President Obama’s plummeting approval ratings have made him an unlikely candidate to revive the Left, but Democrats think they’ve found a new savior: the angry and unwashed crowds of the Occupy Wall Street campaign.
The New York Times reported this week that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democrats’ fund-raising organ, is currently circulating a petition that aims to get 100,000 Democratic supporters to sign a pledge that “I stand with the Occupy Wall Street protests.” Top Democratic fundraisers, including those close to Obama, are also said to be seeking ways to make common cause with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. The thinking seems to be that Occupy Wall Street represents the Left’s emerging answer to the Tea Party. As such, it is exactly the boost the party needs as it heads into an election year led by an unpopular president and backed by an unenthusiastic base.
Overt support for the Occupy Wall Street protests is a risky strategy, however. For one thing, while Democrats may appreciate what the protesters represent, the feeling is not mutual. Though the Occupy Wall Street campaign lacks an organized agenda, its one consistent message has been that the political establishment, including Democrats, is to blame for the country’s grim economic prospects. Indeed, one of their main objections is to the government bailouts for Wall Street that the Obama administration pushed through. If what the protesters really want is a reckoning for those who presided over these taxpayer-funded transfers to hated Wall Street, Democrats and President Obama will have a hard time exploiting the protests for political gain.
Bringing the Occupy Wall Street protesters into the Democratic fold is also problematic because they seem unwilling to play the role that Democrats want them to. That role is primarily in fueling the mild class-warfare rhetoric that is the party’s perennial favorite and which President Obama has trumpeted in recent weeks. This explains why Democrats have tried to present the protesters’ concerns as primarily about economic disparities and, in Obama’s words, a general “frustration” with the economic situation in which only the rich benefit. That rationale may be convenient for Obama’s plans to raise taxes on the upper income brackets, but all evidence suggests that the demands of Occupy Wall Street are far more extreme. What a sizable contingent of them seem to want, if their “abolish capitalism” signs are any indication, is the wholesale elimination of the financial industry and the dismantling of the free market. Whatever else can be said of this radical message, it is not one primed to win over the American public, let alone Democrats’ generous Wall Street donors. Not for nothing was Goldman Sachs the largest contributor to President Obama’s election campaign.
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