And We're Back...

Not for Nothing is back after a New Year's hiatus. Happy 2012, people. A few political/media notes and Occupy ruminations as we get back into the swing of things:

  • Darrell West, the former Brown University political science professor now with the Brookings Institution will be speaking on the presidential election this Saturday, January 7, at the Newport Museum of Art at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for museum members and $15 for non-museum members. Call the museum for reservations, (401) 848-8200.
  • Speaking of presidential politics, all eyes will be on Iowa tonight. Look for a strong showing from Rick Santorum. The final major poll on the Iowa race - from the Des Moines Register - put him third at 15 percent, behind Mitt Romney (24 percent) and Ron Paul (22 percent). That's good news for Santorum, in and of itself. But even better: Santorum was neck-and-neck with Romney in the final two days of the four-day sampling period, indicating a well-timed surge for the social conservative. And Rick Perry, a possible competitor for evangelical voters, shows no signs of getting traction. 
  • The New York Times has had a couple of interesting Rhode Island-centered pieces in recent days: an editorial backing Governor Chafee for his refusal to turn over murder suspect Jason Pleau to federal authorities because he might face the death penalty and a column by Providence-born Joe Nocera on the promise of a Central Falls reading initiative that features a rare partnership between a charter school and traditional public schools
  • And I'll put in a belated plug, here, for my story in the most recent issue of the Phoenix on the future of Occupy Providence - and the broader Occupy movement

One of the critiques of Occupy is that it must put forth a list of demands. The movement has resisted, focusing instead on the importance of dialogue, of an engaged citizenry. "My number one demand is: pay attention, engage," says Michael McCarthy, a sort of unofficial spokesman for Occupy Providence.

There is some strategic wisdom in this broadbrush approach, I think. Trot out the left's standard laundry list and you immediately alienate a big slice of mainstream America - a part of the country Occupy has a chance to reach. Its anger at Wall Street and Washington are widely shared, after all.

But if Occupy stays focused on shiftng the conversation - and it has had remarkable success, here, to date - will that be enough to change the country? Will a movement that shuns the door-knocking and electioneering of traditional politics - that decries traditional politics as corrupt and ineffectual - be able to change the country in a meaningful way? That's the central question I tackle in my piece.

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