Falling out of the public's favor, the protesters should take a lesson from the civil rights movement and wrap their frustrations in the American flag
Occupy Wall Street is at a fork in the road. One path leads to political change, as the movement pushes the center of gravity in American politics to the left. The other path leads to irrelevance or even harm for the progressive project.
For OWS, the latest opinion poll should be a wake up call. Early polls were favorable, but things have changed. Now only 30 percent of Americans have a positive view of the movement, and 39 percent have a negative view. It's proving too easy for opponents to caricature OWS as a hodge-podge of extremists and oddballs -- especially given reports of the violence in Oakland.
To succeed, OWS needs to Americanize the movement. Politics in America is like a game of capture the flag. The United States is a highly ideological nation with a clear sense of its history as a narrative arc. And the right and left get to battle over who will write the next chapter in the American story.
Here, the model for OWS to copy is the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King understood how the game is played. Despite the best efforts of racists to paint King and his supporters as un-American, radical, and pro-communist, the civil rights movement successfully presented itself as the next installment in the great American tale. King deliberately reached back to the founding of the nation and asked that the country's ideals be extended to all Americans: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'" Today, even conservatives like Glenn Beck embrace King and the civil rights movement.
Meanwhile, the cautionary tale is the anti-Vietnam War movement. By the late 1960s, the Vietnam War was highly unpopular. But incredibly, the anti-war movement was even less popular than the war. The protesters were widely seen as un-American: rioters, desecrators of the flag, and advocates of amnesty, acid, and abortion. The protesters got a "reputation for being elitist, radical, and unpatriotic."
The anti-Vietnam War movement never captured American hearts and minds. When protesters and police battled at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, a large majority of the public backed the police. One poll in 1968 asked people how they felt about the protesters on a scale of 1-100. Fully one third of the public gave the protesters a score of zero. And only one-in-six people put the protesters anywhere on the top half of the scale.
The protesters helped to elect Richard Nixon -- not once, but twice. In 1968, the anti-war movement attacked the Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey as an establishment hawk indistinguishable from Nixon, contributing to Humphrey's narrow defeat. And in 1972, the movement was instrumental in nominating the ideologically pure but unelectable George McGovern.
To reach out to Middle America, Occupy Wall Street must present itself as part of the nation's story: as a rebellion against the concentration of wealth in a new aristocracy. The movement should get churches engaged. It should get as many veterans as possible involved. And the simplest strategy of all: Occupy Wall Street should wrap itself in the American flag.
Compare photos of OWS rallies and Tea Party events. From a distance, you can't always tell that the leftwing protests are in the United States. By contrast, the Tea Party is awash with the stars and stripes.
Overt patriotism can make people on the left feel a little nervous. But when the nation's symbols have such meaning to so many people, why cede the flag to conservatives?
OWS should look to the Arab Spring for inspiration. Protest movements in the Middle East are extremely patriotic and flag-waving. The reformers claim to be the true Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans.
Unless OWS understands the power of symbols, the American Autumn will be followed by a winter of discontent. And the protesters can start by hanging a hundred flags at Zuccotti Park. One percent of the United States might not care about these symbols--but 99 percent do.
The agreement doesn’t guarantee that Tehran will never produce nuclear weapons—because no agreement could do so.
A week ago I volunteered my way into an Atlantic debate on the merits of the Iran nuclear agreement. The long version of the post is here; the summary is that the administration has both specific facts and longer-term historic patterns on its side in recommending the deal.
On the factual front, I argued that opponents had not then (and have not now) met President Obama’s challenge to propose a better real-world alternative to the negotiated terms. Better means one that would make it less attractive for Iran to pursue a bomb, over a longer period of time. Real world means not the standard “Obama should have been tougher” carping but a specific demand that the other countries on “our” side, notably including Russia and China, would have joined in insisting on, and that the Iranians would have accepted.
Orr: “Sometimes a thing happens. Splits your life. There’s a before and after. I got like five of them at this point.”
This was Frank offering a pep talk to the son of his murdered former henchman Stan in tonight’s episode. (More on this in a moment.) But it’s also a line that captures this season of True Detective so perfectly that it almost seems like a form of subliminal self-critique.
Remember when Ray got shot in episode two and appeared to be dead but came back with a renewed sense of purpose and stopped drinking. No? That’s okay. Neither does the show: It was essentially forgotten after the subsequent episode. Remember when half a dozen (or more) Vinci cops were killed in a bloody shootout along with dozen(s?) of civilians? No? Fine: True Detective’s left that behind, too. Unless I missed it, there was not a single mention of this nationally historic bloodbath tonight.
The former secretary of defense lobbied for the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and has now ended the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scoutmasters.
Eagle Scout. Young Republican. CIA recruit. Air Force officer. CIA director. Secretary of defense.
It’s not the resume of a radical civil-rights campaigner, but Robert Gates has now integrated two of the great bastions of macho American traditional morality—first the U.S. armed forces, and now the Boy Scouts of America. In both cases, Gates pursued a careful, gradual strategy, one that wasn't fast enough for activists. In both cases, he was careful to take the temperature of constituents. And in both cases, once he was ready to act, he did so decisively. In the end what seemed to matter most was not Gates’s personal feelings but his determination to safeguard institutions he cared about and his deft skills as a bureaucratic operator.
Has the Obama administration’s pursuit of new beginnings blinded it to enduring enmities?
“The president said many times he’s willing to step out of the rut of history.” In this way Ben Rhodes of the White House, who over the years has broken new ground in the grandiosity of presidential apologetics, described the courage of Barack Obama in concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic of Iran, otherwise known as the Iran deal. Once again Rhodes has, perhaps inadvertently, exposed the president’s premises more clearly than the president likes to do. The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.
Companies that overvalue alpha-male behavior need to change—both to retain female talent and for the bottom line.
When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, the research on its economic benefits is clear: Equality can boost profits and enhance reputation. And then there’s also the fact that it’s more fair. But the progress of women in the workplace is so far inadequate: Women are woefully underrepresented in executive positions, the pay gap persists, and the motherhood penalty is very real.
Barbara Annis is the founder of the Gender Intelligence Group, a consultancy that works with executives at major firms (including Deloitte, American Express, BMO Financial Group, and eBay) to create strategies to transform their work cultures into ones that are friendly to both men and women.
I recently spoke with Annis about her work and the challenges to achieving gender parity. The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for clarity.
This is the third in a series. Readers are invited to send their own responses to email@example.com, and we will post their strongest critiques of the book and the accompanied reviews. (The first batch is here.) To further encourage civil and substantive responses via email, we are closing the comments section. You can follow the whole series on Twitter at #BTWAM and read all of the responses to the book from Atlantic readers and contributors.
Several years ago, Ta-Nehisi Coates took his son, not yet 5, to see a movie on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. As his son made his way off the escalator, a white woman pushed him and said, “Come on!” Chaos ensued. There was a black parent’s rage and a white man’s threat to have the black parent arrested. Coates narrates the incident in cool, steady prose. Ultimately, he writes of the regret he carries: “In seeking to defend you I was, in fact, endangering you.”
Connecticut, Missouri, and Georgia have dropped the slave-owning presidents from their annual fund-raising dinners, and many more states could follow suit.
The Democratic Party is on the hunt for a new pair of fathers.
Last week, Democrats in Connecticut rather matter-of-factly decided to oust Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from their place of honor as the namesakes of the state party’s annual fund-raising dinner. The debate—such as it was—over the legacies of the two slave-owning presidents took all of two minutes, a spokesman for the state central committee said, and the vote to strip their names from the dinner was unanimous. A week earlier, Missouri changed the name of its Jefferson-Jackson dinner to honor native son Harry Truman instead, and two days after Connecticut’s vote, Georgia Democrats announced a similar change with even less fanfare.
Educators seldom have enough time to do their business. What’s that doing to the state of learning?
It’s common knowledge that teachers today are stressed, that they feel underappreciated and disrespected, and disillusioned. It’s no wonder they’re ditching the classroom at such high rates—to the point where states from Indiana to Arizona to Kansas are dealing with teacher shortages. Meanwhile, the number of American students who go into teaching is steadily dropping.
A recent survey conducted jointly by the American Federation of Teachers and Badass Teachers Association asked educators about the quality of their worklife, and it got some pretty harrowing feedback. Just 15 percent of the 30,000 respondents, for example, strongly agreed that they’re enthusiastic about the profession. Compare that to the roughly 90 percent percent who strongly agreed that they were enthusiastic about it when they started their career, and it’s clear that something has changed about schools that’s pushing them away. Roughly three in four respondents said they “often” feel stressed by their jobs.
A controversial treatment shows promise, especially for victims of trauma.
It’s straight out of a cartoon about hypnosis: A black-cloaked charlatan swings a pendulum in front of a patient, who dutifully watches and ping-pongs his eyes in turn. (This might be chased with the intonation, “You are getting sleeeeeepy...”)
Unlike most stereotypical images of mind alteration—“Psychiatric help, 5 cents” anyone?—this one is real. An obscure type of therapy known as EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is gaining ground as a potential treatment for people who have experienced severe forms of trauma.
Here’s the idea: The person is told to focus on the troubling image or negative thought while simultaneously moving his or her eyes back and forth. To prompt this, the therapist might move his fingers from side to side, or he might use a tapping or waving of a wand. The patient is told to let her mind go blank and notice whatever sensations might come to mind. These steps are repeated throughout the session.