Everybody has an opinion about the Occupy Wall Street movement
As the Occupy Wall Street movement begins its fourth week and spreads around the country, politicians and the public are weighing in. Will it have the staying power of the tea party movement?
Michelle Pemberton/The Indianapolis Star/AP
Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about the Occupy Wall Street movement and related demonstrations now headed into their fourth week.
At the most elemental level, some merchants near the hub of activity in Manhattanâ€™s Zuccotti Park are getting a bit fed up with the camped-out crowds â€“ locking restrooms and providing keys to cash-paying customers only.
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For its part, the American public seems ambiguous about the movement â€“ apparently separating message from image.
According to a Rasmussen poll this week, 79 percent of Americans agree that â€śthe big banks got bailed out but the middle class got left behind.â€ť
But, reports Rasmussen, â€śAmericans are divided on the protesters themselves. Thirty-three percent have a favorable opinion, 27 percent hold an unfavorable view, and a plurality of 40 percent have no opinion one way or the other.â€ť
It was inevitable that the movement would become political, particularly when it lasted beyond a couple of weeks and spread to dozens of other cities. So politicians began weighing in, pretty much along party lines.
"The fact is these people are anarchists,â€ť Rep. Peter King (R) of New York said on the Laura Ingraham radio show Friday. â€śThey have no idea what they're doing out there. They have no sense of purpose other than a basically anti-American tone and anti-capitalist. It's a ragtag mob basically."
â€śI, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country,â€ť House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia told the conservative Values Voter Summit in Washington Friday. â€śAnd believe it or not, some in this town, have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.â€ť
â€śGod bless them for their spontaneity,â€ť Rep. Pelosi told reporters Thursday. â€śItâ€™s young, itâ€™s spontaneous, itâ€™s focused and itâ€™s going to be effective.â€ť
â€śThe focus is on Wall Street and justifiably so,â€ť Pelosi said. â€śThe message of the American people is that no longer â€¦ will the recklessness of some on Wall Street cause massive joblessness on Main Street.â€ť
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg â€“ with a net worth of nearly $20 billion heâ€™s way up there among the 1 percenters â€“ felt the need to stand up for his cityâ€™s bankers.
â€śThe protests that are trying to destroy the jobs of working people in this city arenâ€™t productive,â€ť Bloomberg said during his weekly radio show Friday.
It seems unlikely that the protesters will actually â€śdestroy the jobsâ€ť of investment bankers and others in the financial industry â€“ donâ€™t expect to see men in suits and ties selling apples on Wall Street â€“ but never mind.
A key question at this point is whether the Occupy Wall Street movement now spreading nationally will develop the legs that the tea party movement has â€“ becoming a key player in congressional and state elections, for example.
Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog in the New York Times is widely read, reports that â€śnews media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests has increased since demonstrators clashed with the police, and is beginning to rival coverage given to Tea Party protests in 2009.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s not something theyâ€™re likely to claim credit for, but members of the tea party cleared the way for protesters on the other side of the political spectrum,â€ť writes Meyer, professor of sociology and political science at the University of California at Irvine and the author of â€śThe Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America.â€ť â€śThe tea party demonstrated that protest works, even when government doesnâ€™t.â€ť
The Wall Street crowd has some celebrities in its corner, rhetorical support from some unions, and (most recently) the backing of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company. The tea party movement has had financial backing from well-funded political and business interests like the industrialist Koch brothers, billionaires like Bloomberg.
So far, that doesnâ€™t seem like much of a match.
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