Posted 10 years ago on Oct. 8, 2011, 8:41 p.m. EST by TechJunkie
from Miami Beach, FL
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
There are a lot of Occupy Wall Street protesters saying that voting is a "waste of time", and that they "will not vote again". Many people here are complaining that government is not responsive, that the Tea Party and conservatives have disproportionate influence, and that voting is futile. But isn't complaining about the Tea Party's influence the same thing as acknowledging that our government IS responsive, and that your vote CAN make a difference?
The Tea Party was able to hold the federal government hostage during the debt ceiling negotiations because they were effective at electing representatives to do their bidding. Recent union busting, draconian immigration laws, and business deregulation, are all examples of conservatives getting what they want because they're effective, goal-oriented participatants in the democratic process. There are Occupy Wall Street protesters repeating the slogan, "This is what democracy looks like." But protests are only part of what democracy looks like. Democracy also looks like Nikki Haley, Ron Johnson, and Rand Paul.
A lot of Occupy Wall Street protesters are jaded about the entire democratic process after the bitter experience of putting all of that energy into "Hope" and then getting nothing out of it. But how many of those Obama supporters voted for him and then left it all to him and expected him to somehow magically fix everything? Only 24% of people aged 18 to 29 voted in the 2010 mid-term elections. ( http://www.civicyouth.org/quick-facts/youth-voting/ ) Most of those people lean to the left, but they disenfranchised themselves through lack of commitment to the democratic process.
The Tea Party didn't make the same mistake. They held their protest rallies, they gave their speeches, and then they went home and voted. At the same time, elected conservative politicians are actively reforming the election process to stop liberals from voting. ( http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-gop-war-on-voting-20110830 ) But liberals are voluntarily forfeiting their right to vote, even without interference from conservatives.
Instead of talking about obtaining a more responsive government through "demands" that would bypass the democratic process, Occupy Wall Street protesters should focus on effectively participating in the democratic process. That's what democracy looks like. Instead of talking about unrealistic fantasies like abolishing the electoral college, people should be thinking about voter registration drives. Elected conservative officials are already several steps ahead, passing laws to make it more difficult to organize voter registration drives. You can't fight against these tactics without participating in the democratic process.
The success or failure of the Occupy Wall Street protests hinges on the ability of the movement to focus its energy on participating effectively in democracy, and translating the energy and momentum into votes. If all of these protesters hang out and express discontent and scuffle with cops but then they don't vote, then the whole thing will be remembered as a pointless media stunt.
UPDATE: A year later, journalists are agreeing with my "pointless exercise in futility" assessment:
It will be an asterisk in the history books, if it gets a mention at all.
A year ago this week, the Occupy Wall Street movement got under way in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. The loose group of protesters, frustrated by the economic downturn, sought to blame Wall Street and corporate America for many of the nation’s ills.
While the movement’s first days did not receive much news coverage, it soon turned into a media frenzy, with some columnists comparing its importance to that of the Arab Spring, which led to the overthrow of leaders in several Middle Eastern and African countries, spurred by social media. Images of the Wall Street protesters getting arrested were looped on news channels and featured on the covers of newspapers. Big banks — and the famous Charging Bull statue that is an icon of Wall Street — were fortified with barricades. By the end of the year, Time magazine had named the protester its Person of the Year, perhaps rightly given the revolutions taking place around the world, but the magazine also lumped Occupy Wall Street in among the many meaningful movements taking place.
But now, 12 months later, it can and should be said that Occupy Wall Street was — perhaps this is going to sound indelicate — a fad.
It's ironic that originally most Occupiers rejected the idea of participating in democracy at all, whereas now most Occupiers seem to be working for the Obama 2012 campaign. Instead of supporting Occupy candidates who could have made government more responsive to OWS concerns, Occupiers are campaigning for establishment Democrats, while there is a Tea Partier running for Vice President. The Tea Party may actually put a candidate in the White House, while Occupy marches blindly onward toward its status as a footnote in history.