It’s become an article of faith among some on the right, and even among some neutral commentators, that Obama and Dems risk losing the support of blue collar whites in swing states if they dare to whisper a word of praise for Occupy Wall Street.
But what if the opposite is true — what if working class white voters actually like and agree with Occupy Wall Street’s message, if not always with the cultural and personal instincts of its messengers?
The movement is still very young, and it’s very hard to gauge support for it. But one labor official shares with me a very interesting data point: Working America, the affiliate of the AFL-CIO that organizes workers from non-union workplaces, has signed up approximately 25,000 new recruits in the last week alone, thanks largely to the high visibility of the protests.
That is very interesting. I doubt that it signals a trend, though. The cultural resistance to joining up with the loony left and dreadlocked trustafarians has to be strong. But who knows? The Occupy movement had a huge show of strength overseas this past weekend. But that was there. Walter Shapiro went down to OWS the other day, and says that it’s a pretty good-natured demo, but really, really small. He says that nothing he saw there justifies the media coverage the demo has received. Shapiro’s theory is that journalists have been waiting for some sort of Tea Party-ish expression of anger from the Left, and when they got it, they hyped it. Shapiro:
Occupy Wall Street is a Rorschach Test. If you are a true believer of the left, you can find something appealing in the well-intentioned and mostly well-behaved efforts of the protesters to call attention to economic injustice. If you are a hard-core conservative, you can mock the demonstrators as easily as you can pillory a vegan food co-op. What happens to this fragile-as-a-soap-bubble movement in the future is impossible to predict. But it is unlikely that the answer will ever be found in Zuccotti Park or the next destination for Occupy Wall Street.
If somebody can come up with an anti-Wall Street movement that working class and lower middle class folks can actually believe in and rally around, then we will have reached a potential turning point in American politics, the moment in which cultural issues may have ceased to be the chief divide in US politics. I’m not holding my breath. Then again, what John Robb says:
Why Occupy? Why Tea Party? Why Protest? Simple; The US economy is broken. Incomes are less than they were 35 years ago. Everything costs more. We’ve had 17% unemployment (traditional measure) for 2 years and we’re about to lose many more jobs.. Our collective debt is 370% of our GDP (from all sources, from consumer to gov’t). Our financial system has a) enabled the transfer of our manufacturing jobs to a mercantilist (managed trade) China and b) stolen the rest of our wealth (and is in the process of gambling what’s left of it away). Finally, given the ongoing instability of our economic system, we don’t have long before the entire thing fails and with it our collective future (rich or poor). The question really is: why aren’t you protesting? why isn’t everyone protesting?