To change things, occupy Congress

My View • Movement needs a place at table instead of street protests

The Occupy movement has given the American people a voice for grievances and for hopes, and in doing so has rattled the elites who know that the moral force behind our cause is taking root in the public consciousness.

But to keep the public on our side we must demonstrate that their concerns are our concerns and are being acted upon with wisdom, skill and urgency.

Every grievance, every issue we care about - from student debt to foreclosures, from environmental challenges to living wages, from attacking countries that did nothing to us, to providing a doctor to anyone who needs one - will not be decided on its own in the streets we occupy but in the buildings we don't. The outcomes that matter most to us are decided almost entirely in one building: in the U.S. Capital by corporate majorities controlled by Wall Street.

That means that if we are serious about our grievances and truly committed to making this country our own, then We The People must occupy the U.S. Congress - the major power center of the United States, and be there with majority control.

The bottom of all bottom lines is this: only by winning a 218-seat majority in the U.S. House and a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate will we have the numbers necessary to actually shift power from Wall Street to us.

Without those numbers, there is no way to take control of our country. No way at all.

We have two choices. We can either aim high, honoring ourselves by taking power, or remain on the outside looking in, endlessly reacting, constantly defending ourselves and forever appealing to corporate politicians.

Hopefully we're learning that agitating and pleading alone will never get us more than a watered-down imitation of what we need. The question is, who are we, reactors or deciders?

As deciders, our first step is to occupy our neighborhoods, with a face-to-face, house-by-house, street-by-street and relentless congressional district campaign that gets us the numbers needed for our ultimate occupation of Congress. We have the people to get it done, but do we have the will?

If we expect more from ourselves than just calling attention to our grievances or hoping that a politician in Washington, D.C., or closer to home will throw us a bone, and if what we are doing is really more than just beating up on the 'bad guys,' then we must link our street dissent to the ballot box with the single-minded goal of taking majority control of the Congress, and later doing the same in state legislatures.

That's where the power is and where we need to be if getting our problems to solution and reaching for the best that's in us is why we are really here.

An electoral strategy combined with ongoing visible street occupations (around foreclosed homes, student debt, etc.) that not just talks to our 99 percent but mobilizes them, are the two essentials for reclaiming and remaking our country.

Rich Cohen is a member of Occupy Portland.