this week, Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig touched upon that small but rising tide, which says and says again that the tea party is also part of the 99 Percent.

“What is inspiring about this movement is its potential… to rally our country around an idea that we all believe fundamentally: this government is corrupt,” he said.

Pointing to the need to constantly raise funds for a member of Congress or a political party to maintain their power, Lessig called out the system of campaign finance as plain, open-air corruption, giving America’s elite enough say-so over Congress that they could even ensure a member is booted from office if they don’t go along with the agenda of wealth.

“That is terrifying,” Lessig said. “[2008] is the first time in American history where we have seen a collapse followed by no fundamental re-regulation of the financial services sector, because they have the power to block change from either the Democrats and Republicans.”

“They hold this country hostage because of that power, because of that corruption,” he continued.

He went on to recall a time he went to a tea party conference, only to hear legitimately angry, homespun grassroots activists talk about this very problem in the same manner as the “Occupy” groups, who he said should put aside what they believe as far as gay rights or abortion or other social wedge issues.

“You can build this movement to unite America around this idea that the time for crony capitalism must come to an end,” Lessig said. “There is no one on the left or the right who defends the system of crony capitalism, they just practice it. And you, the movement you’ve begun, can begin the recognition across America of why and how we need to end that corruption. You do that by framing this in a way that they can hear you, and inviting them in to your conversation by explicitly bringing them in.”

Lessig is not the only public figure to make this very connection: financial blogger Karl Denninger, a co-founder of the tea party movement, has come out in support of the “Occupy” protests, and even President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have admitted similarities between the movements.

The recent polling shows the beginning of a trend here as well. The conservative-leaning National Journal found in a poll published this morning that the vast majority of Americans — about two-thirds — have heard about the protests against Wall Street, and nearly 60 percent agree with them. Crucially, that figure includes at least one-third of Republicans.

Prior polls have also found that the 99 Percent movement is already more popular than the tea party and has an even higher approval rating than President Obama himself, even as more and more Democrats and labor unions rush to endorse the movement. But much like Republican organizations rushing to endorse the original tea party movement, trying to absorb the anger into the already-existing Washington structures, Democratic groups are following suit for the same simple reason: so they don’t lose their members.

“I don’t think there’s any danger of this movement being co-opted by MoveOn.org — which is a reprehensible organization — or the Democratic Party, or anyone else, or the teamsters,” explained Pulitzer-winning reporter Chris Hedges during Saturday’s protest in New York City. “The fact is, you’ve done what they have not done, which is fight back. And because you’ve fought back, they’ve been exposed for who they are, I.E. the leaders of these groups. That’s why they’re running to you and attempting to restore what little credibility they have left.”

To overcome the chasm of left-versus-right, Lessig had simple advice: Approach conservatives “with respect, without challenging their integrity, without requiring they agree with you on all the important issues that we agree about, and by openly and explicitly saying ‘come here, party with us, let’s talk about the future of America.’”

This video was published to YouTube on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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