U.S. Senate candidate Clark Durant, during a fundraising event at Calvin College, said that the Occupy Wall Street protesters should “go find a job.” This is what frustrates me most about the opposition to the Occupy movement. If after 9/11, people had taken to the streets to express their fear and anger over their belief that the government could not keep them safe, any politician who had said they should stop whining and “go defend themselves” would have wound up on some celebrity boxing reality show. Yet, it’s OK for politicians to derisively dismiss the public’s lack of faith that the government is at all concerned for their financial, rather than physical, security.
But that wasn’t the worst thing Durant said to the group of College Conservatives. (I’ve always applauded College Conservative for not wasting their 20s and 30s having their compassion and sympathy stomped out them. Best to get it out of the way early — like chicken pox — and use that free time for something more constructive, such as perfecting your golf swing.)
In regards to the wealth gap the movement decries, Durant said, “I think it should be wider.”
“Does anybody think Steve Jobs should not be (sic) in the 1 percent? He made life better for the 99 percent of the rest of us. You want to create opportunities for people with their unique gifts,” he said. “They have created value and wealth.”
I am forever grateful to Jobs for allowing me to have access to the entire Stephen Sondheim catalog when at the gym, but it’s not like the guy cured heart disease or developed an alternative energy source, ending our reliance on fossil fuels and ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity. He didn’t even create a silent vacuum cleaner. He was a successful businessman who made billions. That’s fine and all but don’t try to claim he wandered the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.
Durant also demonstrates a common Republican misunderstanding of how our economic system works: The 1 percent might command the nation’s wealth but it’s the 99 percent that actually creates it. If Durant believes the iPad is the 21st century’s version of the soft drink you buy the world in order to live in perfect harmony because everyone’s too busy playing Angry Birds to pay attention to each other, then he has to understand that all Jobs had was an idea without the people in the 99 percent who helped him implement it. Code had to be written. Devices had to be manufactured. But if Durant has his way, the people who did that would not have the spare change necessary to buy a Coke.
Invoking the name of God several times, Durant described himself as a “nerdy” kid whose life was profoundly changed by the C.S. Lewis allegory “The Great Divorce.”
I sometimes think Randians pulled a large-scale prank on Republicans and replaced the insides of all their Bibles with copies of “Atlas Shrugged.” Also, it’s nice that “The Great Divorce” moved a young Durant but it seems like his political goals are to turn the United States into the “grey town” Lewis described.
Durant is not entirely without empathy — he “likened the fissures in the Republican Party of today as analogous to the implosion of the Whig Party in the 1850s over the question of slavery. He said the 2012 election is a ‘defining moment’ for the party, which must decide whether or not to ‘enslave’ a generation with debt and spending.”
Is metaphorical “slavery” comparable to actual slavery? Let’s see: Slaves working 18 hour days in 100 degree heat generating wealth in which they’ll never share for a small few. That does sound similar to circumstances today. But Durant might want to reconsider which side he’s own.