Republicans have done much better than Democrats at framing their arguments and choosing the right words to maximize their support–regardless of whether conservative frames provide an honest look at the issues. Some on the left have tried to counter with the Occupy Wall Street movement and claims of supporting 99% versus the 1%. The movement has had success in drawing attention to their issues, and changing policy discussion away from what was increasingly a discussion of what spending to cut regardless of the merits. However, I have feared from the start that concentrating on words involving occupation would limit their potential success.
The Republicans generally embrace many of the extreme groups on the right (with some realizing that the know-nothing attitude of the Tea Party movement could lead to disaster). Roll Call shows that Democrats have qualms about getting too close to the Occupy Wall Street movement:
While Democrats are adopting the movement’s “99 percent” language, they are increasingly retreating from the protesters themselves and their anti-capitalist rhetoric. Some in the party view the Occupy activists — camped out in grubby tent cities around the country — as a potential liability in 2012.
Some of this could be attributed to the traditional reluctance of many Democrats to stick their necks out in support of principle, and many of those critical of OWS come from the more moderate and conservative wings of the party. However such concerns extended to more progressive Democrats:
Even the liberal Members of Congress originally scheduled to meet with the Occupiers were careful to separate the public face of the protesters and the concerns that spawned them.
“I think that there is a distinction that needs to be made between embracing Occupiers and embracing the issues and the struggle that they have brought to the forefront of the national agenda,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in a statement to Roll Call. “Anyone who thinks it’s a mistake to embrace these issues is not prepared to win in 2012. … The worst thing Democrats can do is pretend they don’t exist.”
Stressing how their policies are to protect “99 percent” is definitely preferable to stressing occupation. The movement needs to concentrate on the issues as opposed to the strategy of occupation. I also think that “income inequality” is not the right term to use. There always will be, and should be, differences in earning based upon skills and achievement. Many hearing of protests against income inequality misunderstand it to believe the movement, and liberals, oppose such appropriate levels of inequality. It only feeds into the ridiculous view on the right that liberals such as Obama are socialists. Reading the conservative blogs shows the degree of misunderstanding of the issue, with many conservatives finding it to be some sort of contradiction when affluent liberals, and not just the unemployed, show concern over the concentration of wealth by the ultra-wealthy.
The real issue is the considerable increase in income concentration in the top 1 percent (and top one tenth of one percent) in recent years, which has been exacerbated by government policy. Inequality may or may not be acceptable depending upon the specifics, but it is this degree of concentration of the wealth of this nation by a tiny plutocracy which is not. Other points which should be stressed are the decrease in upward mobility and the weakening of the middle class.
Americans typically have no problem with the wealthy, hoping to have the chance to join them. Stressing income inequality does not appeal to many of them. Stressing the fact that it is now harder for those in the middle class to become wealthy than in the past would be a far more compelling argument. Weakening the middle class means that middle class individuals have a far greater chance of winding up among the poor than the wealthy is an important wake-up call about the direction this country is moving in. Ultimately the weakening of the middle class is even harmful to the top 1 percent–a reason why many wealthy individuals have come out in recent weeks to support Democratic policies. They know that the tiny increases in marginal tax rates being proposed will not harm them, and certainly will not reduce job creation.