The forced clearing of Zuccotti Park this week represents a turning point for the Occupy Wall Street movement–one which possibly could be to its advantage. So far Occupy Wall Street has one significant achievement–turning discussion from which government program to cut next to an examination of how the system is rigged to transfer wealth from the middle class to the top one percent. Unlike the Tea Party movement, they show far more understanding of the issues they are discussing. These are important issues to bring to the nation’s attention considering the degree to which the unprecedented level of income inequality, along with the factually incorrect misconceptions upon which conservative economic policies are based, have caused our economy and country to stagnate in recent years.
The question has been where Occupy Wall Street would go from here. It has always been at risk of fading from attention, between a natural diminishing of interest over time and cold winter weather forcing many to return home. If the the movement was based upon a permanent occupation of Zucotti Park and other areas, it would soon become old news, assuming that it would never increase in size to the point where it would become appear even more meaningful. Zucotti Park would never become Tahrir Square in Cairo.
Now that they are being forced out of their around-the-clock encampments, OCS supporters have an important decision to make. They could become either the start of a new progressive movement in this nation, or a brief protest which loses its significance. They could center their activity upon fighting to maintain the protests in their current form, but this would be a Pyrrhic victory even if it could be achieved. Such a victory would do little to promote the more serious economic message behind the group. This would play into the hands of the dishonest propagandists for the authoritarian right from Fox and talk radio who would be able to exaggerate every episode of misconduct conducted by people in the area who have nothing to do with the actual movement, resulting in a further decline in their support. I wouldn’t be surprised to see end of year “news” summaries at Fox next month claiming that Occupy Wall Street supporters had spent the year molesting children in the showers at Penn State.
I hope that Occupy Wall Street decides to concentrate on promoting their economic message as opposed to fighting to continue their occupations. At this point intermittent political rallies and other events are likely to receive more media coverage than a permanent “occupation” which gradually dwindles in size over the winter. While OCS is quite distinct from the Democratic Party, I have seen multiple interviews in which supporters did acknowledge that the Democrats are far preferable to the Republicans on economic issues. As we face a tough race next year to prevent government control by supporters of the no-nothing polices of the far right, OCS members might devote some energy to getting out the vote, even if they feel compelled to hold their noses when voting Democratic. Perhaps they could even influence some Democratic primaries, as long as they don’t do this to nominate unelectable extremists as the Tea Party has done.
I also wouldn’t mind if they concentrated more on names such as the 99 percent rather than Occupy Wall Street should the occupations no longer become the centerpiece of the movement. Both the concentrating on occupying a location and the concentration on Wall Street alone distract from their central issue of how an unprecedented level of income inequality has been harmful to the nation, leading us to a position where we can no longer afford many basic government services and promoting of a 21st century infrastructure which would promote greater economic development.