Even the 19th-Century Populists who spoke for “the people” weren’t men of the people. People’s Party Congressman Jerry Simpson, the so-called Sockless Socrates, worked employees long hours as he paid them meager wages. Sockless Jerry made a political career railing against the railroads. He finished it by accepting a job with the Santa Fe line. Prince of Cranks Ignatius Donnelly had served as a lobbyist for Jay Cooke and James J. Hill and partook in insider trading as a Congressman. William Jennings Bryan’s 1896 running mate on the Populist ticket was Georgia landowner Tom Watson, who historian C. Vann Woodward noted had “more tenants on his land than his grandfather had slaves.” Bryan’s 1896 running mate on the Democrat ticket was Maine banker, shipbuilder, and railroad magnate Arthur Sewell. If the opponents of populism really did seek to crucify mankind on a cross of gold, they might have bought the precious-metal materials from Simpson, Donnelly, and Watson.
Occupy Wall Street’s rhetoric of the 99 percent taking on the 1 percent conveys upon the protestors a moral authority speaking with the voice of the people. They are the masses rebelling against the masters, they seem to say. But as the Daily Caller’s examination of their arrest records shows, they are predominantly white and wealthy, like the vague figures they inveigh against. This doesn’t invalidate any specific claims made by Occupy Wall Street. But given the movement’s aversion to specifics, and emphasis on slogans and symbolism, the notion of kids from the leafy suburbs lecturing the rest of America on wealth and poverty seems a bit, well, rich.
Alas, a study of Weatherman, the Populists, Edward Bellamy’s Nationalist Movement, the Fourierist Communes, and so many other share-the-wealth crusades demonstrates how historically pedestrian it is for rich people to speak on behalf of the poor.
Friedrich Engels? Landlord. Robert Owen? Industrialist. George Soros? Financier. John Kerry? Wealthiest Senator. Katrina vanden Heuval? Heiress.
Who occupies Wall Street? Rich kids.
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