Occupy OC Plays the Percentages

[Moxley Confidential] Even Orange County has far more 99 percenters than 1 percenters. Can Occupy OC be part of effecting real change?

On Oct. 15, as an Orange County Register writer's column headed to the printer to advocate weakened pro-consumer regulation, higher corporate profits and new tax breaks for the wealthy as the "immediate" solution to the nation's economic woes, a large, emotional crowd of American-flag-waving protesters gathered in Irvine to argue the opposite.

The protesters' signs were mostly unambiguous: "Stop corporate greed now," "Tax the rich," "Robin Hood was right," "I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one," "The 99% solution: economic revolution," "Prosecute the money whores," "Wall Street fraud is a government-sponsored enterprise" and "Separation of corporation and state."

A clever, twentysomething, Asian American protester placed the image of Karl Marx's head on a cardboard cutout of a ghost but added no words. As he waved the sign at passing, horn-honking motorists, he explained his point: "The ghost of Karl Marx is back, you know? Wall Street should be very afraid. That's what we're saying. Corporations are abusing the masses."

He wasn't alone. Scattered throughout the crowd were people in black T-shirts bearing Marx's face. One person even carried a sign reading, "Marx was right!"

Conservative, John Birch Society Orange County, what has become of you? This was the birthplace of more than a few of the nation's most right-wing notions and characters. Here, it was well-established for time immemorial that at least two sacred cows were never questioned, certainly not ridiculed: law enforcement and corporate righteousness.

Yet this year, it hasn't been just professors and plumbers waving "Fuck the police" signs while protesting cop brutality in Fullerton or lambasting corporations in Irvine. Prominent in the crowds are housewives, businessmen, construction workers, dentists, doctors, grandmothers, students—you name it. At the Register, they predictably credited this shift in political activism not to real issues or real emotion, but to the power of social media, namely Facebook.

That tidy, superficial stance ignores the real phenomena at work here. What the Irvine march demonstrated is that beneath its diehard Republicanism, OC has a vibrant progressive community that doesn't consist solely of wide-eyed college students or union members. Agree with their anti-corporate-abuse positions or not, these people are becoming energized. That old political enemies are joining their ranks is also invigorating.

"I am so sick of the bullshit," said Anne, a 59-year-old self-identified longtime Republican and college-educated Irvine housewife who declined to give her last name because she said she didn't want to jeopardize her husband's job at a major OC electronics corporation. "We've got to stand up to all the greed and politicians who work for the corporations that are cheating. I really think they will destroy the middle class if we continue to keep our mouths shut. Look at how many good people are hurting—and the people at the top don't give a damn."

Nearby, another marcher declared this Occupy Orange County event the "biggest protest" in local history. It's been so long since deflated area lefties got off their sofas that few remember what happened a quarter of a century ago: bigger, more determined protests against Donald Bren and his Irvine Co.'s plans to bulldoze huge swaths of coastal OC for housing and commercial developments. People actually chained themselves to bulldozers.

But the politically well-connected real-estate developer eventually won by offering superficial concessions, infiltrating the protesters with secret loyalists, employing crafty public-relations flacks to portray him as an "environmentalist" and waiting out their patience. A greedy billionaire can do that and, in that case, did. The protests eventually fizzled.

Using the politicians of both major political parties in his stable, Bren got the public to build expensive toll roads next to his future private developments. As a result, he didn't spend a dime on them but easily quadrupled his net worth to make him one of the 50 richest men in the world. Nowadays, Bren's snotty flacks are working on adding another "legacy": generous philanthropist. The tag "publicly subsidized" won't make it into an Irvine Co. press release.

If the Bren saga isn't uplifting, the one involving the effort to convert a mothballed military base at El Toro into an international airport in the heart of suburban Irvine is. Neither partisan nor ideological in nature, residents of all persuasions joined enthusiastically together to defeat what at one point looked like a certainty: George Argyros' massive airport plans. The people united can never be defeated, so the chant goes.

But there's a tremendous divide in politics today. What drove protesters to give up their beautiful Saturday morning to march and chant in the streets caused others to drive by sipping $5 lattes in their BMWs and stare contemptuously. The protesters believe corporations use vast financial resources and lobbyists to control politicians and the government at the expense of the everyone else. As often expressed by the Register and our national radio celebrity, Hugh Hewitt, others just as firmly believe that government bureaucrats control business with an iron fist and prevent the free market from working its economic magic.

Can Occupy OC and other related efforts around the nation continue to swell their ranks with likeminded individuals? At the Oct. 15 rally and protest, there were mostly Democratic Party sympathizers, a few Republicans, a handful of Ron Paul supporters, a sprinkling of Lyndon LaRouche fans, as well as the decidedly right-wing Oath Keepers, who advocate armed civil rebellion against what they see as un-American government decisions. Elected officials of all parties—the folks who supposedly lead our community—stayed far away, apparently afraid to risk their reputations for an unproven endeavor.

That's okay, though. For now, the protests in OC seem genuine. Warped, entrenched political interests don't yet respect the newborn movement enough to either infiltrate or co-opt it.

But as if to remind the Irvine protesters of the difficulty of their mission, an old, beat-up van drove by, the couple inside honking the horn. They weren't supportive honks. The woman—who looked to be in her mid-to-late 60s and not a patron of fashionable Newport Beach salons or swank oceanfront restaurants—angrily screamed out of her passenger window an anti-Barack Obama rant. "Nothing changed," she repeatedly yelled. "Go, George W. Bush!"

 

This column appeared in print as "Playing the Percentages: Even Orange County has far more 99 percenters than 1 percenters. Can Occupy OC turn their discontent into real change?"

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13 comments
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Knute Hamsun
Knute Hamsun

You're saying that because .001% of the Orange County population has factless and feckless anti-capitalism tendencies, Wall Street should be afraid? The only thing Wall Street should fear is that these kids will turn out like every previous generation of malcontents and eventually become loud, high-consumer Wall Street- yuppies themselves and make it that much harder to hire people who take baths. What's that? Oh, it won't happen this time. OK, let me write that down for the record.

The problem isn't corporations -- like the ones that own the OC Weekly or support it with advertisements or employ its readers or provide for the retirement of their parents so the kids won't have to. It's the (largely Democrat) politicians who cause housing bubbles and bursts and who increase the national debt by 40% in 2.5 years, etc. Just think of what politicians are free to do with impunity that would cause endless financial and legal troubles for corporations.

Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama ... let's bring the politicians to justice and let the corporations supply our iPhones, Priuses, hiking gear, Vietnamese food, hi-fi equipment, .... Normal monitoring and regulation will keep them in line. The same cannot be said of los politicos.

Annoyed with the protestors
Annoyed with the protestors

I see these clowns every day - they live right across from my apartment complex and i have to make a right turn from harvard to alton every day now. I'm tempted to make a sign myself that says "get a fucking job and quit your bitching" and stand across the street from them, but my wife is not too fond of that idea - lol.

James Simmonds
James Simmonds

Annoyed: looks like you wife is smarter than you.... Anyway these people are there to get jobs, not just for them but for America, they can't right now because of how fucked the economy is and they are tired of all the money we do have going into the pockets of the Corporations and not into creating more jobs Please look into the Occupy movement a little bit more and get educated, if we change things you might actually actually be a more positive person.

PatrickR
PatrickR

Actually, the statistics are showing that about 85% of the OWS protestors are already employed. Of course depending on their education and job skills, they may be low paying jobs. The protestors have been listening to the Pied Piper of Chicago for too long and believe the wealth of America should be distributed to the masses (them) without working for it. To add insult to injury Obama is now comparing the Tea Party Protests with those of the OWS Groups. Look at the attached video and you be the judge on the comparison.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Eleni Koures
Eleni Koures

I too am annoyed with protesters but maybe that's why they are protesting because they want a job?? So, although I agree that protests are a waste of time since politicians do whatever they want, I wouldn't insult them like that.

I'd just tell them why not better themselves by learning a foreign language (free) online, learn a skill, volunteer to help other people etc. Instead of yelling and screaming, and marching, do something productive that will help you and your family.

Irviner
Irviner

i agree with Annoyed. every day to work I have to drive by these people. Instead of wasting your time.. find a hobby, see what you like to do and make money off of it. thats what I did. I am not the 99%.

S.A. Artist
S.A. Artist

Sorry Annoyed. You are out voted by the people. The majority of the motorists make it clear that they are behind the 99% movement even on street corners in boring Irvine neighborhoods.

PatrickR
PatrickR

Artist, better get your numbers straight. Even in major cities where radicals, deadbeats and other assorted misfits abound, the protest groups numbers have been less that earth shattering. As the public starts to loose interest, whcih is aleady happening, you can expect the union thugs and other hard core left wingers introduce violence to the protests. This too, is already starting to happen in some major metropolitian areas.

While all Americans, conservatives, liberals and radicals are very angry, the difference between groups is the focus of that anger. You are fixated on Wall Street, Major Banks and large Corporations. While no doubt there is corruption and greed there that needs to be cut out like cancer, you do not kill the patient in the process. At the same time, we conservatives are focusing our anger on the true cause of the problem America faces. It starts with the President and trickles down through both Houses of Congress, including members of both political parties.

As things currently stand, I would question your 99% number and give you 10% of the population at best. The conservatives get around 60% of the population and the remaining 30% plain doesn't give a shit either way. Fortunately, in Irvine, we will likely be spared the violence which will become commonplace in other cities. Protestors will continue to show up in their BMW's wearing designer jeans and tweeting on expensive cell phones. In the end, it will all shake out in the election of 2012 and in my opinion both the future and the soul of our country hang in the balance.

Annoyed with the protestors
Annoyed with the protestors

Actually, the MAJORITY of the motorists just drive by with only one car honking every 30 seconds or so.... again, I'm at intersections twice a day by them waiting at red lights....sorry, the majority just don't care - one honk every 30 seconds doesnt mean the world loves you.

S.A. Artist
S.A. Artist

It's all junk culture now. Get the money out of politics. Get greed out of culture. Try something new, life is short, the universe is bored with the same old consumer mindlessness.

Johny
Johny

California Teachers Association spent $211,849,298 on lobbying and political spending

Dweezle.Di
Dweezle.Di

Let me see, the CTA has 325,000 members, that would mean they paid over $650 each for the legislative fund on top of probably $300 to $500 a year in dues? I do not think that the numbers work... I would Question your source...

 
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