This old-school political cartoon nails it:
The media ignored the Occupy Wall Street protest for almost two weeks and only reluctantly began to cover it when it became impossible not to in the wake of YouTube videos of police brutality, and … of far greater importance … the presence of celebrities among the protesters. Once the media began to cover OWS and sister protests around the USA and the world, though, it adopted the belittling tactic you see summarized above: saying over and over again that the protesters don’t know what they’re protesting.
It seems to me protesters know pretty clearly what they’re protesting. Naturally, splinter groups with different agendas are joining the OWS movement, advocating for everything from forgiveness of student loan debt to veganism, but the central message has always been opposition to the overwhelming influence of money and corporate interests in American politics. Corporate interests trump the interests of citizens and voters when it comes to legislation and influence over Congress. More and more, and especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporations and moneyed special interests dominate campaigns and elections.
The protesters want to get our political system, which is supposed to answer to American voters, aka “the people,” back on track. They want to get corporate and special interest money out of elections. They want the government to respond to us, not the Wall Street barons. What’s unclear about that?
OWS has another goal, one that’s a bit more subtle.
Tea Partiers, who generally are nothing more than the old far-right racist religious fundamentalist branch of the Republican Party that has been around forever, have grabbed control of the GOP. Every GOP presidential candidate now espouses teabagger values. With few exceptions, GOP congressmen vote the teabagger line.
OWS protesters want to gain similar sway over the Democratic Party. They know any third-party effort is doomed to failure; if they are to have any influence over politics, elections, and legislation, they must exert that influence through the Democratic Party. A lot of the impetus behind the protests is to show Democrats that there’s a big base of progressive voters out there looking for politicians and leaders to represent them.
My only reservation comes from the fact that many progressives … the same kind of people who are now marching and camping out in cities across the land … stayed home during the last mid-term elections. By not voting, they allowed teabaggers and corrupt big-money GOP politicians to take over the House, gain seats in the Senate, and win several state governorships. If OWS protesters and progressive voters don’t vote in local, state, and national elections, none of this will amount to anything.