wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Most Read: Opinions

direct signup

Today’s Opinions poll

Will Rep. Paul Ryan's anti-poverty proposal help the poor?

Submit
Next
Review your answers and share
Right Turn
Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 10/18/2011

Who are the Occupy Wall Street protesters?

From their endorsers, their mounds of trash and their signage, it wasn’t too hard to figure out that the Occupy Wall Street crowd is not composed of regular folks. The more we learn, the more it becomes just how fringy this rag-tag mob is.

In the wake of ECI’s ad highlighting the anti-Semitic elements within OWS, the Anti-Defamation League perked up with its own message denouncing the Jew-hating messages. And even the liberal blocking backs at the National Jewish Democratic Council had to weigh in: “As NJDC has repeatedly and consistently said over the course of years, anti-Semitic and abusive Holocaust rhetoric has no place in our political discourse—including at the gatherings surrounding the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ rallies and protests, where a handful of incidents have been documented. Invoking the Holocaust or engaging in anti-Semitic canards to make a political point is never acceptable.”

But the notion that extremists are a small sliver of the protests took a blow when someone bothered to actually find out who was out in the streets. Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen writes in the Wall Street Journal:

On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York’s Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.
Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn’t represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.
The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%). . . . What binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education—is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.

Schoen warns his fellow Democrats to keep their distance. “Thus Occupy Wall Street is a group of engaged progressives who are disillusioned with the capitalist system and have a distinct activist orientation. Among the general public, by contrast, 41% of Americans self-identify as conservative, 36% as moderate, and only 21% as liberal. That’s why the Obama-Pelosi embrace of the movement could prove catastrophic for their party.”

None of this, I suspect, will keep the liberal media from slobbering over the protesters. Nostalgia for the 1960s protests is part of the explanation, and the liberals’ widespread antipathy toward the private sector (all those profits, all that wealth-creation upsets them) certainly factors in.

But you can’t help but think there’s some catharsis going on among the demoralized elites who insisted the One was vindication of their left-leaning philosophy. In the real world, however, the liberal domestic dogma (Keynesianism) and its foreign policy fantasies (close Gitmo) crashed and burned. It would be too much to concede conservatives’ criticisms were valid. So much more satisfying, then, to blow off steam with the hard left, excoriating directly and by implication the president’s failure to achieve liberal nirvana. Eugene Robinson writes, “The biggest impact of the Occupy Wall Street protests has been to provide a focal point for generalized economic and political discontent.” Actually, it’s to provide a focal point for liberals’ economic and political discontent. And looking at the unemployment figures, President Obama’s polling numbers and the prospects for the 2012 election, they have plenty to be discontented about.

By  |  11:00 AM ET, 10/18/2011

Categories:  Culture, Economy

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company