Union support and mass arrests last weekend only increased media attention on Occupy Wall Street; the solidarity demonstrations around the country show no signs of letting up; and, most remarkable of all, a new poll from Rasmussen shows decent approval ratings for the young movement.
With the increased attention come the politicians. Republican candidates have been predictably derisive, while Democrats such as Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairs Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, and former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold have issued statements of support. Given Obama’s recent embrace of “class warfare” and today’s call from Senate Democrats for a 5 percent surtax on millionaires, is an alliance between Democrats and the Occupy movement possible?
No, or at least not without Democrats renouncing the influence Wall Street holds on them, as well.
You don’t have to dig deep to find evidence of that relationship. Former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has long been “one of the biggest beneficiaries of Wall Street money that Congress [has] ever seen,” and, in turn, Schumer pushed hard to deregulate the financial industry before the 2008 crash and then bailout said financiers afterwards. When Congress debated financial reform last May, House Democratic Chief Deputy Whip Ron Kind (D-Wis.) told a gathering of financial lobbyists, “We’re working hard with you to get the policy right.” And, of course, President Obama chose Larry Summers and Tim Geithner as his chief economic advisers, despite their long records of Wall Street ties and favoritism. The surtax on millionaires that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on Wednesday replaces Obama’s proposals to tax not only a broader swath of wealthy individuals, but also oil and gas corporations.
Indeed, Democratic support for Wall Street was one of the major motivations behind Occupy Wall Street in the first place. When you read the heartbreaking “We are the 99 percent” Tumblr and you listen to the protesters, you don’t hear frustration with Republicans. The frustration is with Washington. And if Democrats want to work with the Occupy movement (or, indeed, make the “Republicans are the party of the rich” attack really work), they’ll have to undertake root-and-branch reform of their party’s relationship with Wall Street.