Believe it or not, the Occupy Wall Street movement is still going on. The deafening media silence that has fallen upon the Occupy movement is largely due to the fact that they have lost the all-important attribute of relevancy.
The Occupy movement was big when it first started because it was relevant and new at the time. Thousands of protesters flooding into New York City’s Zuccotti Park was something that this country had not seen for a long time—which gave them an unrelenting spotlight and allowed them to dominate the media cycle for months.
After the novelty wore off, however, they fell into anonymity, without having any substantive impact on the American political process—unlike the Tea Party, which went into decline after they had scored an enormous political victory in the 2010 Congressional elections.
This is a shame because Occupy’s messages against corporate influence in the government and general government unresponsiveness are important messages to have in modern American political discourse.
To regain the kind of influence that they had last fall, the Occupy movement is going to have to adopt the one defining difference between themselves and the Tea Party—they need to get political.
What I mean by this is fairly straightforward. Occupy Wall Street is not a political party. They do not have a unified political identity or any cohesive political goals. Occupy Wall Street also does not identify with any one particular party or allow any sort of outside party influence. Nor do they actively pressure specific candidates to pursue a particular policy goal.
The Tea Party had this in abundance. The Tea Party actively campaigned for Republican candidates and actively showed up for Republican political rallies. They also had a very specific list of policy goals in mind, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act, and aggressively reducing the size of government.
They had candidates, they had a party to work for and they had a clear objective to work towars. It all paid off in the 2010 election, which swung both a majority of state legislatures and the House of Representatives heavily to the right.
This is something that Occupy needs to adopt. They need to start getting aggressively political. They need to start backing a party, whether that is the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, an existing independent third party or starting a party of their own. They need to start backing candidates or forwarding their own candidates. This makes them both relevant and important in the story of the 2012 election.
The movement has a lot of things going for it. They have a lot of good messages, and a lot of people identify with those messages; people that are very angry and eager to change this country. The Occupy movement just needs to do something with those people and all of the passion that they have.
People are passionate about the things that Occupy stands for, they just need to have an objective that they can use that passion to work for. Otherwise, the Occupy Movement is just going to drift away from the public mind and be lost forever, remembered only as a massive movement of drum circles that annoyed everyone for a few weeks in 2011.
So Occupiers, go and do something with your movement. Don’t just loiter in private parks. Don’t just camp out and play your drum circles. Get political, get people elected, get your message out.
Find people to elect, whether or not they are mainstream candidates (Republican Buddy Roemer was one of the few candidates to actually visit an Occupy movement, look him up!) or people that you elect from your own ranks. Get that media spotlight back onto yourselves. Make the candidates pay attention to you.
The Tea Party was able to do it; They focused their passions and they got results. Occupy Wall Street is more than capable of doing the same. You are a populist movement—a movement from the people and made up by the people.
You say that you are the 99 percent, but nobody is going to believe that for a second if you are irrelevant to the process. Unfortunately, you have to play the political game in order to get things done in this country. The Tea Party did it and you can too. So get relevant, get political and achieve what you set out to do in the first place.
Caleb Hendrich is a senior Political Science and Journalism double major. His columns appear Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org