Occupy Wall Street participants discuss their attitude towards the Democratic Party
JAISAL NOOR, JOURNALIST: The growing movement which decries corporate greed, budget cuts, bank bailouts, and unequal economic opportunities has gripped the country, with politicians and even President Obama coming out in support. According to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University, 67 percent of New York City voters agree with the views of the Wall Street protesters. Seventy-two percent say if the protesters obey the law, they can stay as long as they wish. Occupy Wall Street protester Jesse Legreca says the movement needs to keep expanding in order to make real change.
JESSE LEGRECA, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: To me, if the one thing we do accomplish is to have a new tradition of public discourse in public places about politics and policies, that would be a huge step towards creating an informed citizenry that’s capable of critical thinking.
NOOR: The movement has been bolstered by traditional allies of the Democratic Party, including organized labor. SEIU organizer Alvin Carter says he hopes politicians will embrace the movement.
ALVIN JONES, ORGANIZER, SEIU: You know, too often in this country when politicians see something radical or that looks radical from afar, they tend to distance themselves away from it. And I think because of the current state that we find the country in, it’s time to attach themselves to something something like this, it’s time for politicians to attach themselves to movements like this that are organic and that excite and move the people.
NOOR: The movement has intentionally distanced itself from politics, and claims both major political parties only listen to corporate interests. But recently politicians have jumped on board, with President Obama saying he “understand[s] the frustrations” of protestors. Democratic leadership now say they hope to transform the growing anti-Wall Street sentiment into gains in next year’s election. But while no one protester speaks for the movement, some, including Alvin Carter, say they have already decided to vote Democrat in 2012.
JONES: I think that Barack Obama would probably be the best–I definitely couldn’t see myself voting for a Republican. And as of now, I think Obama’s the lesser evil out of all of them. Not to say that, you know, I support Obama, but, you know, he obviously hasn’t done the best job for working people. But I think he is the step in the right direction right now.
NOOR: But others say the administration’s close ties to Wall Street and the financial industry mean they won’t automatically be voting Democrat in next year’s election. This is Occupy Wall Street protester Saab Malik.
SAAB MALIK, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: To say that any one person here has any–this group as a whole has any kind of political view is kind of ridiculous. And the idea that you can exploit people here as Democratic Party voters–unless you take up our–kind of our banner that Wall Street is, you know, kind of essentially corrupt [incompr.] right, unless you take up what we suggest, which is what I suggest, personally, is transparency laws and caps on spending for lobbyists, right, unless you, you know, address the issues that we’re trying to address, right, any kind of exploitation of this movement just won’t come to fruition.
NOOR: Illinois congressmember and Progressive Caucus cochair Keith Ellison shares that view and supports Occupy Wall Street as an independent movement. But Ellison, who visited Zuccotti Park Tuesday, said it would be a mistake for protesters to give up voting.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN): And I’d say, look, if you think that Obama isn’t everything you wanted, why don’t you just try Romney or Cain or Bachmann? We’ve seen this in the states. Is there any doubt that Scott Walker would not try to rip apart every union he could? Is there any doubt that Scott Walker would not try to take away people’s right to vote this voter ID mess? Don’t be naive. If you concede electoral politics to the worst people, you will get the worst electoral politics. And you think you need to be out here now? You’re going to have to be out here even more so.
NOOR: During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama received more money from the financial industry than his Republican rivals or any other politician in the past two decades. And so far this year, he’s raised $15.6 million, doubling the $7.5 million GOP candidate Mitt Romney has raised from the financial sector. Arun Gupta, cofounder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, says though Obama may try to capitalize on the growing anti-Wall Street sentiment, he doesn’t expect the president to change his policies.
ARUN GUPTA, COFOUNDER, OCCUPIED WALL STREET JOURNAL: He’s going to do what Democrats always do. They talk left and act right. You know, that’s what he did in the 2008 campaign. They’re still going to, you know, be going after that Wall Street money as hard and as fast as they can. You know, he had the opportunity to break with Wall Street after he got elected, when he had a huge amount of political capital, when he could have actually really solidified his base.
NOOR: Despite the increased attention, the Occupy movement remains committed to working outside the current political system, which it sees corrupted by unchecked corporate contributions. Reporting for FSRN and The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor in NY.