There has been some debate, and the longer they go on the more there will be, about whether politicians can latch on to the #Occupy protests and use them for their own political gains. There are two opinions at Americablog and Reason.com that cite well thought out, polled, and researched pieces by different authors that predict different things and should inspire debate about whether it can happen at all, and if it would be good if it did.
Politicians have already started comparing the Occupy Wall Street protestors to the Tea Party, so we know that this is very much on their minds. (We also know that #OWS is on the Tea Party’s mind, but let’s save that for another day.)
First off, Lucy Steigerwald’s article at Reason.com points to some polling of the protesters done by Doug Schoen of the Wall Street Journal‘s other employer, a polling firm. Which had some inflammatory results coupled with some inflammatory writing. Nevertheless, it demonstrated that the protesters are at least trying to be politically divided by not identifying with one political party more than another. However, when polled on the issues, they came out to be oriented to the more liberal side of things and are “…a group of engaged progressives who are disillusioned with the capitalist system and have a distinct activist orientation.” Schoen then goes on to explain why it would be a political disaster for the Democrats to link up with the protesters.
I have a hard time taking this poll very seriously. It is a ridiculously small sample size of 200 people with no mention of methodology or questions asked. Not to mention, this is appearing in a column of a notably conservative newspaper. While I do not want to question ethics or suggest that there was any kind of impropriety, polls always seem to end up skewed toward the point of view of their publishers.
It seems though, that Americablog would agree with Schoen’s conclusion, at least a little bit, albeit for different reasons.
Americablog cites heavily to a Salon article written by Glenn Greenwald that really is a fantastic piece of work. Greenwald was on top of the attempts by to co-opt the #Occupy movements a few weeks ago and has since come up with and answered this question: “Can the Occupy Wall Street protests be transformed into a get-out-the-vote organ of Obama 2012 and the Democratic Party?” (Read this article. It’s good read for liberals and conservatives alike.)
To be sure Greenwald answers this question in the negative. He puts forth a good deal of reasons why anyone protesting Wall Street would want to avoid voting Democrat again (his emphasis):
“Given these facts, does the Center for American Progress really believe that the protest movement named OccupyWallStreet was begun — and that people are being arrested and pepper-sprayed and ready to endure harsh winters and marching to Jamie Dimon’s house — in order to devote themselves to ensuring that these people remain in power? “
In other words, while they had the chance to put a stop to the garbage, the Democrats have become almost as complicit in fueling Wall Street and the corporate evil against which #OWS is aligned.
Certainly, there is an element of volatility here that would lead a person to believe that it is either inadvisable and/or impossible to co-opt the Occupy Wall Street protesters. I cannot help but agree with that generally. The Bush Administration was the group that pushed an economy, that many now contend was always going down, over the edge. But the Obama Administration has not done any better, and at points blatantly failed to take the reins and make for some reform.
The only thing preventing the Democrats’ attempts to co-opt the #OWS message from being a total disaster is the protesters’ lack of true centralization and a unified message or list of demands. If OWS had these things then the problem of message control would not exist. However, there is a total lack of message and no clear leader standing on a soap box able to yell a strong, “HEY!” and keep the protesters’ message on point.
What we might very well see is the continued politicization of the Occupy protests until it really does compare to the Tea Party, and then it might be too late to really seek change.
Let us hope that #OWS finds a way to guide its message so that it cannot be co-opted. If Occupy Wall Street becomes too much of Washington catchphrase the chance for change could be lost, and the protesters would have to start all over again.