A few weeks after the appearance of the Occupy movement in New York and around the country -- as well as overseas -- the US media seem baffled by the movement and searching for a quick and easy, 25-words-or-less description of those they "really" are. The media haven't shown much willingness to listen calmly to what the movement says about itself.
During the final few days of October, after much coverage but little understanding of the movement, National Public Radio's Diane Rehm Show talked with media and with volunteers in Occupy itself during an hourlong call-in show. What follows is a transcription of the show, edited slightly to make it easier to read.
First, the introduction to the discussion from the Diane Rehm Show website and the guest list:
A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll has revealed that more people support the Occupy Wall Street movement than the Tea Party. The spark for the movement came from “Adbusters” – an anti-consumerism magazine based in Vancouver. It proposed an "occupation" of Wall Street on September 17, 2011. The idea caught fire. Since the first protest, “occupy” movements have sprung up in across the country from Seattle to El Paso,Texas. The movement has been accused of being a “mob” and a front for special interests. But progressive politicians are increasingly trying to harness the movement’s support. Join us to discuss the appeal of the movement and its impact on American politics.
Jim Tankersley.reporter, National Journal
Ken Vogel,chief investigative reporter, POLITICO
Jonathan Smucker,volunteer, Occupy Wall Street
Michele Pendergast,volunteer, Occupy San Francisco
Joshua, volunteer, Occupy Chicago
Corryn Freeman,volunteer, Occupy DC/K Street
Diane Rehm: When Occupy Wall Street began a little over a month ago, public opinion was largely hostile to the protesters. But in that brief time, interest in and support for the movement has surged. Joining me to talk about whether the movement has the capacity to endure into the next month and even into next year, here in the studio are Ken Vogel and Jim Tankersley. We'll also be joined by Jonathan Smucker from New York -- he'll be online with us the entire hour, Joshua -- an Occupy Chicago volunteer, Michele Pendergast, and Corryn Freeman. ... Let me start with you, Jim Tankersley, because I know you recently visited Zuccotti Park in New York where the Occupy Wall Street movement is camping. Lots of people have suggested that the movement is nothing more than a bunch of college dropouts, hippies, and homeless people. What did you find?
Jim Tankersley: I found that it's the opposite of that. There is certainly a large contingent of college students or unemployed people. But what the movement is in Zuccotti Park -- and spreading across the country -- really feels like the start of a conversation. Zuccotti Park is almost like a big street fair through which regular New Yorkers stream to talk to folks, to read -- they have a whole political lending library! -- to listen to the drum circle that beats on and on and on. What comes out of it is is that people come back and then they come back again. They see it as a place in which their voices can heard. These are folks who are frustrated that the system is not hearing them.
DR: Turning to you, Ken Vogel, we have a recent Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll that suggests the movement is now more popular than the tea party. Why is this happening?
Ken Vogel: What's happening is that there is a great and deep strain of anti-establishment feeling in America at this point. We've had this for quite a few years since really the tail end of the Bush administration when public opinion was turning very strongly against the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, the downturn in the economy, the bailout of the banks which -- let's no forget -- started under Bush. It's the reason why Barack Obama was elected. He tapped into that anti-establishment feeling with his hope and change message expertly. He rode it to the White House. It's also the reason why the tea party rose up in opposition to Barack Obama and what they saw as unchecked spending by his administration -- and again by the Bush administration as well. Now you have Barack Obama and the Democrats and the establishment and there is yet another anti-establishment movement that is gaining steam in the Occupy movement. It's the newest and the latest anti-establishment movement. It also stands to reason that voters -- people more generally -- would view it, if not favorably, at least with mixed emotions. It's much like what they did with the tea party when it first rose up. And you'll remember the tea party was also very popular in polls early on when it was sort of amorphous with Republicans and Democrats and independents -- arguably even more popular that we're seeing in the Occupy movement today.
DR: So, Jim Tankersley, how similar or how different are the tea party and the Occupy Wall Street movements?
JT: Well, I think Ken is right in that they definitely share a frustration with the establishment and frustration with the sense of direction of the country, with an idea that opportunity has ceased to be as bright and powerful for people like them as it was in the past. Where they are very, very different is, first off, in the objects of their frustration. OWS is frustrated at the financial system and in general at Wall Street. The tea party is, in general, frustrated by government. But more so, the tea party really had the feeling of something that was going to turn into (and did turn into) a political movement. OWS doesn't feel like that. You don't feel they're going to run a slate of candidates anytime soon. It feels instead more like a movement trying to turn the conversation to from-the-outside as opposed to from-the-inside.
DR: And turning to you now, Jonathan Smucker. You're a volunteer at Occupy Wall Street. You tell us -- and me! and our audience! -- what your specific goals are.
Jonathan Smucker: I think if you talk to a lot of different folks at the park or at any of the Occupations across the country -- or any of the support actions across the country -- you're going to hear a lot of different opinions. I would echo the person who said this is really a civic space. This is the start of a conversation. More than a conversation, it's the start of a demand. It's the start of pressure to do something about how out of control the consolidation of wealth and power has become in the society. We're at a breaking point with our civic institutions, with people's dreams about their future, about the deal that Americans have counted on for years. And so I think you'd have a lot of different ways of articulating what the goal is. To me, though, this is a social movement. The role of a social movement historically is to create pressure in a direction and to change the conversation -- to change the national narrative. I think OWS has done remarkably well in the past month of changing the narrative. Policy makers, folks on Wall Street -- the conversation about what's going on in our economy, what's going on in our democracy -- have changed radically in a very short time because of this really audacious action.
DR: Jonathan, tell us just a little about yourself, how and why you got involved.
JS: Sure. Well, I live in Providence, RI. I'm actually from a small rural area in rural Pennsylvania originally. To be honest, I was very skeptical about this when I first heard about it. I heard about it a little bit before it started. And then, even up until a week and a half before it started, I thought -- you know -- this just looks like the usual suspects! I was doubtful. And the staying power of this really eventually moved me. I thought to myself these folks have picked the right target. They are at the doorstep of the culprit behind the problems that we're facing: the economic crisis, the democratic crisis. They've stayed with it. If I sit here waiting forever for the perfect movement, the perfect expression of how I feel, I'm going to wait forever. History is going to pass me by. And I thought, you know, I've got to get down there. I've got to see if I can lend a hand. Because this sees like It. This seems like the symbol a lot of us have been waiting for: folks who are willing to stand up at the doorstep of Wall Street and say, "Enough is enough."
DR: Tell me how you are feeding yourself, how you are bathing... you know, just keeping up with the ordinary day-to-day aspects of life?
JS: Well, I have to admit that I am maybe not as committed as everybody there! I haven't been sleeping there. I have a problem with insomnia as it is and I've been working a lot to help out. So I've been staying with some friends on their couch. But there's working groups. It's amazing. There are so many pieces in motion that it's hard to keep track. I've heard there are 50 working groups just at Liberty Square...
DR: ...Give me an example.
JS: Food! You know, there's food being served all the time so that people who are there can eat without having to continue to dish out a lot of money. There's support pouring in from all over the country. It's amazing. There's a site with something like "Care Packages from America" -- I forget what it's called --that shows some of the letters of support we've been getting. People are sending pizzas. They're sending clothing. There's a lot of support that folks are getting. I think it shows the breadth of this movement. I think it's wrong to look at Zuccotti Park and say, "This is where the movement is." This movement has struck chord in people who are looking at and resonating with it from across the country.
DR: Is the movement, in your view, looking ahead ato 2012?
JS: I can speak for myself. I'm looking ahead to 2021. I'm looking ahead ten years from now. I want to look back on this moment ten years from now -- I want most Americans to look back on this moment ten years from now -- and think, "This was the beginning of America rediscovering its conscience, its sense of collective action, its sense of collective purpose, it's sense that "we can do things together" and we don't have to be resigned. I want to look back ten years from now and think that this was a movement for economic justice and democratic participation.
DR: Isn't there some risk that you could actually drive support away from President Obama who came in, let's face it, with the same ideals as you have professed. What do you do then?
JS: Well, I would challenge President Obama and anyone in office that if they're worried about us being a threat -- a social movement being a threat -- well, then, they need to deliver. They need to fight harder for us. They need to get some things done. It's not, in my opinion, the role of social movements -- at least at this stage of the game -- to worry about what the politicians do. It's our job to change the dialogue in the country, to show we're fed up. There's going to be a huge burden on politicians, if this movement continues to gain momentum, to be serious about these issues if they want to maintain any validity ... and stay in office.
DR: Ken Vogel, do you want to comment?
KV: It's interesting to hear Jim say that the tea party had the feel of the electoral movement from the beginning. You could tell that they were going to channel their energies into politics. And also to hear Jonathan say that he's looking forward to 2021. He wants to affect the dialogue. This is very similar to the exact talk that we heard from the tea party movement. ... Much like the tea party movement, there was a very vigorous debate early on about whether to exclusively focus on issues shaping the debate in much the way that you hear Jonathan with the Occupy folks in New York talking about shaping the debate, going beyond an election cycle --going to 2021 as opposed to looking exclusively at 2012. That was the debate that we heard in the tea party movement. In fact, there was opposition within the tea party movement early on to weighing in on politics, endorsing candidates, raising money, airing ads. This type of stuff that we commonly associate with politics was regarded as sort of a corrupt vestige of the establishment political system. So there were folks who wanted to stay away from it. Eventually, though, there was the realization after some debate that in order to truly sustain the movement and its goals and to advance its goals, there was the need to get involved in electoral politics. You saw the results of that very vividly in the 2010 midterms when, arguably, the energy behind the tea party movement -- if not the movement itself -- swung the election to Republicans.
DR: Is that a possibility here, Jim Tankersley?
JT: I think it's more likely that what you're going to see is a longer version of that if you see it at all. What the Occupy protesters I talked to in New York said over and over again was how disillusioned they feel about the process and how they just don't feel like anyone listens to them in Washington. Why would you work within system that, in their view, only communicates to people with money. They believe they stand for the 99% of Americans who aren't big donors, who don't make a lot of money, and who aren't getting their voices heard in Washington. So until they can change the system to make those voices heard, they don't see a lot of point for working within it.
DR: Joining us now is Joshua. He's a volunteer with Occupy Chicago. ... Joshua, tell me what your own aims are, how you got involved in Occupy Chicago?
Joshua [on a poor phone line]: I became involved in Occupy Chicago because over the years I became very frustrated and disillusioned by the influence that those who have more political and economic power have had over the political process. It became very frustrating because [inaudible] this country was meant to represent the people, to represent those elect -- and have those elected represent them. Something went very wrong. We began to see signs in the economy -- the 2008 crash -- the destabilization of the market, of the euro. They're all connected globally. Corporate corruption in the US is beginning to spread outside of the US.
DR: I gather that Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has not been exactly a friend of the movement.
Joshua: There have been a lot of problems involving Rahm Emanuel. He will not allow us to camp out in Grant Park. We have been evicted twice. There have been about 300+ arrests. The Chicago Police Department has been fairly cooperative with us. However, Rahm Emanuel hasn't given any orders to let us stay. We've been having to move our equipment around because we're not allowed to have permanent encampments. Our entire base camp is mobile at the moment.
DR: So you have to move from one place to another because you keep getting evicted?
Joshua: Well, we keep getting evicted from Grant Park. Grant Park is closer to the more touristy areas of Chicago. However, our base operations are [inaudible] the Chicago financial district where we have all our food, our posters, our drums, all the equipment -- electronics. And those we have to move around the intersection because if they stay put too long, the police will take them away from us.
DR: Joshua, tell me a little about yourself, how you got involved.
Joshua: I became involved when I had stopped by to speak with several people. I've been in Egypt and learned a lot from Egyptians about ways to approach social media, to approach public relations. I felt I could really bring a lot to the movement. So I was able to help out.
DR: You're a college student?
Joshua: I am in law school.
DR: And what about the community around you? What kind of support do you see -- or not?
Joshua: We're seeing masses amounts of support actually. People drive by us honking. People stop by to say "we support you, we stand with you, we're in solidarity with you." People have donated food to us, blankets, basic necessities that let us know the community really stands with us. It's an amazing display of solidarity within Chicago.
DR: And how many members do you think you have?
Joshua: Anything from 300 to 4,000 people.
DR: It picks up on weekends?
Joshua: I've actually seen several thousand on a Monday afternoon, Monday morning.
DR: How long do you intend to stay there?
Joshua: I intend to stay until legitimate political discussion within our government as to ways to better represent us and to reinstate democracy.
DR: How would you define define "legitimate political discussion"?
Joshua: When the politicians begin to ask questions and debate the interests of the 99%. Currently the debate -- discussions going on in Congress -- are among various interest groups and the US government, those who fund campaigns, those who hold political power and those who they used to work for... corporations they used to work for. We want to see them move away from that. We want to see a move more towards "those who elected us have issues, they have these problems, and how can we address them"?
DR: Turning to you, Jim Tankersley: how can a movement like this gain the kind of influence it's asking for?
JT: Well, it's tricky. There are different routes. One possibility is that you ally yourself gradually, over time, with some established political forces. That's part of what happened with the tea party movement. Some big money came in and that aligned itself with them. The most obvious possibility for the Occupy movement is labor unions who many of the protesters feel real solidarity with. But I think the more immediate and more lasting impression they can make is just what the volunteers have been talking about in terms of changing the conversation. Just think about it. Just a few months ago all anyone in Washington was talking about was deficits. Now you hear -- very broadly -- about inequality. And you're also hearing quite specifically about student loans. So there actually is a conversation shift. The question is how enduring that is and can they keep it up.
DR: What do you think about that, Jonathan Smucker?
JS: I think there are going to be ups and downs. Again, I take the ten year approach here. I think that the economic conditions here in our country and the state of our democracy are structurally broken. It's going to take a long time to fix that. Those conditions are going to keep this movement growing. They may have ups and downs. The media may be declaring it dead sometime this winter. But I think we're going to continue to see waves of this over time. A big difference between the tea party... I don't think that the tea party and this are like a kind of left-right mirror image. I think that's wrongheaded to look at it that way. Sure, it's legitimate to look at some parallels where people engage in a civic space. Right? We have that in common. But I do think the tea party did a good job of latching onto anger in our country. They did a very, very good job of that. I think, though, that what we're seeing right now -- one, we're seeing a much, much more diverse movement in terms of race, in terms of youth involvement, in terms of class. There have been demographic studies -- I can't cite them offhand -- of the tea party movement. And we're looking at a much, much more diverse movement that's growing more diverse by the day. The NAACP just endorsed us on Monday and that is significant. But the thing I wanted to get at here is one huge difference between us and the tea party -- and when I say "us" I mean a broad "us"! The tea party was unwilling to name economic factors. They kept looking at politicians and government as the only source of the problem. And we're looking at the intersection between government -- our elected officials -- and the influence of wealth and power, Wall Street and big banks. That really is, in my opinion,the root of the problem. I think that most people feel that's the root of the problem. So if the tea party was unwilling to name that -- probably partially because of the backing of billionaires like the Koch brothers -- I think that when a movement comes along that is willing to name that, I think it's going to resonate more with more people. And I think that's why you're seeing such favorability in polls for this movement.
DR: Ken Vogel, in Greece and Spain and elsewhere, you're got unions backing these movements. What about the relationship between the labor unions and Occupy Wall Street?
KV: Oh, it's significant, Diane. There was a debate within the union movement -- within the labor movement -- about whether to get involved, how to get involved. There is not a universal answer but what we see in New York is some of the big unions actually getting involved and organizing the protesters. They're sending staffers down there, providing food, providing legal assistance. Basically the labor movement is at a low ebb The labor movement is looking for energy and this makes sense to them. Not only does it align ideologically with many of the core tenets of the labor movement over the past decades, but it's a way for them to infuse their movement, that has suffered some huge losses in anti-collective-bargaining efforts in Wisconsin and other states, and to really reinvigorate itself. It's a wise move by them and it helps the Occupy movement.
DR: Ken Vogel is chief investigative reporter for Politico. Jim Tankersley is at National Journal. And on the line with us from New York is Jonathan Smucker, a volunteer for Occupy Wall Street. Joining us now is Michele Pendergast. She's on the line with us from San Francisco. ...I gather right across from you in Oakland, Michele, police have arrested a number of protesters while trying to evice them. Can you tell us what happened?
Michele Pendergast: Yes. Early Tuesday morning Oakland police used tear gas to evict Occupy Oakland protesters. Yesterday evening, around 4 pm, Occupy Oakland protesters took to the streets to protest and to push for reestablishment of their encampment. It was at Oscar Grant Plaza. Police showed up once again and launched another assault of tear gas and rubber bullets. I hear there were children and disabled people within the crowd. It was quite a horrifying experience for everyone involved. But the Occupiers say that they have a promise to reconvene every night at 6 pm until they are able to reoccupy their space.
DR: Tell me what your particular group's aims are.
MP: Excuse me?
DR: Can you tell me what your particular group's aims are.
MP: First I would like to say that I don't speak on behalf of Occupy. I think that's one thing that's fairly consistent through every Occupation: no one member represents their location. We all speak on behalf of ourselves. So I'm speaking on behalf of myself when I say this. Our aim, really, as far as I understand it of Occupy San Francisco is to start a dialogue. I think that these occupations are pockets of consciousness popping up globally. So these aren't merely protests. They serve more as learning communities where people who haven't been paying attention can come get the resources they need to make informed decisions about the economy and other failing institutions. So it's more about engaging that community dialogue -- which is what I think everyone else has been saying this morning as well.
DR: There's been a lot of talk about the 99%. Would you consider yourself part of the 99%?
MP: Absolutely! If I can give a bit of background: I grew up in Durham, NC. I'm originally from the east coast, from the south. I come from poverty. I went through university of my own accord, believing that it would be the solution when in fact it meant very little. So I went west to get involved in progressive -- not necessarily liberal -- conversations. Got my first job in a non-profit which I loved. I couldn't afford to live in the city. So I got a for-profit job and I wasn't fully satisfied or fullfilled by that. The way I joined the movement was I joined a march with ten thousand other individuals in San Francisco. Then the very next day I came to participate in defending the camp against the police raids that occurred last Monday morning, early. It's sort of like a repo man, the way they come out in the middle of the night. So for me it was more about making that decision. I could either continue to live as an individual working in the system where I've got mine and I'm done. Or I could work with my community to try to enact real social and economic change.
DR: Tell me what conditions are like there for you?
MP: Well, it's interesting. I can look at it from an outsider's point of view, more of a practical point of view, and of course there always things to be criticized. But San Francisco, at least, is focused on solutions. So I see a lot of beauty when I see the community. I see a lot of diversity. I see a lot of problem solving. I think we're focused on finding whatever the common thread is that ties us all together. That's what might be so confusing, ironically, for the politicians and city officials. They don't seem to understand what the movement is about. But if you come down to the camp and have conversations with individuals, you'll know pretty quickly what it's about. It's about getting that conversation going. It's about awakening from the slumber of apathy. So you see conservatives standing next to anarchists having an actually conversation. Previously, we didn't have a space for this. And now we do. And now you can go into a cafe and have a conversation with somebody that doesn't look anything like you, and you can at least start a conversation, try to find what you do have in common, where you can go.
DR: We're going to open the phones. I know many of you want to know more, want to learn more about what this Occupy Wall Street movement actually is. Let's go first to Rockville, Md.
Peter: Good morning, Diane, and thank you for having this show on. I've been down to McPherson Square several times, and I really appreciate that they're getting more coverage in a venue like this. I wanted to comment on some of the previous comments about the Tea Party versus Occupation. The first thing I want to say is echoing the diversity. As someone who's in his 50s, it strikes me as amazing, the un-self-conscious diversity that's down there. In my generation, we had to consciously invoke diversity. You had to have affirmative action. You had to reach out. You had to think about it. It was always self-consciousness. Here, it's completely unselfconscious. It's very different. And what I think is going on here is more than a political movement. It's a cultural movement. And the consequence of that is they're not just looking at electoral politics, looking beyond electoral politics about the society we live in, and they're building something that's going to endure.
DR: I wonder how you see that, Jim Tankersley.
JT: I certainly think that that's what I hear again and again from the folks of these occupations, that this is bigger than politics. This is bigger than just a political movement. I think one of the implications of that is -- and I've written about this a bit -- is how do you then translate that so that your political leaders will listen? I see this in a non-mocking way. It's very Taoist. Almost. The movement is the movement. But when you start talking about what the movement is, it's not the movement anymore. How do you translate that to politicians who respond to money and sound bites?
DR: ... And Jonathan Smucker, that's to you.
JS: Yeah, you know, I think the caller is right that it's not just a political movement. It is a cultural movement. And I would even say that it's a moral movement. And what I mean by that ... I mean, I was raised ...I'm 33 years old. I was raised to think that as a society we have a responsibility to take care of each other, to nurture each other. You know, even to always be looking for how to bring out the best in each other. And I think most Americans were raised to believe this. So what happened -- you know, we have had a real turning of that. We've had to indulge disillusion of somehow greed is good that we've heard over the past couple of decades. That somehow we can have just straight-out selfishness, unmitigated in the economic realm, and that's not going to bleed into the fabric of our lives and our moral universe. So I think we have some folks saying, hey, actually, we want a society like that. And we're not faulting business folks who want to make money. Right? That's fine. Business folks should be able to make money. Small business people should be able to start something, make money. That's great, right? But there is a space we have to have as a culture to come together and say yes, but we also have to plan and take care of each other and make sure that the consolidation of wealth and power doesn't mean that the folks who have the most are also rigging the game for the future. And that's what's happening.
DR: Ken Vogel?
KV: Yeah, I mean, that is a message, a sort of social justice message that, in many ways, is consistent with traditional liberal democratic messages. And that's why, if there was a logical alignment for this movement within the partisan construct that drives our politics, it would be with the Democratic Party. And you see the Democratic Party, Democratic politicians, from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi on down grappling with to what extent they should embrace or encourage this movement because there are potential risks, and they're great. Not only could the movement sort of veer off into incendiary rhetoric which we've seen a little bit of already in small pieces from some of these protests, but also they could open themselves up to hypocrisy charges because they raised money from Wall Street and a lot of it. And it could hurt their ability to do that.
DR: Let's go to Albuquerque, N.M....
Alfred: I just wanted to inform your listeners, along with Oakland and Atlanta, last night, the University of New Mexico Ooccupy Albuquerque protest was also evicted. We had roughly 300 people in our crowd, and about 30 of them were arrested. The rest of us were pushed to the sidewalk. We had one person that tried to rush the police lines and was tackled. When the rest of the protesters tried to go in and pull him back, they were all pepper-sprayed. I don't really know exactly what the plan is yet because I had to leave a little earlier than most everyone else.
DR: Do you, I wonder, Jim Tankersley, see much of this protest movement turning into clashes between police and protesters as the movement grows and expands?
JT: I think that that's a huge question. Clearly the longer that folks stay in public places, particularly if they don't have permits, the chances grow that you're going to have more clashes like this with police, particularly in places where mayors don't want to have these sort of permanent encampments like you see in Zuccotti Park. On the flip side, I saw a lot in New York a lot of interactions between police and protesters where both sides were taking great pains to diffuse them. At one point, I saw one protester talking a small group out of clashing with police because he said, look, they've been good to us. They've been respectful. Let's not escalate this. So I think the folks in the movement in New York, at least, are very conscious of not wanting to clash with police for clashes' sake.
DR: Let's turn to Washington, D.C. Corryn Freeman is with us. She's a volunteer with Occupy DC/K Street. Good morning to you, Corryn. Thanks for joining us.
Corryn Freeman: ...Good morning, Diane.
DR: ...I know that K Street, for those who don't know, is certainly a reference to the lobbying firms here in D.C. that have their offices there. Tell me what your experience has been and whether you think K Street is somehow representative of the corruption that the Occupy Wall Street movement has seen.
CF: Well, I believe K Street, honestly, is the perfect place for the Occupy DC movement to be because it is the lobbyists' haven of the United States. This is where many of ... all of the Wall Street corporate lobbyists, you know, make their homes, lay their heads, so they can head over to Congress during the week to do their corporate bidding. At Occupy DC we like to look at ourselves as just a sister movement to Wall Street. Wall Street brought the emphasis on corporate greed, corporate personhood, unlimited campaign financing. And here we are at Occupy DC just bringing in the political aspect and the political tie to those corporations funneling money into our congressional system by the lobbyists on K Street.
DR: Have you had any indication that members of Congress might be listening to what you all are doing?
CF: No direct indication. However, you know, you see things on twitter. You see things on the internet that certain senators and certain congressmen have been made aware of what is going on with the Wall Street movement and with what's going on at K Street. Earlier today I actually read a tweet by a senator talking about the tax breaks that some major corporation -- I can't remember which one -- had received. Bank of America! Bank of America received $1.4 billion tax return from the IRS when they made $4.4 billion. So I do see that they are paying attention. They have not yet ...well, from what I've seen ... directly engaged in conversation with us. But they're aware.
DR: Corryn, tell us about yourself.
CF: I'm a senior political science major, philosophy minor, at Howard University. Yeah, full-time student.
DR: Full-time student! How are you managing to be a part-time volunteer then?
CF: It's hard, but I'm passionate about this. Whenever I'm not in school, I'm at the Occupy movement, or I'm doing something for Occupy K Street. I'm very involved on my campus, but I make sure that I make time for this because this is very important.
DR: Corryn Freeman, she is a volunteer with Occupy D.C./K Street. Thank you, Corryn. ... All right. And let's go back to the phones ... to Vivian in Long Island, NY.
Vivian: ... Actually, I'm an elected official in Suffolk County. And I've been down to Wall Street a few times, and I'm so impressed by the people down there and their commitment. I believe it's very different from the tea party in as much as they're talking about getting together as a community and making government work for the 99 percent. And as I remember the tea party, one of the basic messages was to shrink government and let -- get government out of their lives. And, as a matter of fact, Jonathan, I just want to let you know I have a box full of boots that I'm bringing down to Wall Street this weekend to keep people's feet warm. But my question is this, I would like to see -- or I would like to know when there are specific issues that can be addressed by the Occupy Wall Street ...folks. I mean, there are many parts of the President Obama's Jobs act which really reflects some the philosophies of Occupy Wall Street, and some of the goals can be reached through that or the Consumer Protection Agency. You know, Elizabeth Warren said so much of what is being said on Wall Street. And, of course, you know what happened with her confirmation. So I would like to know from Jonathan or one of the other people on the phone, whether they're expecting to be very direct in policies and statutes and laws that are out there and in supporting parts of them.
DR: Thank you, Vivian. Jonathan.
JS: Yeah, thank you! And thank you for being an elected official who is serious about delivering on issues. I wish you the best with that. I think that the strongest and most successful social movements in history have always tapped into multiple concerns that are important to a lot of different people. And it's not our role to fully articulate that and come out with a fully developed platform, at least not at this stage. But it is the responsibility of our movement to create pressure, to move society in a direction, to create a cultural movement that creates political pressure. And if we do that successfully, I think windows will open to fight for this or that specific change, and...
DR: How are you going to know when the time comes that you can end this movement?
JS: I don't we think we can end this movement. I think this movement is about reclaiming civic space. It's about redeveloping the idea of the citizen and civic engagement. This is America rediscovering collective action, collective purpose. And so I don't think that there's an end. I don't think there's a neat solution that will say, hey, we've arrived and now we can go back to just sitting in front of the television. This is us, you know, rediscovering our purpose with each other.
DR: Jonathan Smucker, he is a volunteer with Occupy Wall Street. ... And now let's go to Roanoke, Va.
Adam: Good morning, Diane. I appreciate you taking my call. I'm a small business owner. And I've been very involved with the Occupy Roanoke movement. And your folks are pretty much hitting it on the head. This is one of those things you kind of either get it in your gut, or you don't get it. And it's really a bit broader movement that encompasses a lot of different ideas and a lot of different methodologies. And the nice thing about it is that people are realizing that collective action is being done by consensus and the general assemblies that are held will spawn different initiatives. The initiative that I've been working on in Occupy Roanoke is one to sweep the Congress. The idea that we run citizen representatives that are non-party bound, that commit to serve just one term, just the 2012 term, and then leave. They commit in making the decisions: listening to everybody, making decisions based on what's best for their grandchildren's grandchildren and to only take money from the local constituencies and then to return to the citizenry after one term. So, you know -- but that's not an Occupy Roanoke or Occupy Wall Street ... group of people to have this conversation...
DR: All right. I'm afraid you're breaking up on us, Adam but I do appreciate hearing your goals. And, perhaps, as we've heard from Jonathan, your own personal goals represent one point of view. I want to take one more call from ... Groton, CT. Good morning, Richard.
Richard: Good morning, Diane. Thanks for getting to me. Where we are today is no accident. It was predicted just before the second Bush election by a number of people, including myself. But, more significantly, Paul Krugman wrote a series of articles in New York Times about the impending failure of government. The cost was skyrocketing, tax cuts for the rich. The failure of government services such as Katrina. Now, what I think we're agreeing with between the Tea Party and the 99 percenters in Wall Street is this failure that we're at today. The question is how we solve it.
Richard: The tea party wants to eliminate government or downsize it, where the 99 percenters in Wall Street wants good government. What Vivian said was right on and what Jonathan talked about the American rediscovery of our civic responsibilities is exactly what we're all about.
DR: All right. Thanks for calling, Richard. Where do you see this going, Jim Tankersley?
JT: I think that what we're going to see in the next few months is a inflection point where either the movement grows and gets even louder and really starts to make a bigger and bigger impact across the country, not just in New York, but in places like Oakland and Wichita and wherever, or we're at the sort of -- the winter comes, and it kind of fades a bit.
DR: Ken Vogel, where is it going?
KV: I agree It's an inflection point. I think that, contrary to what you hear a lot of the callers and the organizers and activists involved in the movement saying, it, in fact, does need organization. It needs money. It needs some of the things that they really frown upon in order to sustain itself and really have an impact in American politics.