The 99% Take on the Republican National Convention


by Arun Gupta

About 500 protesters greeted the Republican convention, in Tampa. “What united the crowd was the 99% rhetoric,” which the White House has adopted – without the substance – from the Occupy Movement. No mention of how the president’s own austerity initiatives “helped enable the next stage of right-wing extremism that he is now running against.”


The 99% Take on the Republican National Convention

by Arun Gupta

This article originally appeared in Alternet.

Romney, Ryan and the right are painted, not unfairly, as extremists who will hurtle America back to the dark ages, but Obama, despite sitting in the Oval Office, is seen as powerless.”

Politics is an elaborate chess match, and in St, Petersburg one small strike was staged against the Republican National convention on Aug. 26 that revealed the thrust of President Obama’s 2012 re-election strategy.

As panicky Republicans cancelled the first day of the convention on Monday because of Tropical Storm Isaac, the focus on Sunday was the “RNC Welcome Event” at Tropicana Field. These days no major convention event is complete without a counter-protest, and in downtown St. Petersburg nearly 500 people gathered Sunday to march to the sports stadium and voice their displeasure at what they derided as “the world’s largest cocktail party [3].”

Given the spitting rain and gusts, the turnout was better than expected. And given the months of police [4] and press [5] hype [6] that a mob of mayhem-wreaking anarchists would crash the RNC, the protest rally around Mirror Lake seemed more like a festive Sunday in the park.

A couple of hundred people milled about as Dave Rovics belted out crowd pleasers like “I’m a Better Anarchist than You [7].” A handful of buses pulled up and disgorged more protesters who came from far away as Miami, New York city and Wisconsin. The rally and protest was organized by the Florida Consumer Action Network [8], a local grassroots organization focused on public policy issues.

Few anarchists were in evidence, apart from a scrum of fidgety black-clad youth who melted into the rally after drawing stares. It felt like an Occupy-related event with a giant puppet of Romney tagged with a “King of the 1%,” and chants of “We are the 99%.”

Grabbing attention with his preacher’s cadence, Rev. Manuel Sykes, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, announced, “I’m here to stop the corporate takeover of America.” Sykes castigated “our leaders [who] want to privatize Social Security, Healthcare, Education and Prisons.” He blasted Mitt Romney for wanting “to enrich the 1%.” And he described the November presidential ballot in epic terms: “We’re not just fighting for the 2012 election. We’re fighting for the future of America as we know it.”

There were anarchists, socialists, libertarians and unaffiliated radicals.”

On the fringes off the rally, next to a pack of camouflage-clad sheriff’s deputies, a pungent, hippie-looking gentleman with a Ron Paul 2012 sign dangling around his neck and a video camera taped to his helmeted head, taunted the crowd. “Do any of these hippies here supporting Obama know that Obama has dropped two times as many bombs as Bush?”

His words stung one observer who yelled back that “Obama has to do the bidding of Washington.”

The exchange captured the conflicting mindset of the Democratic base. Romney, Ryan and the right are painted, not unfairly, as extremists who will hurtle America back to the dark ages. But Obama, despite sitting in the Oval Office, is seen as powerless.

The weather and fear mongering no doubt cut down on the turnout, but one community organizer clued me in to another factor. The organizer, who wished to remain anonymous, said “A lot of people I work with don’t have hope in national politics. There was an element of fear about the RNC, ‘Can I even go outside with all the street closures and restrictions?’ There is definitely animosity toward Republicans, a lot of ‘Fuck these guys,” but my members also questioned what was going to be accomplished by going out in front of the barricades. I heard a lot of ‘It’s not going to change nothing.’”

The anti-RNC event was labeled a “community vigil,” and it was strikingly diverse. There were anarchists, socialists, libertarians and unaffiliated radicals. Mostly it was white middle-class liberals, working-class African-Americans and a collage of poor people. There were numerous tee shirts and signs indicating support for Obama. What united the crowd was the 99% rhetoric.

That was by design. The community organizer said, “The word from on high was, ‘Don’t say working class, don’t say poor. Say middle class or 99%.’” Why 99%, I asked. “Because it polls well” the organizer explained.

Obama is running a re-election campaign using Occupy Wall Street’s language.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement lives on from student-debt campaigning and labor solidarity to home foreclosure defense and anti-fracking organizing. But as a national force Occupy has been reduced to a bogeyman police and politicians dangle in front of a lapdog media that dutifully report every outlandish allegation as stone-cold truth, and it exists as a mobilizing force for the Democratic Party.

You see, Obama is running a re-election campaign using Occupy Wall Street’s language. He won’t say the 99% or 1% outright. That would be too divisive, or so the media owned by the 1% say. But the attacks on Bain capital outsourcing and Romney’s secret tax returns are tapping into the volcano of anger that Occupy gave life to. Late last year an official in the AFL-CIO’s national office told me that Romney was their “dream candidate,” and in April Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn told me that Mitt Romney was “Mr. 1%.” Unions like SEIU and liberal groups such as MoveOn and Rebuild the Dream carry the water in flogging the message that Romney will be the president of the 1% who will turn the screws even harder on the rest of us.

That assessment is not untrue. The right would unleash a world of pain on most Americans. But the nature of our endless electoral process, which sucks all the oxygen out of the brain, blinds most Obama supporters to how the Democratic Party is complicit in pushing our politics to the right.

With close to one third of the population in or on the cusp of poverty, 46 million on food stamps [9], 51 million uninsured [10], a "real" unemployment rate stuck at 15 percent [11], millions of families doubled up and millions of homes still entering foreclosure, Obama can’t run on his economic record. Sure, much of the fault is the guy before him, but that excuse wears thin after four years. Particularly because Obama rode into office with a congressional super majority and a road paved with political capital.

The nature of our endless electoral process, which sucks all the oxygen out of the brain, blinds most Obama supporters to how the Democratic Party is complicit in pushing our politics to the right.”

But just as Clinton turned Reagan-era extremism into a bipartisan consensus, Obama doubled-down on the “war on terror,” and endorsed cutting Social Security and Medicare and enacting austerity policies within a year of taking office. Obama thus helped enable the next stage of right-wing extremism that he is now running against.

So it’s not really ironic that Obama has swiped the language of Occupy, even as his FBI and Homeland Security have made Occupy’s anarchists into Public Enemy #1. That’s how politics work.

Local organizers in Tampa know the deal. When I mentioned that liberal groups have co-opted Occupy by creating the 99% movement and are using the fury against the whole political system for partisan ends, two different activists agreed and went further. They said there was an astroturf element to the anti-RNC rally in St. Petersburg. One said of liberal groups and unions, “You see a lot of their tactics that amount to astroturfing. They see the Super PACs employ this strategy and they think they have to do the same thing. That’s what I find most troubling.”

The 99% are truly suffering. And it’s a no brainer that they will suffer even more under Romney than under Obama. But under darkened skies sprinkling rain, no one at the rally spoke of brighter days ahead for the 99% if Obama does win.

Arun Gupta is a co-founder of The Indypendent and The Occupied Wall Street Journal. He has covered the Occupy movement nationwide for Salon and other publications.


Good comment Beverly.

As I've been saying for a while now, all the Dems and Repubs are is a "good cop/bad cop" routine trotted out by the capitalist billionaire ruling elite every few years to give the illusion of some kind of choice in what governs us. You have the Republican "bad cop" come in and berate the suspect, bang his fist on the table and scream at the top of his lungs. Then he leaves and in walks the Democratic "good cop" to tell us "hey, don't pay any attention to that mean old bad cop, he doesn't care about you. Just do what I want you to do and I will save you from the bad cop's nastiness." In the end they're both obviously playing for the same team and it ain't us.

But that's sadly all we get to choose between in the Uniterd States of Americaca: an undisguised conservative versus a badly-disguised conservative. Any other kind of candidate wouldn't get the funding from the wealthy donors necessary to run a campaign meaning we would never hear their commercials so we wouldn't know their names, they would get pooh-poohed by the corporate-owned media as a candidate with no chance of winning (if he or she gets mentioned at all) or if all else fails he or she would get assassinated by the elite's covert enforcement arm (the C.I.A.) and blamed on an "Islamic radical" patsy. This country is a gigantic pile of shit and it literally turns my stomach every time I hear some brain dead apologist for it try to claim it's the "best country in the world." It's not even the best country on the continent of North America.

Ultimately though the problem is the capitalist economic model itself. The U.S. is just the leading proponent of the most extreme strain of capitalism. One thing I can say about the Occupy movement is that it brought the concept of economic inequality to the forefront of the discussion one way or another. That's a good start but vastly more needs to be done, starting with addressing the real cancer instead of one of its most obvious symptoms, economic inequality. Let's get to the heart of the reason WHY there is such terrible inequality. Clearly it is because of the economic model that says it's perfectly OK for someone who has the capital to be able to exploit others to go ahead and exploit them.

Without that exploitation, capitalism wouldn't be able to exist for a week. Think about it: there literally HAS to be a huge gap (called surplus value) between the value added to a company by a worker's labor and the wage or salary that worker is actually paid for that labor. Without that surplus value that gets squeezed out of every worker the business owner wouldn't be able to pay for his overhead costs like utilities and building rent and he wouldn't be able to buy his raw materials to be turned into finished goods by his workers or buy his wholesale merchandise that his workers retail. And the owner certainly wouldn't be able to take home a profit which means he wouldn't bother to remain a business owner for long. So in other words in order for capitalism to function the average worker has to put WAY more into his workplace than he or she gets out of it in terms of compensation. There simply is no other way for capitalism to function. (If you doubt that then ask yourselves how long would this economic model work if every worker who was expected to do, say, $40 of work each hour was paid $38/hour instead of $7.25 or $8/hour?)

I'm not saying people start their own businesses specifically so they can take advantage of other less fortunate people but sadly their intentions don't matter a whit. It's the end result that matters and in a capitalist economy the end result is always the same: privilege for the already privileged, more riches for them gained from other people's labor, and for the rest of us varying degrees of enslavement. Before any asshole says "But the worker doesn't HAVE to work there, he can quit and work somewhere else unlike a chattel slave" I am saying sure he or she can quit but what will happen? They will end up somewhere else getting exploited by some other business owner for probably the same exact wage or extremely close to it. The average worker has no leverage versus the business owner, no opportunities for a better life. Why leave just to be moving the problem elsewhere and get taken advantage of at another job by a different boss? A whip and a shotgun are not necessary to keep a wage slave chained to his demeaning and thankless job. A lack of other opportunities has the same exact effect.

Humanity can do better than an economic model that is based around those with the capital to exploit others exploiting everyone who lacks the capital to exploit anyone else. That is hell on earth. But the good news is that the better capitalism is at doing what it does, making the rich richer and concentrating more wealth in fewer and fewer hands, the sooner it creates the conditions for its own destruction at the hands of hungry people who have nothing left to lose. It will eventually be replaced by direct worker ownership of the businesses, not Soviet-style pseudo-ownership where the state owns the means of production ostensibly "in the name of the working class." No, I mean direct worker-owned businesses brought about by a representative government that answers to the non-wealthy majority and uses the coercive powers of government, taxation, legislation, the police and military if necessary, to physically transfer the productive assets out of the hands of the exploiter class and into the hands of the heretofore exploited workers. I can't tell you how long it will take to get there brothers and sisters but I can most certainly tell you that is the future.

A better world is not only possible but inevitable.

Ann Romney on Romneys Concern vs Mitt Romney on His Main Concern

} 'Mitt does not like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point... Let me say this to every American who's thinking about who should be our next president.  No one will care more [for all of the people]...' { Anne Romney @ the RNC Confab

} 'I'm not that concerned about the poor... My Focus will be on the middle class... My Democratic opponent will address issues concerning the poor...' {  Mitt Romney- earlier this yr while campaining for the Repug's nomination for Presidential candidate.

15% of US citzens are in poverty & another 10% - 15% are in immediate danger of being in impoverty. 25% - 35% of children in the US are in poverty- many of those in poverty are effectively home-less. Yet there's a too rich / too slick guy born w a silver-spoon in his mouth, who openly said while campaigning for US Pres that 'I'm not concerned about the poor' That's the other guy's job to be concerned about' [which Obama never speaks about the poor, nor even the working-class, either- he also only talks about the so-called 'middle-class']. So w that statement Romney effectively writes off 25% -35% of the people in the US, as not being worthy of his concern. Yet his wife talks about his caring & compassion for others less fortunate the himself- GIVE ME A F---ING BREAK!

There was another public figure who onced use the phrase 'I'm not concerned about'- but when he said it had an entirely different meaning. 

'We've got some difficult days ahead. I know some of you are concerned about the threats that went out. About what might happen to me at the hands of some our sick white brothers. But it really doesn't matter w me now. I, like any man, would like to live, longevity has its place. BUT I'M NOT CONCERNED ABOUT THAT NOW, I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up into the Top of the Mountain & look over & I've seen the 'Promised Land'. So I want you to know tonight that I might not get there w you but WE as a People will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy I'm not worried nor fearing any man. Mine Eye's have seen the Glory of the Coming of the LORD!'  

That's diffence between a champion for the people, justice & peace- He was so concerned about the poor he was more concerned about them than he was for his own life. Now we got guys who openly say they're not concerned about the poor [that's the other guy's job- who spent his last 4 yrs in office avoiding even mentioning the poor & working-class folk] because the fact is they're only concerned about making money & WAR!