It was only a matter of time. A grass roots movement has emerged in New York City, and has put both political parties at unease. While the Republicans choose to bash and condemn, the Democrats express solidarity with the anti-Wall Street protests. Of course, this sudden show of interest in the protests after initially being ignored is wholly based in political self interest. As is typical with populist outbreaks, political parties seek to channel that energy into their own purposes.
Here is what people were talking about when supporters of Occupy Wall Street were concerned about possible co-optation. Already we have seen the signs “Occupy The Polls” a not so thinly veiled attempt to divert the very popular rage against the banks into an electoral solution. As if it is possible to vote the way out of the austerity drive, which is for all intents and purposes bi-partisan. It would be slightly more convincing if the Democrats were at the forefront of the battles against budget cuts, but they aren’t. So what is this courting of the Occupy Wall Street movement about, at the core of it? Its about making sure that it does not get out of hand.
For those that remember the anti-war movement, the same dynamic is at work here. A movement emerges outside of the electoral system, and then the most sophisticated elements of the political class rush in to divert. Will the same thing happen to the Occupy Wall Street protests, which have galvanized so much support and inspired similar events around the country? It remains to be seen.
-Marc W. Polite