Washington Watch Roundtable: Can Occupy Wall Street Affect Policy Issues, GOP Defending Richest 1% (VIDEO)

Roland Martin and the Washington Watch “roundtable, ” political scientist and XM Sirius Radio talk show host Wilmer Leon; senior correspondent for “The Washington Times” Deborah Simmons; Washington editor-at-large for “The Atlantic,” Steve Clemons; and joining us from New York, Columbia University political scientist Dorian Warren take on this weeks hot topics.


MR. MARTIN:  — pull you in on this, because I said from day one with the election of Pres. Obama, was this going to be the beginning of a movement, or was his election going to be a moment.  And as I thought about March 2009, I long said that March 2009, the lack of anger or passion coming from thi- — from this administration –


MR. MARTIN:  — on those AIG bonuses –

MR. WARREN:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — that really kick-started –

MR. WARREN:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — the Tea Party movement.

MS. SIMMONS:  Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  It really set up this whole deal where people were saying –

MR. WARREN:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  — “Wait a minute.  What happened to the person – ‘hope’ and ‘change,’ Elizabeth Warren, Consumer Protection Bureau?”  So, do you believe that, as a result of what [the] Occupy Wall Street is doing to confront the income inequality – and they’re telling him, “Look.  You were playing the middle-ground game.  Now it’s time for you to fight a lot harder against the very banks who you were, frankly, doing a dance with in the first three years.”

MR. WARREN:  Well, yes.  I mean that’s what social movements do great.  They force issues on the national agenda that neither party want[s] to deal with.  So, think of the Civil Rights Movement forcing the issues of Jim Crow onto Kennedy’s and then Johnson’s agenda.  This is a Democratic Party problem, because it’s bigger than the President.  The Republicans have it easy.  They – they know who they represent.  They represent the richest 1 percent.  The Democratic Party, on the other hand, represents Wall Street as well as represents workers and the middle class.  So, there’s an internal – there’s an internal dynamic, internal tension within the Democratic Party that makes it really hard for them to be clear about who they represent.  And I think that’s what the Occupy Wall Street protesters are forcing.  They’re forcing the party to decide “who are you going to represent in this democracy?”

MR. MARTIN:  Wilmer, there’s a lot of anger tied to Occupy Wall Street, but do you see them moving towards critical policy issues, as opposed to saying, “We’re just mad”?  We see the mayor of Oakland – she had to apologize after unleashing tear gas against protesters.  All of a sudden, we get the Black Marine in New York telling the cops, “How dare you do this?”  All of a sudden now, you have former Marines who’re now joining this whole movement.  I mean all of a sudden, you have people who are saying, “We are angry and tired about this,” but will they be able to affect public policy?  Because that’s really what you have to do.

DR. LEON:  Over time, yes.  What I think a lot of people who are critical of the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy D.C., Occupy America movements – they’re – they’re critic- —

MR. MARTIN:  Actually, this has even gone across the world.

DR. LEON:  — absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  That’s – that’s how –

DR. LEON:  We’re talking Spain.  We’re talking Italy.  We’re talking England.  This is all over the world.  What a lot of people fail to appreciate is that movements develop over time.  The Civil Rights Movement didn’t come full form.  It started with a bus boycott and wound up with –

MR. MARTIN:  1955 –

DR. LEON:  — a ‘Six- — ’65 –

MR. MARTIN:  — there ya go.

DR. LEON:  — voting rights bill.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

DR. LEON:  So, these things –

OFF CAMERA:  Voting Rights Act.

DR. LEON:  — take time to –

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah.

MR. LEON:  — develop.

One of the things that they have working to their advantage is technology.

MR. MARTIN:  Do you believe the GOP over the next several months will come to realize that it will work to their disadvantage if they are only looked upon as the people who are defending the richest 1 percent?  Can the Democrats effectively take that message and say, “Look.  You guys keep defending those tax cuts.  You don’t want any tax increases.  You don’t want anything like that.  You’re supporting these flat taxes during the campaign.  You’re supporting 999, or Rick Perry’s new plan”?  Can the Democrats effectively use these arguments against the GOP to force them to get off of this “no increase whatsoever” position?

MR. WARREN:  Roland, you mentioned Paul Ryan earlier, and – who’s from the state of Wisconsin.  I think people realize now that what Gov. Walker did early this year to attack public-sector workers to balance the budget was not the right approach.  The last time the GOP doubled down on representing the rich, in the early part of the twentieth century, there was a realignment in 1932 that Democrats won.  The GOP was basically out of power for most of the twentieth century in terms of Congress.  So, I think this is a really risky strategy they’re taking.

MR. MARTIN:  Steve?

MR. CLEMONS:  I think the GOP is going to continue what they’ve been doing, that they’re going to basically not necessarily double down on pr- — representing the rich, but basically say, “What we have at stake here is an expansive government that wants to tell people how to live their lives and to take more from them.”  And so they’ll mask their protection of the rich with other things that matter to White, working-class Americans that are angry about their situation.  So, I don’t suspect that you’re going to see the GOP coming out with the Occupy Wall Street crowd and saying, “We understand where you’re coming from.”

MR. MARTIN:  But already, Deborah, Congressman Cantor – he backed off that ledge –

MS. SIMMONS:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — real quick.

DR. LEON:  [Crosstalk.]

MS. SIMMONS:  Absolutely, because it’s not so much, a- — as it has been in previous elections, what the social conservatives are saying, which is why a Herman Key- — Cai- — Cain –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. SIMMONS:  — is appealing.  So, it’s – it’s – both of them are playing their hands.  The Republicans have the advantage right now.  You know – you know why?  ‘Cause they’ve still got to fight it out on the stage.  The golden boy, Barack Obama, is onstage for the presi- — for – for the Democrats, so they have the upper hand.

MR. MARTIN:  Wilmer?

DR. LEON:  Ca- — Cantor backed down because he – not because he needed to change his position, but because he was afraid of the opposition that was going to be in the room.  The Republicans can’t –

MR. CLEMONS:  That’s right.

DR. LEON:  — change, because they’re wedded to this ideology, and ideology doesn’t negotiate.  The problem with the Democrats is their plans right now aren’t linked to any long-term strategy, and what they need to do is take these – this jobs bill and tie the jobs bill into a longer-term economic plan that they can demonstrate to people that this is not just a one-shot deal, but they actually have a focus and a direction for the –

MR. MARTIN:  I’ve –

DR. LEON:  — future.

MR. MARTIN:  — made the point that Occupy Wall Street should be more a movement – not a political movement, that it’s not about one party or the other; but I do believe that if the intensity continues, and if they also made a – make a much quicker turn towards public policy –

MS. SIMMONS:  Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  — they can have a much greater impact – and that’s exactly what they’re doing right now.

Dorian, thanks a bunch.  Wilmer, Deborah, Steve, always a pleasure.  We appreciate it.

MR. WARREN:  Thank you.

MS. SIMMONS:  Thank you.

MR. CLEMONS:  Thank you, Roland.