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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Time for OWS to Switch Tactics?

We can be sure that Republican leaders are watching the arrests and evictions of Occupy Wall St. protesters in several cities, hopeful that things will turn ugly, and law-abiding citizens will turn against the protesters, then progressives and eventually, Democrats.
For now, polls indicate that a healthy plurality of the public approves of the protests, which have been highly successful in focusing media coverage and public attention on the injustices perpetrated by the banking and financial sector. It’s not such an unbridgeable leap from there to awakening growing working-class solidarity among all races, which is a nightmare scenario shared by Rove, Rollins, Luntz, Norquist and all GOP political strategists.
The GOP dream scenario, on the other hand, would be for the heretofore nonviolent protests morph into police-demonstrator violence. Call me paranoid, but no one should be shocked if it is later revealed that agents-provocateur are already engaged in planning disruptions toward that end. Dems should never forget “the Brooks Brothers Riot” nor the covert ops shenanigans of James O’Keefe and his ilk.
No one asked me, but I’m thinking that OWS should now consider a new tactical emphasis, or at least mix tactics. Armies of occupation have limited utility and significant vulnerability in protracted nonviolent conflict, as well as in war. After a certain point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, winning fewer hearts and minds until a point is reached when adverse effects take root. There may be a little more favorable leverage to be gained in the OWS protests. But it can’t last forever.
OWS has served a great purpose in refocusing public attention on corporate/banking abuses. Organizers should now begin planning nation-wide campaigns of economic withdrawal and voter registration, as well. That’s the hardball the banking/financial sector fears far more than occupations with no mass economic action.
Imagine, for example, what could happen if thousands of depositors began taking their cash out of megabanks and put it into credit unions every week. As I noted on October 13, this is beginning to happen here and there. Perhaps target a different city each week, with a goal of ten thousand depositor transfers to community credit unions, and 10 thousand newly registered voters. After losing a few hundred thousand depositors, Big Banks just might begin to show more concern for investing in American jobs and other reforms. If they won’t meet the challenge, community credit unions are already programmed to do so.
The night before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. urged his supporters “Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal,” and he compelled historic reforms with that commitment. It’s just possible that King’s challenge has even more resonance for our times.

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