Monday, January 09, 2012

How Will Occupy Wall Street Become a Political Movement?

In my latest Direct Line column for the Rockefeller Center, I draw some parallels between the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement and then consider the question posed in the title of this post.
As it transitions from a popular movement to a political movement, I will be most interested in how true the Occupy Wall Street movement can stay to its founding principles articulated above.  I see two particular challenges.  First, given the prominence of the “major banks and multinational corporations” that wield the “corrosive power over the democratic process” in our political system, I am curious to see what candidates the movement can draft.  Few incumbents have the purity demanded – look for challengers and outsiders to carry the Occupy Wall Street movement’s message into the political realm.  Second, the Occupy Wall Street movement has defined itself in part based on inequality – the 99% versus the 1% -- and in part based on injustice – the use of one’s current elite position to distort the political system into maintaining that elite position at the expense of those who don’t have it.  Not all inequality is due to injustice, and not all injustice is the result of the most fortunate 1% exerting undue influence.  Making those distinctions clear to the American public will be important if the Occupy Wall Street movement is to build a coalition large enough to gain control of political institutions.
Read the whole thing.  


Anonymous said...

OWS is a policies oriented movement, not a political power oriented movement. They seek to change the terms of the debate, not the debaters themselves.

Obama told his supporters to go home and leave the health care and unemployment issues to the 1 percent policy elites instead of turning up the populist political heat. The result was a halfway advance in health care and pathetically weak job creation efforts.

OWS does not seek new politicians as much as to remind politicians that the 1 percent may fund their political campaigns, but the 99 percent still have to turn out and vote and cannot be ignored.

My prediction is that OWS will not enthusiastically line up behind any candidate. Candidates will have to actively court the OWS movement or they will stay home and not vote.

-jonny bakho

Andrew Samwick said...

That may all be true, but I think it would be a mistake for them to not draft their own candidates.

Lots of people like to assert that they are changing the terms of the debate. Lots of debaters ignore them.