Photo: Robert Johnson
Correctly surmising that the Occupy Wall St. movement is going to be a big player in the next election President Obama has evidently decided that the best course of action is to support the protesters.This despite the fact that it is widely assumed that the group is in large part comprised of disaffected Obama supporters.
Last week Obama adviser David Pouffe told Good Morning America “The protests you’re seeing are the same conversations people are having in living rooms and kitchens all across America…the president is standing on the side of consumers and the middle class.”
Yesterday, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest went further, appropriating the language of the movement to declare that Obama is fighting for the “interests of 99 per cent of Americans are well represented.”
Certainly this seems a better course of action than calling the group “jealous” and accusing them of playing the “victim card” as Herman Cain did. Or declaring it “class warfare” as Romney has done. And yet Obama is playing a dangerous game attaching himself so directly to a movement that boasts neither a leader nor a clear message.
The Occupy Wall St. (OWS) movement is only a month old and while it has seen great success during that time and all signs point to its continued growth, it is still a mostly unknown entity. As such it is attracting a wide array of supporters (the unions were the first to jump on board, just yesterday the American Nazi Party announced its support…that is the definition of wide array).
Of course, a wide array is fine and to be expected in a group this large, and notwithstanding certain fringe groups, simply further proof of how appealing this movement is on a national scale.
However, with no clear leadership and no clear message Obama’s now-definite support of the movement is putting him in the position of being something like its default spokesperson.
And that could get very problematic very quickly. To wit:
This morning WNYC reported the protesters are increasingly willing to court confrontation: “organisers of the anti-Wall Street protest acknowledged that after a month of demonstrations there is an increased willingness by members to confront the police during marches — even if it means getting arrested.”
Sound like a recipe for disaster? It does if you are running Obama’s reelection campaign. And what if things do get violent (which is not to say they will, but it should certainly be something the Obama team is considering)? Does Obama then dial back and say, actually I’m supporting the 99% just not this part of them? In political speak that’s known as a flip-flop.
Speaking of which, Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi worriedly speculated in a blog post this morning that the movement was going to suffer from “a fusillade of attempts from many different corners to force these demonstrations into the liberal-conservative blue-red narrative.”
One imagines the more Obama voices his support for the movement the more compelled those corners will be increase their attempts to force this protest into partisan territory.
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