One does not have to look far for historical examples of protests where the common citizens of this country rallied so as to be heard: the Progressive Era is chock full of them. The recent “occupy” Wall Street movement echoes off those distant examples whereby ordinary citizens gathered to inform their government that serious discontent exists. Thus far, the occupy movement is much too early in its evolution to tell whether or not any measurable and historical effect can be had.

During the Progressive Era, politicians rallied around the cry that governments need to be more than a mere sounding board and thoroughfare by which corporations drive through, drop off, and pick up politicians as if Washington D.C. were nothing more than a conveniently located “park and ride” zone. Even the commander in chief, President Theodore Roosevelt rode to power on the backs of this middle class push to reform government with progressive legislation that benefitted the country rather than the bank accounts of corporate captains and idolized industrialists. The State of California led the way in progressive rules creating, for example, the Public Utilities Commission (November, 1911) which was voted into existence without a single dissenting vote.

Two major differences exist between the Progressive Era of the early-twentieth century and the current situation in regards to citizen anger and protests. First, there is the lack of political backing. Very few politicians look upon the occupy movement as a place to line up counted upon votes. The occupy movement is still seen as a ghastly way to commit political suicide. Second, a good chunk of the tangible and political outcry in the Progressive Movement of the early-twentieth century arose from businesses themselves. Banks, utilities, and railroads wrote and introduced legislation to various state and federal legislatures seeking to alter the way government operated and save the American economic and political system from the Gilded Age corruption that had come to dominate.

For the occupy movement to become a viable, indeed, a movement unto which history will recall, those who operate (or pretend to) within the movement must find ways to woo corporate America into their way of thinking while finding the political will of several politicos to stand for the occupy movement’s rallying points. Yes, it is eerie that the current occupy protests have put forth two main arguments exceedingly similar to those a century ago: one, that CEOs of mega corporations easily escape justice (currently, not one major executive officer of a mega corporate bank has been charged with a crime over their egregious business plans that placed a “too big to fail” mentality before their corporate minions who then created risky derivative packages knowing taxpayers would bail them out if things went wrong); and two, and perhaps more important, that new legislation must be installed to ensure that such tomfoolery no longer occurs. It is, after all, the loose regulations, the lack of enforcement, and the corruption of revolving door politics that created the chaotic economic conditions of a century ago and, amazingly, resides throughout the country today.

But eerie resemblances stop here. The occupy movement has failed, thus far, to attract even a small list of corporate sponsors, failed to find politicians willing to gamble on their platform, nor has the movement attracted middle class voters to mobilize behind the reforms necessary to keep future economic bludgeoning from occurring in the future. Additionally, the tipping point for the occupiers seems remote at best. If the occupiers do wish to make a difference it is advised they study why the Progressive Era succeeded to the point where history took notice.

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