One of my favorite books is Carl Von Clausewitz’s On War, and many of its lessons can be applied to constitutional politics. The most important of these ideas is what he called Wechselwirkung, which translates roughly as mutual transformation of forces. Basically, the point was that armed conflicts have a tendency to escalate because of the emotions that involved. Unless one side capitulates or is under the firm control of a political authority that is acting rationally to achieve certain strategic objectives, every time one side escalates their violence the other side will typically respond by seeing that bet and raising them.
This may be what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about. We saw a large political mobilization in 2008 behind President Obama. In response, there was a powerful counter reaction from the Tea Party. Now we might be seeing the counter reaction to the counter reaction. There is precedent for this pattern in prior periods of constitutional transition. Michael Klarman argues that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were the product of a reaction against segregationist violence in the South, which in turn was a response to Brown. Similarly, the “Second New Deal” in 1935 (including Social Security) can be described as a response to the response to the First New Deal from Huey Long and others.
Is this what Occupy Wall Street is? I can’t tell yet. It depends whether it lasts and develops a broader base of support.