Will Occupy Wall Street Play a Role in the 2012 Election?
Sometime early next year, the mainstream media will begin focusing on the presidential race to the exclusion of virtually every other political story. This presents a challenge for Occupy Wall Street, which has both eschewed electoral politics and grown in part because of intense national media attention.
Will Occupy change how it operates when the mainstream media starts interpreting everything through the prism of presidential politics? Will a significant chunk of occupiers mobilize for Obama, when Democrats start whipping up fear of a Romney presidency? Might the occupiers instead pursue an effective issues-based strategy? Or will the movement ignore traditional politics and pursue other avenues for change? Will Occupy even exist as a relevant force by Election Day 2012?
Occupiers around the country are starting to consider these questions; those who haven’t will be forced to soon.
The first thing to keep in mind in thinking about Occupy and 2012 is the heterogeneity of the movement. Ask 10 occupiers what they think the movement should do in 2012, and you’ll get 10 different answers. It’s difficult to imagine the Occupy movement nationally — or even Occupy Wall Street in New York — coalescing around one particular response to presidential politics.
Interviews with occupiers in New York suggest that factions within the movement will focus their activism in many different directions at once next year. One faction is likely to pressure candidates on specific economic justice issues; others will protest and perhaps disrupt political events; and some will ignore the election entirely.
In Zuccotti Park, a reporter can find pretty much whatever he or she wants. Thus I’ve encountered a Brooklyn man distributing voter registration forms in the park (click for full size) …