Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.
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Finding #OccupyWallStreet a Place Among Moderates Will Be Crucial

Greg Sargent, who writes The Plum Line for Washington Post, recently wrote a piece discussing what would happen if the Occupy Wall Street movement found support among the working class. The article makes some excellent points about what the movement could mean for the 2012 elections.

If Occupy Wall Street remains what it currently is, an amorphous, evolving visual statement, it’s likely to find support among moderates and working class whites who will respond to the overall message even if it is being directed to them by people they would not usually align themselves with. This touches on a subject that seems to be forgotten in the current political polarization: there are a lot of people in the middle of the spectrum whose voice is not being heard by the extreme elements of either party.

The mainstream media has painted OWS as a leftist reaction to the Tea Party. Having visited Liberty Square I can tell you with confidence that this is not an accurate description. If the movement can portray to the nation that it is truly representative of the 99 percent — which I believe it is — then it can gain support in many key battleground states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. According the Plum Line article, Working America, the non-union organizational wing of the AFL-CIO, has seen unprecedented enrollment in response to OWS.

Working America has signed up approximately 25,000 new recruits in the last week alone, thanks largely to the high visibility of the protests.

Karen Nussbaum, the executive director of Working America, tells me that this actually dwarfs their most successful recruiting during the Wisconsin protests. “In so many ways, Wisconsin was a preview of what we’re now seeing,” Nussbaum says. “We thought it was big when we got 20,000 members in a month during the Wisconsin protests. This shows how much bigger this is.”

Sargent goes on to talk about the “cultural fault line and tensions between blue collar whites and liberal activists” and how OWS might bridge the gap. The cultural fault line is understandable. The left is often represented by graduates of Ivy League schools and their alumni like to speak with passion about the plight of the lower-middle class. However, anyone actually growing up in the lower-middle class has little chance of attending or more specifically has little chance of affording the opportunity to attend such a school. Therefore, workers drinking in a bar in Poughkeepsie after a long day on the jobsite are unlikely to relate to those who claim to be fighting for their interests. OWS sets out to transcend that, though, billing itself as a movement “of the people.” As they continue to prove that they are sticking to that ideal, more moderates are likely to jump on board, something Sargent suggests may be the clincher:

At a minimum, the question of whether Occupy Wall Street can forge any kind of meaningful bond with blue collar whites and moderates will be seen by both sides as a crucial one going forward.

UPDATE: A new poll, also appearing on The Plum Line, suggests a majority of blue collar whites DO support OWS.


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