John Heilemann spent hours talking to participants in the Occupy Wall Street uprising to write a lengthy piece for New York magazine in which he explores how 2012 could be an election year similar in volatility to 1968.
In the course of his research, Heilemann encountered Occupiers who were not merely chanting and camping out. He talked to some who, while unapologetic as to the movement, actually had thought about what they are angry about and articulated these thoughts in measured words.
Heilemann’s piece is based on the premise that the Occupiers are not going away and that they might, in fact, reshape the 2012 election, particularly with respect to the political conventions.
While they scream for social justice and income equality, there’s a rather old fashioned sentiment at play beneath the surface — “it’s the economy, stupid.” Listen to Max Berger, 26, who is described as a professional activist:
“These [protesters] aren’t out here because they’re offended that they haven’t been spoken to nicely. They’re out here because they owe shitloads of money in student-loan debt and can’t find a job. Or they can’t afford their mortgage. And if Obama thinks that they’re gonna be able to divert this energy by talking about doing something, he’s got another think [sic] coming.”
Sounds as if what they really want more than income equality is income quality, a.k.a., an economic recovery. Which suggests that, as in 1968, the Republicans and, specifically, the GOP candidate, have an opportunity to deliver a powerful message in response to a powerful uprising.
And, beyond that, Hielemann ran into a lot of Occupiers in New York who have written Obama off. There was no love for Obama in the tumultuous OWS encampment.
Yotam Marom, 25, who spent parts of his childhood in Israel and New York, explains it in no uncertain terms:
“(Barack) Obama didn’t build a movement, he built an electoral machine,” says Marom. “If he had built a movement, he would not be where he is right now. But the fact that he was elected, that so many people came out in the streets for him, that people cried when he won, was an expression of the fact that they wanted what they thought he was, which is an alternative. He wasn’t it. He can’t deliver it. This political system can’t deliver it.”