To be sure, the left has its own parallel groups and backers. But their clout has been diminishing, argues Mr. Kazin. Private-sector labor unions have been in steady decline, he notes, and other liberal groups have changed so they cater more to middle-class social causes (the environment, same-sex marriage) than to the economic concerns of ordinary workers.
Occupy Wall Street could become a remedy to that for the left. The Wall Street protests in part express the frustration of a “lost generation” of young Americans facing high student-loan debts and grim job prospects. But they have rallied support from liberal groups ranging from labor unions to MoveOn.org, which added a “virtual march on Wall Street” to its website on Oct. 5. Film celebrities like Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon have lent their voices.
The protests have also brought people like Paul Vena on board.
Mr. Vena, who attended a recent rally against Bank of America in Boston, lives in Burlington, Mass., a middle-class suburb outside the city. He says he’s not a protester by nature, but has grown deeply concerned about America’s future.
It doesn’t help that two of his sons, with college degrees in economics and business, are unemployed, and that he has recently had his own bout of joblessness.
If the economic problems aren’t addressed, he says, “I actually worry about a revolution coming in 2020 or later.”