The “Occupy Wall Street” protests have created a major problem for the Obama administration and the Democrats. Undoubtedly, the occupation and protests have been encouraged by the constant refrain of the need to “tax the rich” and the calls to have “millionaires pay their fair share” that have come regularly from the White House. Having heard the president and his team engage in regular rounds of class warfare, we should not be surprised when scores turn out and act like taking over public space with signs attacking the wealthy will somehow lead to a resolution of the very real problems facing our country.
Nevertheless, as of Obama’s remarks yesterday, the administration has not decided whether to really stand behind the demonstrators. At most, what the president said is that “the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works…we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow.” That is a rather soft comment that is not exactly a strong endorsement.
What the administration prefers is to leave overt support to the most radical of its supporters, like the socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who told CNN that he stands behind them. Yet, as a shrewd report in theWall Street Journal makes quite clear,
[M]any in the Democratic Party remain studiously silent on the growing crowds, wary of embracing a protest movement whose aims and goals are unclear, some Democratic congressional aides said Thursday. Moderate, middle-class swing voters, as well as wealthy Democratic Wall Street donors, may be turned off by the demonstrators’ rougher edges.
Now, the Democrats and the leftist movement are seeking to channel the protest into an organized form meant to pressure Obama to turn to the left. Led by Van Jones and company, they will do all they can to get the protestors to join forces with their operation at the Center for American Progress think tank. One remaining centrist Democrat, Matt Bennett of a group called Third Way, told the WSJ that he feared “a rowdy and inchoate movement that could alienate independent voters Democrats needed next year. ‘Swing voters are watching carefully, and we’re not convinced this kind of messaging will resonate,’ he said.” Indeed, those once Reagan Democrats in states like Michigan and Ohio, watching the antics of the “Occupy Wall Street” folks and the public sector unions joining them at the demonstrations, are likely to run helter skelter to the Republican Party each time they see a demonstrator carrying signs calling for revolution and socialism.