Remember what a funk those of us on the left side of the political spectrum were in at this time last year? The Republican Party had just kicked butt in the 2010 midterm elections and the Tea Party was dominating the political conversation.
One year later, the Tea Party is losing steam, while the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread all over the country. Rather than solely focusing on the conservative issues of cutting taxes and slashing government programs for the middle and lower classes, Americans are paying attention to and discussing our vanishing middle class, the huge disparities of wealth, and the ways our system is rigged in favor of the top one percent.
How does the 2010 election factor into these welcome trends? Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better, which was exactly what happened after the GOP took control of the House last year.
But the good news for those of us on the left was that since Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, they had to do some actual governing, as well as take some share of responsibility for the outcome. Since the GOP has done all it can to block President Obama's agenda, tepid though it has been, and haven't come up with a viable plan of their own, they cannot believably claim innocence for the country's economic problems.
It's not hard for Americans to see that the Republican Party has no serious plan to fix the economy, just their tired, old messages of lower taxes, deregulation, and smaller government, and the first two at least were contributing factors to the growing national debt problem and the 2008 financial meltdown.
But that scenario didn't happen. Democrats were soundly trounced in 2010 and the economy continued to flounder. Conservative policies of austerity, resisted only weakly by the White House and Democrats, caused hardship for many, most notably young people with few job prospects, many of them unemployed college students and graduates with back-breaking student loan debts.
Without realistic hope for change, with more people losing jobs and homes, the economic pressures mounted. The example of Arab Spring uprisings encouraged a few young American activists to try something similar at ground zero of the most egregious wrongdoing, Wall Street. That spark started an occupy conflagration that continues to spread across this country and the globe.
The black cloud of major Republican gains in the 2010 election turned out to have an unexpected silver lining. The One Percent and their Republican and Tea Party allies overreached and a large segment of the American people hit their breaking point. More Americans are starting to open their eyes to the serious institutional dysfunction that characterizes our political and economic system, and are starting to take action against it. We are all awaiting the ultimate outcome.