2008 record      


User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Many Democrats hope to reap a ballot box benefit in 2012 from the Occupy Wall Street protests. But so far there is little sign that OWS will become an organized force for impacting elections.

 Tea Party groups, which sprung up as spontaneous anti-bailout demonstrations in 2009, quickly set up into local units focused on getting out the vote last year for GOP candidates who backed the movement's principles.

Yet those on both the political right and left see little likelihood that OWS will follow suit.

"There are a lot of things working against them turning into a movement that is going to impact politics," said Matthew Vadum, senior editor at the conservative Capital Research Center. "For one, a lot of these people are anarchists who don't believe in the democratic process."

Jim Hightower, a liberal talk radio host, added, "Becoming a player quickly like the Tea Party, I don't see that happening ... No grass-roots progressive movement moves directly into an itemized legislative agenda and into electing people."

Hightower is organizing a left-wing group, "We the People," to build on the OWS movement.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee have signaled support for OWS. President Obama recently said OWS "expresses the frustrations that the American people feel."

But people age 18-24 have the lowest election turnout of any age group. In 2008, supposedly a banner year for the youth vote, less than half of those eligible actually filled out a ballot, according to the Census Bureau.

Tea Party supporters tend to be older: A 2010 Gallup poll found 50% were 50 and up, a group which has turnout rates around 70% in presidential elections.

"Heather," a 23-year-old at Occupy D.C., said, "I don't think there is a lot of interest in organizing for elections. There are some people who are inclined to do so, but a majority here don't feel that will make a difference."

That's a common attitude among young adults, experts say.

"Why does this sort of movement manifest itself in demonstration politics, which is not usual politics? It has to do with the ability to take bigger risks politically than older people," said Katy Harriger, a professor of political science at Wake Forest University who has studied youth involvement in pol itics. "Young people often don't own a home or (have)a job."

A greater risk threshold also can lead to recklessness, such as OWS protests that have devolved into violence. That has harmed their image: A recent IBD/TIPP poll found that 40% of Americans have a negative impression of OWS vs. 31% favorable.

The youthfulness of OWS may also work against it engaging in politics in more orthodox ways.

"Young people have a very high level of distrust of the system," said Harriger. "With the Tea Party, it's distrust of the national government, but ... it's not a distrust of the institutional structure ... Young people often express that the system is completely corrupted by money."

Thom Regis, another Occupy D.C. demonstrator, said, "I don't hate the politicians, but the game is messed up," calling the way we fund elections "open bribery."

While OWS protesters likely won't engage in get-out-the-vote efforts, their message could impact politics.

"You've got all sorts of candidates forced to talk about not only the Occupy encampments but also about their issues like injustice, inequality and a jobless recovery," Hightower notes.

But Vadum replied, "It was a big mistake for Democrats to align themselves with OWS. These people are far out of the political mainstream, and they scare middle America."

Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn