Apparently tomorrow Occupy Wall Street will make their next big play for relevance, a series of May Day protests. I have my doubts about the efficacy of their actions, specifically the prospect for street action to both galvanize the “American Left”, such as it is, and to build popular support for the cause. The fact that the cause is poorly defined isn’t actually a problem for me – the Tea Party did a great job of galvanizing support for it and it didn’t even really have any sort of identifiable cause. “Keep Wall Street out of the government!” seems more coherent to me than “Keep the government out of Medicare!”. Anyway, I can’t help but sympathize even if I don’t think it’ll accomplish much – it’s important to keep at it, and I will say why.
You don’t win power by turning out in the streets and the population going “Hey, I think they have a point!”. You win power by doing the hard work of organizing. This means developing your organization, amassing and using resources strategically, and getting out the vote. Protesting in the street doesn’t do any of that, this is true. But in the same way that you can’t get ripped without touching a single weight, you can’t build a movement without starting somewhere. With each rally, the people organizing this get better at organizing, get to know each other better, and grope a little bit closer to establishing goals and strategy.
For 50 years after the Scopes trial, Christian evangelicals felt like they were pushing on a brick wall. But while they certainly haven’t “won”, their movement blossomed into a part of the political landscape. As America forgot they existed in the mid-20th century, they gathered their strength and turned their organizations into potent political weapons. Victory in politics is not quick or easy…let’s keep hoping, and writing, and protesting, and giving what we can to try and help support our dreams of a better tomorrow.