Occupy Wall Street: Will it Help or Hinder Reelection of Obama?
an initial phase in which, sure enough, the movement provides a small moral
boost to the left, this model of protest will be detrimental to the president. …
The Democratic Party, although populist in the distant past, has long been the
party of the establishment. Both its leaders and its message are opposed to type
of leftism represented today by OWS."
Forget the controversy over its
actual dimensions. Very often in politics, what facts are based on is worth
less than the perceptions they create. This has never been more true than in
the case of Occupy
Wall Street (OWS), the presence of which is more
virtual than real, and the power of which depends on a capacity to shake things
up rather than on popular support. The fact is that at least for now, the
political class has made OWS part of its agenda. It
is now part of the national debate.
who bears primary responsibility for Obama 2012, has predicted that OWS “will be an issue in the next election.” President Obama himself has spoken in positive
terms of the movement, which he defined as “an expression of citizen frustration.”
And after expressing initial criticism, the Republican number two in Congress, Eric Cantor, has also expressed
his “understanding” of the occupiers, with whom he agreed that “there is too
much disparity of income” in the United States.
No one yet knows how far the
protest movement will go, and therefore, no one wants to openly earn its hostility.
Democrats predict that OWS may help mobilize their
base, which is quite disappointed with Obama. Republicans expect the movement,
insofar as the movement amplifies complaints about the state of the economy, to
generate a protest vote against the president.
Who is right? Will the occupiers
help or harm Obama? My prediction is that after an initial phase in which, sure
enough, the movement provides a small moral boost to the left, this model of
protest will be detrimental to the president. These are my reasons:
-- Populism is the terrain of
the right. As was proven by the Tea Party, the
Republican Party is capable of incorporating extreme right-wing populism and
making the most out of it in terms of electoral performance. Even paying a
price in terms of a lack of discipline and leadership tension, the opposition
has managed to coalesce around the Tea Party and in this way has earned power
and influence thanks to the movement. However, the Democratic Party, although
populist in the distant past, has long been the party of the establishment. Both
its leaders and its message are opposed to type of leftism
represented today by OWS.
-Obama is a centrist leader. Despite the current offensive to
tax the rich, Obama’s nature is that of a conciliatory moderate. Perhaps some misinterpreted
his promises of change in 2008, but the reality is that he never ran as a candidate
of the left. His most repeated slogan that year was to, “end the divide between
red states and blue states to strengthen the United States of America.” His
next campaign will be based on contrasting himself with the radicalism offered
by Republican candidates. At some point during the campaign he will recover his
centrist profile and disappoint OWS supporters.
-Elections are decided by independents. Both parties know that
without them there is no victory. Independents supported Obama in 2008 as a
form of punishment to Bush and they backed Republicans as a punishment to Obama
in 2010. The president is confident that in 2012 he'll be able to get win back many
independents who fear conservative extremism. But such
a strategy will fail if the extremism of OWS gets in
-OWS divides the youth vote. To a
certain degree, it is unlikely that the movement will end up openly betting on
Obama. Nevertheless, its presence will only serve to confuse young people and
divide their votes. The Obama campaign hopes that this segment of the
population will - at the last minute - opt for the president for a lack of
better alternative options. To the extent that the Wall Street occupiers offer
other options like street politics or even voting for other radical groups like
that led by Republican candidate Ron Paul, it will not make Obama’s re-election
easier. This is a cynical yet valid argument.
-OWS doesn't provide Hispanic or Black
votes. The movement doesn't enjoy any outright support from these communities. It
doesn't compensate, therefore, for voter support that may be lost for the reasons
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