Can the Occupy Wall Street protest movement seeking economic and fiscal reform be a factor in the 2012 election?
Any political scientist worth his or her salt will confess to you that it's just too soon to tell. Anyone who takes a stance otherwise is either being very bold or has prophetic powers far beyond mere mortals.
Now entering its sixth week in the United States, it's still way too soon to gauge whether Occupy Wall Street can: 1) change the political culture and 2) organize and marshal enough voters to be a factor in both Congressional (435 House / 33 Senate) races and the U.S. presidential race. And historically, in the U.S. -- although economic and social change can occur in other ways -- a political movement's ability to vote-in candidates that favor its policies and vote-out those that don't has been the key factor regarding whether a movement has lasting import, at least in regard to public policy.
Occupy Wall Street: Shattering GOP Rhetoric?
One thing that is certain about Occupy Wall Street at this stage: It's a bad dream for the Republican Party.
The reason? It's one thing when the marginalized and the oppressed in society are single moms -- many of whom are African-American or Hispanic-American -- with not enough job skills or the wrong jobs skills. Because these groups have little representation in Washington and even less of a voice in the popular media, Republicans can dismiss them. Single moms' complaint that the economic slump has really hurt them or that the U.S. economy as currently structured leaves them with no stake in the system can be largely dismissed by the GOP. They lack the skills to secure the jobs out there, the Republican retort goes, and most Americans historically have agreed.
Likewise with the permanence of the underclass in the United States. The U.S.'s high poverty rate -- which has risen almost continually since President George W. Bush was elected in 2000 -- could be dismissed by the Republican Party as just people who don't have the right skills, or people who are not trying to look for work.
But the adults who comprise what appears to be a growing Occupy Wall Street movement are something else: they're in another category. Skilled, middle-class, recent college grads who cannot find a job because the nation is short roughly 14 million full-time jobs while there are about four people searching for every job vacancy. Middle-aged couples who lost everything during the recession -- job/home/peace of mind -- and who now can't find jobs even outside of their fields, because the jobs are so few. Downsized teachers who can't find a job in any school district -- public or private -- because the vacancies don't exist, due to austerity measures at the local/state government level. And even Ph.D. candidates in physics who not only can't find work in their field -- they can't find work as pizza makers, retail sales clerks or waiters -- because so few jobs exist.
The above represents a bad dream for the Republican Party because unlike the single moms and the underclass, they are talented individuals who have recent experience in the work force and who want to work in their fields, now. The old Republican retort of you just don't have the skills or aren't willing to take a job outside of your field just won't cut it this time: it's not plausible. Not with those new professionals, tradesmen and administrators, who have been marginalized and/or alienated now.
How Big Is Occupy's Coalition?
And a few other things about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators: they're smart, operationally sophisticated and determined.
How big is Occupy Wall Street? Does it represent 10 percent of American voters, what political scientists call the American electorate? Are they 15 percent of American voters? Maybe 20 percent? Or 30 percent? Even bigger? Again, at this stage, we don't know.
In other words, the Republican Party is now confronted with the reality that -- in addition to the single moms and the permanent underclass -- there's now tens of millions of skilled, ambitious adult Americans who say that the economic slump has really hurt them or that the U.S. economy as currently structured leaves them with no stake in the system. That is, they can't be easily and largely dismissed by the GOP. They are an objective data point that's staring the Republican Party in the face.
Moreover, the old Republican rejoinders are not going to cut it this time. For the better part of the past three decades -- and certainly since the Democratic Party recaptured the White House in the 2008 election -- Republicans have been saying, If we can only get rid of the liberals. Or the Democrats. Or unions. Or public sector workers. Or Obama. Then everything is going to be fine.
However, now, if the Republicans do all that, and the problems and concerns expressed by Occupy Wall Street are still there, the objective data point called the Occupy Wall Street movement will still be there.
Conservative Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, no friend to liberal causes, made a revealing comment last week, during a discussion on Occupy Wall Street.
Hannity, in a suddenly and unusually very sympathetic, respectful tone, noted the anger present in the Occupy Wall Street movement -- the anger and frustration of people who want jobs but can't find them.
It seems to me to be misdirected, the anger, Sean Hannity said. Hannity didn't say it, but his tone was one of, This is the voice of a lot of talented, ambitious Americans who are frustrated by the fact that they can't find jobs, and they are justified in their complaint, and their numbers are growing.
Occupy Wall Street is the expression -- the voice -- of an objective data point that says: more jobs, or reform the system.
See Also - To Read More News Stories/Analysis Regarding the Occupy Wall Street Protests: click here.