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The uneasy relationship between Occupy Wall Street and electoral politics has always been one of the greatest distinguishing factors for our burgeoning movement.

Likewise, in the leadup to the 2012 elections, Occupy Public Access TV convened a panel with diverse perspectives through a Google Hangout ‘On Air’ to hold a constructive conversation on this complex topic.

Panelists included artist and agitator Gan Golan who co-founded the ‘Tax Dodgers’ baseball team and built a 13 foot tall Bane Capital supervillain puppet, activist and photo-journalist Jenna Pope who is a Wisconsin occupier turned NYC transplant, Charles Lenchner from Organizing 2.0 and the OWS Tech Ops working group, musician and organizer Eve Silber who is devoted to OWS alliance building, Occupy supporter Josh Silverstein from DFA NYC, filmmaker Messiah Rhodes from the OWS media working group, and then myself in a facilitating role.

Based on the discussion, it is apparent that there is an overt consensus within Occupy that voting alone is not enough. The collective attitude seems to be that the vast sums of money subverting our democracy are so high that even if a political actor is on our side, we must act to ‘make them do it’.

This further comes in the face of even strong disagreements as to whether Occupy should support voting at all, bespeaking an even more ardent resistance to entering politics in a manner where an Occupy voice is expressed in any sort of partisan way.

Controversial arguments were made in this context about getting much more involved in the policy battles of local politics in particular. The reasoning entailed that, in contrast to electioneering for its own sake, occupiers could create power for our communities if we show that we are able to achieve tangible victories that successfully serve the 99%.

Kelly Must Resign

From my personal perspective, the sentiments expressed paralleled those during the Netroots Nation panel I had the pleasure of joining in the immediate aftermath of the Wi$con$in recalls. That was a cathartic experience to say the least, as it was an opportunity to speak with a popular uprising largely feeling like it had just been sold out by electoral politics after putting its all into the process.

Yet then and now some of the most exciting models from the movement can be seen in how these occupation-inspired horizontal and leader-full efforts are acting as touchstone points of innovation at the most hyper-local of levels. Technology and our peer networks are enabling incomparably more direct forms of democracy, allowing us to aid and engage our neighbors in game-changing ways.

As depicted by JA Myerson, the core of Occupy can best be approximated by the popular chant that “another world is possible.” And this broader cultural framework displays why occupiers are organizing to build this better world in ways that far exceed the ballot box.

The heroic Occupy Sandy effort to directly provide relief in the wake of the hurricane devastation is a particularly poignant example. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time either -- exposing the disastrous effects of our #Democracy4Sale while it so clearly reigns down upon us.

But make no mistake about it: although Occupy is above our bought and paid for electoral system, you better believe it impacts it. Watch the Hangout to hear how.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I agree it is a tricky relationship (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    highacidity, gramofsam1

    But we need the occupiers to remain committed to voting.

    IMHO, you make a good case that voting is not sufficient, but it sure as hell is necessary.

    If I weren't a middle age guy with a family to support I might be occupying somewhere.  As it is, I'm working for candidates in my spare time.

    Numbers are like people . . . Torture them enough and they'll tell you anything.

    by Actuary4Change on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 07:49:27 AM PDT

    •  Tricky indeed (0+ / 0-)

      No one can not speak for the movement, and I put my personal views aside for a moment in my efforts to speak with it while accurately summarizing the discussion in the video.

      In my personal capacity I absolutely agree about the importance of voting, but it is indeed a controversial issue for many (if not most) in OWS. That was actually one of the biggest points of discussion throughout the Hangout, and my hope is for all of this to broach further analysis from all sides.

      We also discussed how we precisely need to reach people such as yourself who do not have the privilege to occupy for days on end. In this way, it has to be about power if we are to attain the more limited amount of time most members of the 99% have available.

      That time certainly can be well spent electing the right people, but we all have different roles to play, and based on the Hangout I am increasingly encouraged that occupiers will see our role as providing the right pressure points to 'make them do it' to achieve tangible policy victories.

      •  As an outsider I do not get the controversy. (0+ / 0-)

        I agree that the system is broken in many ways, and that non-electoral pressure (non-violent, of course) must be brought to bear in some places to change it.

        OTOH, even if one argues that Obama has done more harm than good (and I do not, BTW), I think that it would be clear that he is at least the lesser of two evils.  The argument that I hear coming from many occupiers that there is no real difference frankly appalls me.

        And, if someone just cannot stomach the thought of voting for Obama, they should still get their butt to the polls and vote for a lefty third party.

        If all of the people on the left who think voting does not make a difference voted, it would make a difference.

        As for reaching me, you have, with the issues you have raised and the way you have raised them.  As the movement creates goals and strategies, I will decide to join with the time and resources that I have to the degree that I wind up agreeing with those strategies.  

        If the occupiers were in power, I would probably be in the opposing right wing, but I think that would be a much better world than the world we live in now.

        Numbers are like people . . . Torture them enough and they'll tell you anything.

        by Actuary4Change on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 09:45:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Glad that we have reached you (0+ / 0-)

          And hopeful that we will develop sufficiently to successfully engage you!

          If you are outside of NYC, InterOccupy.net is your best bet to find what is out there, as they are the main coordinating body keeping occupations across the country in touch.

          Also, 'the occupiers' aren't a concrete block who could be in power, rather, we are a platform to amplify the voices of the 99% (more accurately the 99.99%). I'll certainly grant you that the voices who have been amplified are much further to the left than many are comfortable with though, so very much understood there.

          In this vein, I'm not the one to defend the controversy about voting, as I absolutely believe that we need 'Money Out and Voters in' to save our democracy.

          To get a feel for what others think, I'd suggest you watch the hangout :)

  •  What the heck does this even mean? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Quicklund
    Yet then and now some of the most exciting models from the movement can be seen in how these occupation-inspired horizontal and leader-full efforts are acting as touchstone points of innovation at the most hyper-local of levels.
    It's not that hard. VOTE...

    "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains An' go to your Gawd like a soldier." Rudyard Kipling

    by EdMass on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 07:50:20 AM PDT

    •  Voting alone vs voting (0+ / 0-)

      There is a distinction here in terms of participating in our democracy once every few years to vote, vs 'making them do it' after a politician has achieved office.

      And sorry if that section was confusing, but that actually was referring to the cross-section we are seeing between the organic efforts of the recalls and in Occupy now.

      In particular, the occupier-organized Overpass Light Brigade in Wisconsin -- which DID support candidates -- was what I had in mind as an example of an innovation point we should look to.

      •  You're kidding me, right? (0+ / 0-)
        the organic efforts of the recalls
        I recall I highly organized Recall effort....must have missed that...

        "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains An' go to your Gawd like a soldier." Rudyard Kipling

        by EdMass on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 09:12:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The WI Democratic Part drove the WI recalls (0+ / 0-)

        The formal party organization made the decision to fully back the recall idea right from the get-go. That highly organized effort is paying off even today. Vast lists of petition-signers were collected to create the database the state party is using to seat Tammy Baldwin and to deliver 10 EVs to Barack Obama.

        Demostrations and other events are wonderful and are essential to driving public opinion. But there is a constant anti-voting undercurrent coming from OWS supporters. If that does not change, OWS will become one of those Great Opportunites that were missed.

        Need a new place to occupy? Try occupying your local city or county Democratic Party organization. I live in a county with about 250,000 people. Fifty people or less come to attend the monthly meetings. Imagne what could happen if 50 new members hit each of every local Party organization. OWS could take over the party at the grass-roots level.

        It's there for the taking. Act, or don't act? Ball's in your court.

        •  I respectfully disagree (0+ / 0-)

          The Wis Dems certainly backed the recalls to the hilt, but they were driven on the ground by the widespread organic grassroots energy that was inspired by the capitol occupation and 200,000 person strong rallies in support of it.

          Detailed backstory on how it got off the ground here -- 'political nobodies' were the ones who got the ball rolling, originally by handing out business cards at the capitol protests asking anyone to come to a meeting to discuss.

          Moreover, the energy was so high because anyone was able to download the recall petitions and collect the signatures on their own however which way they wanted (without a leader dictating from above). This was why so many more than the typical democratic party activists took part to make it happen.

          In this vein, I'd counter your notion that occupy should become an arm of the democratic party by saying that what makes what we're doing so different (similarly to the Egyptian revolutionary activists) is that we are explicitly not doing this merely for partisan gain.

          It is truly about the 99% and democracy itself. And in light of the overwhelming and corrupting influence of corporate cash, occupiers believe that we need to do more than working within those structures alone.

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