Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park

Occupy Wall Street has occupied a lot of media-hype time the last few days. As a confirmed cynic, I had all sorts of negativity saved up to slam down on the movement. They’re rootless, they’re unfocused—they’re not a movement at all, they’re the Anti-Destination League of the Streets.

Then, unlike Paul Krugman, I made the mistake of actually paying a visit to the encampment at Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan—almost like a real journalist (horrors!)—and goshdarnit if those protesters didn’t file down my cynicism. Now here I am with nothing snarky to say.

These people are impressive. Semi-spontaneous yet articulate and peaceful. Self-feeding, self-organizing, and most of all, self-assured. Heck, maybe they’ll actually—

Well, what exactly?

Do I detect my cynicism returning? Ah—welcome, old friend.

They may be the 99%, but this country remains run by an oligarchy of inadequately regulated capitalists. We are generating no more Teddy Roosevelts, no more FDRs, not in Zuccotti Park anyway. What can be done to reduce income inequality when “the people,” as represented by the Tea Party and their Washington boosters, don’t care? What can be done to promote fairness when the population fails to embrace fairness as a value? We’ve long since left our oddball period of enlightened liberalism and returned to the good ol’ American every-man-for-himself status quo.

So the redoubtable Occupy Wall Street crowd doesn’t encourage snark, but does leave plenty of room for doubt. The strongest result of ongoing demonstrations all over the country would probably be an increase in voter turnout towards Obama’s reelection, resulting in a somewhat slower erosion of the shreds of fairness, regulatory sense, and consumer protection we have left.