The Democratic Party leadership is uneasily trying to accommodate the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in their narrative. They frame the protests as a resurgence of liberal enthusiasm which can be channeled into Obama’s reelection campaign.
According to the New York Times, a Democratic strategist, Geoff Garin, said: “The coverage the protesters are getting certainly puts a spotlight back on the role Wall Street abuses played, and raises the salience of having a president like Obama who is willing to insist on Wall Street reform.” Robert Creamer, a progressive organizer, said: “Not only do I believe this will inspire the progressive base, the same way that Tunisia inspired Egypt, but President Obama has framed up the issues perfectly.”
Even Paul Krugman sees hope for the government: “Democrats are being given what amounts to a second chance. The Obama administration squandered a lot of potential good will early on by adopting banker-friendly policies that failed to deliver economic recovery even as bankers repaid the favor by turning on the president. Now, however, Mr. Obama’s party has a chance for a do-over. All it has to do is take these protests as seriously as they deserve to be taken.”
BagNews features a photo of the presidential limousine parked in St. Louis, where Obama attended two fundraisers, one charging $2500 per seat, with “Occupy St. Louis” protesters penned behind metal railings on the opposite site of the street. BagNews comments: “can you imagine the pill Obama’s communications people are having to swallow right now, the assignment being: how to tightly control the optics surround the jobs roadshow, as packaged as it is in a populist narrative, as the President comes in contact with the raw, real thing?”
Essentially, the protesters are disrupting Obama’s reelection agenda of passing himself off as a populist campaigning for jobs while still justifying the bank bailout on the grounds that the country needs “a strong financial sector in order for the economy to grow” (as he said at his press conference). This is an ideological position which refuses to admit that it is the very strength of the parasitic financial sector in the U.S. that has dealt major damage to the real economy and has destroyed many good middle-class jobs.
Moreover, Obama’s administration refuses to prosecute illegal bank dealings and is using its political muscle to corral state Attorney-Generals into accepting a one-time bank payout in order to release them from liability for foreclosure abuses.
Members of the “We are the 99 percent” movement are not buying Obama’s populist pretensions and so there is little danger of the Democratic leadership being able to co-opt the movement. The economist Michael Hudson found that when he visited the occupation on Wednesday “it was clear that the disgust with the political system went so deep that there is no single set of demands that can fix a system so fundamentally broken and dysfunctional … The situation is much like that from Iceland to Greece: Governments no longer represent the people. They represent predatory financial interests that are impoverishing the economy. This is not democracy. It is financial oligarchy.”
But the financial elites are more vulnerable than their arrogance implies. As Yves Smith argues in Naked Capitalism, “the banks and their state backers seem almost hopelessly locked into strategies that will continue to fail. And if they escalate, that action has the potential to be the sort of galvanizing event that they fear most. The nightmare of the elites that may well be visited upon them is one day doors all over the US will open and hordes of the heretofore disenfranchised 99% to walk to their town squares and show by the mere force of turning up united against known enemies that they can and will prevail.”