Democrats Seek to Own 'Occupy Wall Street' Movement

ANALYSIS By RICK KLEIN—
1 / 19

Four years have somehow slipped past since Donald Trump, failed businessman and wildly successful reality television star, slid down those shimmering escalators in New York to declare that he was running for the White House.At the time we had little idea how Trump, wearing a white shirt and bright red tie, and with both thumbs aloft, would change America’s presidential politics. Heck, people were not even sure he was really going to run. Maggie Haberman, an admired reporter at The New York Times, had been offered a scoop on his announcement. But aware of Trump’s previous toe-dangling in the waters of presidential races – namely in 1987, 2000, 2003 and 2011 – she decided to wait and see if he was serious. “I’m not doing this again until the day he declares.” Quickly it became apparent that the Donald Trump of 2015 was serious about running, and that lots of voters were attracted by his brash swagger, a rhetoric that was frequently racist, and a promise that he alone could fix America’s problems.“Our country is in serious trouble,” he told the crowd assembled in the base of Trump Tower, as Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” blasted on the speakers. “We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them.”As Trump officially launches his re-election bid, things are rather different. The 73-year-old is no longer the outspoken insurgent, but the outspoken chief executive, a president who has has endured numerous scandals and outrages, and seen his approval rating stay at a historic low. Polls suggest any number of the two-dozen Democrats lining up to take him on would defeat him.Because of this, Trump needs to operate more strategically than in the seat-of-the-pants campaign that won him the Republican nomination, and then the White House. Reports suggest somebody in Trumpworld has already thought about this. The New York Times said this week, as a result of his filing his re-election campaign papers on the day of his inauguration, the president has $40m (£31m) in his campaign coffers and hopes to raise up to $1bn. By contrast, Barack Obama had just $2m at this stage.This has allowed Trump’s staff working in the same offices occupied by the Republican National Committee in northern Virginia, to triple the list of 10m voter contacts his operation had at the end of the 2016 election. By election day, the paper said, they hope to have increased that to 50m. Already, Trump is outspending all of rivals in online advertising.Some people have already written Trump off. Wounded by the two-year investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by Robert Mueller, abandoned – if the results of the 2018 midterms were an indicator – by many of the women voters who voted for him in 2016, and with polls showing him down in key states such as Pennsylvania, some Trump haters are already rubbing their hands in the belief he will be a one-term president.The evidence, such people say, is all around. Last week, Trump fired several pollsters after internal White House information showing the president trailing Joe Biden and others, leaked.They also point to Biden’s clear ability to get under Trump’s skin, and his responding by coming up with a new nickname – “One per cent Joe” – for the man the president’s advisers fear could represent the biggest threat in appealing to the white, blue-collar voters who helped him in 2016.This would be unwise. The most obvious thing Trump has in his favour, so obvious it is frequently overlooked, is that unless former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld – the only Republican primary challenger – pulls off a miracle, Trump will be the party’s nominee. Much has been written of the disenchanted white, working-class folk who voted for Trump in 2016, but so did millions and millions of other people. Wall Street bankers voted for him, college-educated women voted for him. Evangelical Christians turned out in huge numbers, as did social conservatives. It is true, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 3 million, but 60 million Americans voted for a man many considered a joke. Many of those are delighted by his presidency, something overlooked in the bubbles of liberal outrage. They loved the massive Republican tax cut; they loved the rolling-back of environmental protections to help business; they loved the fact he met with Kim Jong-un; they are proud the man they voted for is standing up to China, even if the tariffs personally hurt them in the short term. Crucially, they are happy Trump stuck to his word and appointed two conservative justices to the Supreme Court, as many states start to roll back abortion rights and look to challenge Roe v Wade. It remains to be seen if Trump can do anything to enlarge his base and draw new people to the polls. If not, we’re likely to see a brutal battle in which he focusses on rallying that 40 per cent or so of Americans who remain steadfast to him. Would this be enough to get him over the line? Perhaps: do not underestimate the advantage of being the incumbent. One-term presidents are a rarity in the US.What are the betting chances of Trump being reelected? Nobody knows, especially so far away from November 2020, with the Democrats not even having picked a candidate, and with no idea as to the nature of the economy next year.There are a million uncertainties, a million douts, but right now, it feels the election is Donald Trump’s to lose.

Four years ago Donald Trump slid down an escalator and changed America forever – but he’ll need to do a lot more to win in 2020

Occupation can lead to ownership, whether or not you want it.

The spread of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement was met with initial hesitation in both the Democratic and Republican parties. That might be an appropriate response to any protests that aim themselves squarely at the establishment, particularly those with goals that are diverse and diffuse as the current protesters' are.

But a consensus is emerging among Democrats that the "Occupy" movement is worth tapping into, even helping along and joining with in some instances.

"I support the message to the establishment," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on ABC's "This Week." "Change has to happen. We cannot continue in a way that does not -- that is not relevant to their lives. People are angry."

To Democrats eager for a liberal antidote to the Tea Party energy that lifted Republicans to power last year, the "Occupy" rallies that started in New York last month and have spread to cities nationwide are tempting to embrace.

In their broadest focus, the protesters channel the indignation Democrats are trying to stir up in the year before the presidential election. The Obama White House is seeking to rally the public for a jobs package and deficit-reduction ideas that argue for the rich and corporate America to pay more -- goals the protesters largely share.

"The protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works," President Obama said last week when asked at a news conference about the "Occupy Wall Street" events.

It may be that occupiers wind up playing a role for the political left that tea partiers did for the right. But Republicans had one significant advantage in taking ownership of the Tea Party phenomenon: they were entirely out of power in Washington when the movement took root.

To occupiers, at least some of the blame for their perceived lack of accountability in corporate America rests with the current Democratic administration. A persistent liberal critique of Obama administration has been its coziness with Wall Street, and the lack of more drastic actions to repair the economy after eight years under George W. Bush.

In that sense, the protests may highlight divisions inside the Democratic Party even more than they motivate the party faithful.

The tea party faced major internal rifts -- including some that almost certainly cost Republicans Senate seats last year -- in its infancy. But most of those divisions have long since healed, as tea partiers work almost entirely in concert with Republicans, with the prospect of defeating Obama next year serving as a unifying influence.

The movement has some Republicans concerned -- worried enough to start swinging back.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has expressed concern about the "growing mobs" that are engaged in "the pitting of Americans against Americans."

Cantor's condemnation of members of Congress who are rooting the protesters on echoes conservative commentators who are belittling and delegitimizing the protests. "Occupy Wall Street" hasn't matched the Tea Party when it comes to numbers, or to concrete goals, though neither movement could ever boast of being monolithic.

Others have gone farther in denouncing the current round of protests. Tea Party Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., last week labeled the "Occupy" protests as an "attack upon freedom," and suggested that labor unions have hijacked the movement to boost the president's reelection prospects.

"They don't know why they're there. They're just mad," Broun said of the protesters, on ABC's "Top Line."

Anger, of course, respects no political boundaries these days. Many of the Republicans who are now critical of "Occupy" were cheering the Tea Party movement on.

Now it's Democrats who get to learn the lesson: Channeling the emotions of anger in politics is seldom as simple as it seems.