The Occupy movement is at it again.
Directly across the street from the Radisson hotel in downtown Manchester, where major television news networks and media organizations have set up for today's New Hampshire primary, an Occupy New Hampshire movement has set up a circle of tents to protest the GOP candidates. Approximately 600 protesters from all over New England are waving signs for passing cars, playing music, handing out literature, and attending campaign events to make their voices heard.
As with Occupy Wall Street, their messages vary widely. Some are calling for reducing the influence of money in politics, while others oppose the National Defense Authorization Act. During the Q&A at Rick Santorum's town hall meeting in Hollis on Saturday, protesters broke into a chant of "We are the 99 percent." During Mitt Romney's Exeter rally on Sunday, protesters started chanting, "Mitt kills jobs!" And, during New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's speech at the Romney rally, a few women in the crowd shouted, "Christie kills jobs!" to which Christie replied, "Is that right? Something might go down tonight, sweetheart, but it won't be jobs."
Christie's blow job reference is sexist and inexcusable. But, Occupiers' attempts to disrupt the GOP candidates' campaign rallies strike me as ineffective and immature, a way to capture media attention and grab headlines without offering an alternative message. Don't get me wrong, I agree with Occupy New Hampshire that the influence of money in politics has gotten out-of-hand (billionaire Sheldon Adelson just wrote a $5 million checkfor Newt Gingrich), and that Congress has become increasingly representative of the wealthy. But, Occupy's tactics — showing up and interrupting candidates at campaign rallies — are not productive, and worse, dillute their seriousness and the power of their message.
The more that Occupiers hate on every presidential candidate without offering a positive message or an alternative, the more we will stop listening. How could protesters be more effective? Here are three steps:
1) Identify politicians you support. Occupiers will never win if they try only to "fight the system" and overturn the status quo. They need to identify leaders who would be ideal candidates to represent them. Whether that's Elizabeth Warren, Dennis Kucinich, Claire McCaskill, or Bernie Sanders, highlight the progressive politicians that are in tune with the "99 percent."
2) Promote these politicians. What's the best way to get out your message? Celebrate and promote your leaders, and make sure they get into office. Rather than tossing aside the whole political system, work hard to ensure that Elizabeth Warren defeats Scott Brown. Offer praise for Sanders, McCaskill, and Sanders, so their positions become more mainstream and well-known.
3) Get more progressives into offfice. Why are there so few progressives in Washington? If Warren wins in Massachusetts, use her election as a model for how to get more progressive politicians in Congress. Determine the right messages, organizing techniques, and issues to run on, and then push people like Van Jones, Lawrence Lessig, and other darlings of the left to enter the political stage.
Occupiers are likely to follow the candidates everywhere they go, and the next step will be South Carolina. But, my advice would be for the movement to occupy Massachusetts and work on Warren's Senate campaign.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons