The 1st Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, speech, the press, and the right of the people to assemble peaceably and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. There are periods in America’s history where peaceful assemblies bore fruit because they were large enough, affected the general population, and were widely covered by the media. In the past two years, there have been many protests that failed to garner appropriate attention because the media failed to adequately publicize them. For the past two weeks, protestors have occupied Wall Street and except for social media attention, there has been little, if any, publicity.
There is a Declaration of the Occupation of New York City by the General Assembly that says the protestors’ purpose is to let a list of facts be known. The list is comprised of statements about how corporations control the government and in the process rob the people of their rights. In all honesty, the list is not new and contains subjects that left-leaning blogs and pundits have addressed for years. In fact, nearly every one of the list’s facts have been commented on at this site regularly. According to the declaration, the assembled masses are on Wall Street to express a feeling of mass injustice and to let the world know that the protestors are gathered in solidarity with “people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world” and to let them know that they are their allies.
What is missing from the declaration are goals the protestors hope to achieve as well as a list of demands for corporations to meet. However, corporations are not beholden to the protestors and there is nothing whatsoever the assembly can exact from occupying Wall Street except self-satisfaction that they at least did something. It is understandable that people are fed up with corporations controlling much of the government, but thousands of angry protestors will not make one bit of difference. In the First Amendment, it says peaceable assemblies can petition the Government for a redress of their grievances. The Occupy Wall Street movement is not petitioning the Government. They are protesting corporations.
The protest is a noble venture, but it is an exercise in futility because unless Congress passes meaningful legislation to curb corporate malfeasance, nothing will change and apparently that is fine with the protestors. If the movement is serious about precipitating change, the first place to start is petitioning the government with a list of demands. But even petitioning the government with demands is never going to change corporations. There are Constitutional procedures for changing laws and it does not include occupying Wall Street, or any other street in any other city. It is called voting, and it works.
There are tremendous results when angry, driven people go to the ballot box in response to injustices whether from the conservative political party or the corporations they advocate for. The Occupy Wall Street movement has about as much chance of causing change as the myriad petitions different groups circulate on the Internet. They could air their grievances by contacting their representatives in Congress, but that does not always yield results. Voting on the other hand yields results every two years. If the protestors think Wall Street executives are going to change laws that regulate corporations, they are definitely confused. About the only effect the protests are having on Wall Street employees are the inconvenience of crowded streets and disruption of their parking spaces.
This is not to say the protestors are wasting their time, but that their time and energy can be better spent working for change in the political arena. It is especially noteworthy that despite the number of protestors on the streets of New York, the media is absent. The media may be in attendance at the protests, but they are giving the protests bare bones coverage. Nearly all media is owned by corporate entities and it is why this movement has been under covered. Even if the protests were given publicity every hour of every news cycle, nothing will change without legislation to rein in corporations and their anti-American practices. No protest will make a law prohibiting corporations from outsourcing jobs or avoid paying tax on their foreign profits. Senators, Representatives, and the President are the only people who can pass legislation and although masses of people can express outrage at corporatism, expressing outrage does not make laws. Politicians make laws and people vote for politicians. It is as simple as that.
Many Americans are desperate to assuage the damage corporations have wrought on the people and this country, but desperation is best served with organized movements to elect politicians who can actually make corporations accountable for their actions. Let’s face it, a million protestors may garner attention the media cannot ignore, but the media does not cast votes. People vote and the protestors may consider working for candidates willing to challenge the corporations in Congress; not the area around Wall Street.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is a valiant effort at alerting the public to corporate malfeasance, but that is the best they can hope for. However, with a media blackout in effect, they can’t even hope for that outcome. If the protestors’ goals are changing laws to restrict unlimited power in the hands of a couple-hundred corporations, then they should work to elect representatives who will work to achieve those goals. If their goals are to draw attention to corporate control of the government, then they must get the mainstream media to cover the protest and air coverage in newspapers, television, and social media outlets. But if their goal is to cause corporations to get a conscience and drop their ever-present subjugation of the populace for higher profits, they failed before they began occupying Wall Street.
The only means of forcing corporations, banks, or Wall Street executives into changing their practices is to force politicians to pass meaningful legislation. No amount of protesting, screaming, or blocking access to roads and bridges will change one law and it is idealistic to believe otherwise. The Occupy Wall Street movement should be applauded for their stamina, resolve, and unity of will, but they should face reality. If they want change then they should work to elect men and women who can actually cause change; all it takes is every protestor getting at least two other people to vote for candidates that will force corporations to change. Anything else is futile. Protesting may be satisfying in the moment, but momentary satisfaction does not elect politicians. Voting does.