To have a meaningful impact on the 2012 elections and beyond, Occupy Wall Street must immediately begin to delineate a limited number of issues espoused by the majority of its members and develop a plan to defeat politicians who are not supportive of the ideals of OWS.
The three protest movements described below were remarkably successful and are classic examples of the importance of mission and the application of political power. They should serve as tactical models for the OWS protesters as they consider the future of their cause.
In the 1960s, antiwar students protested enthusiastically to end the Vietnam War. Confrontations occurred at the 1968 Democratic Convention and on scores of college campuses across the country. Even though the government and the “silent majority” harshly criticized the actions of these young people and their leaders, they never strayed away from their one and only goal of ending the war, which saved many American lives.
Similarly, the civil rights movement under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and his successors were responsible for civil rights legislation during a terrible period of bigotry blowback. MLK made the ultimate sacrifice, but his reward is a legacy of great advancement for black people. Once again, focus under extreme duress was the key to success of this movement.
The Tea Party, ironically, is probably the best example of how effective a disgruntled group of Americans can make a real impact on the country in a relatively short period of time. Setting aside politics, the Party has been amazingly successful. During the current period of turbulent and cutthroat politics, the movement was able to elect many to Congress and influence important legislation. The payoff for this new movement could not have been greater, and so it is emblematic of what can be accomplished if protesters work the system and elect candidates who support their cause.
If OWS is going to be a political factor and remembered for making a lasting impression on America, it must present a short list of demands to the American people that are most important to its constituencies. The list of causes would likely include some of the following: Reformation of the electoral system, new rules that prevent overly risky activities by financial institutions, increased taxes for the super-rich, relief for people who cannot make their mortgage payments, assistance for those who want to attend college, job training to assist the unemployed, and an end to all military conflicts. It is imperative to keep the list short so demands are not diluted.
Immediately, all regional OWS groups should target those in Congress who are against the ideals of OWS and begin to support their opponents’ campaigns. This could be the beginning of a new political movement that might very well affect future elections. The 18 to 28 year-old age group is growing rapidly into a large block. Imagine how powerful the group would be if everyone was registered to vote and pulled a lever on election day.
OWS needs organization. Many outsiders who hope this effort will be successful have been echoing this sentiment. To date, the movement has not responded.
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