Last night’s crackdown at Zuccotti Park and today’s ruling has hardly ended the Occupation, and despite the turn to directly authoritarian tactics the legal wrangling has now commenced -- itself indicating that we still have some remnants of the rule of law. One point to understand with complete clarity is that, while Zuccotti park was cleared out temporarily, this is not a defeat for the movement as a whole -- there are too many protests in too many places. OWS went viral. And I think these demonstrations are a continuation of the new, confrontational sentiment that we saw in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere earlier this year: even if every Occupy protest goes on hiatus during the winter, demonstrations to create a more democratic economy would spring up again until the current economic conditions change.
The Occupy demonstrators have shown, and continue to show, inspirational courage, both physical and moral, which has been an indispensable factor in their already considerable achievements. As late as August, the campaign against public sector employees still had momentum, deficit scare-mongering dominated the public debate, and the president was even signaling that Social Security was on the cutting table. Already then sentiment was growing for a shift in tax policy (suggesting that the public is no longer wedded to trickle-down doctrine).
Now, public debate has shifted from the culture war to economic fairness and equality, as last week’s elections seem to have shown, with the defeat of a radical anti-abortion measure in Mississippi and a radical anti-immigrant candidate in Arizona. Majorities not only want to raise taxes on the rich, they oppose our expensive wars, and we just saw an extremely destructive tar sand oil pipeline put on hold due to persistent public demonstrations.
Most importantly, there is now much greater unity between the 99% who make up the middle class and the poor, and greater awareness of their mutual economic deprivations at the hands of the 1%. The Occupy demonstrations have, well, demonstrated to lots of people that they are not alone in their grievances -- and that’s one of the best ways for the Left to gain further strength, confidence, and unity.