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What If Working Class Americans Actually Like Occupy Wall Street?

It’s become an article of faith among some on the right, and even among some neutral commentators, that Obama and Dems risk losing the support of blue collar whites in swing states if they dare to whisper a word of praise for Occupy Wall Street.

But what if the opposite is true — what if working class white voters actually like and agree with Occupy Wall Street’s message, if not always with the cultural and personal instincts of its messengers?

The movement is still very young, and it’s very hard to gauge support for it. But one labor official shares with me a very interesting data point: Working America, the affiliate of the AFL-CIO that organizes workers from non-union workplaces, has signed up approximately 25,000 new recruits in the last week alone, thanks largely to the high visibility of the protests.

Karen Nussbaum, the executive director of Working America, tells me that this actually dwarfs their most successful recruiting during the Wisconsin protests. “In so many ways, Wisconsin was a preview of what we’re now seeing,” Nussbaum says. “We thought it was big when we got 20,000 members in a month during the Wisconsin protests. This shows how much bigger this is.”

The cultural fault line and tensions between blue collar whites and liberal activists is a well established storyline in American history. But  Working America — which organizes in  industrial battlegrounds like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania and other swing states — is having a new burst of success among precisely the sort of working class voters who are supposed to be culturally alienated by the excesses of the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

Nussbaum says that her organizers report that new recruits often mention the protests in a positive light, even though they have very little in common in cultural terms.

“These are not the folks who normally wear dreadlocks and participate in drum circles,” Nussbaum says. “They’re working class moderates who work as child care employees or in cafeterias or in construction. They’re people who work in lower middle class suburbs around the country.” Pressed on whether the movement’s excesses and lack of a clear agenda risk alienating such voters, Nussbaum said: “We’re proving every day that that’s not the case.”

I don’t want to overstate the case that can be made off of this kind of anecdotal evidence. And I’m sympathetic to the case made by some conservatives that it’s way too early to place stock in polls showing the movement is well received by the public. But as new polling emerges, it will be very interesting to track how it’s received by working class Americans who conservatives insist will be repulsed by it.

At a minimum, the question of whether Occupy Wall Street can forge any kind of meaningful bond with blue collar whites and moderates will be seen by both sides as a crucial one going forward. Nussbaum acknowledges that conservatives might have some success discrediting the movement “if they can change the subject to what the occupiers are wearing.”

“But if we keep the subject on jobs and democracy, we’ll keep those working class moderates in this fight,” she concludes. “It’s crucial that we not let this moment evaporate, and we can do that if we tie the movement to a working class constituency.”

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line-The Washington Post, October 17, 2011

October 17, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democrats, Economy, Elections, GOP, Income Gap, Middle Class, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mainers Ask “What Side” Sens. Snowe And Collins Are On

The votes by Maine Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins against the American Jobs Act, which Moody’s Analytics estimated would create nearly 2 million new jobs, have sparked protests in Augusta:

The ongoing series of Wall Street protests moved to Maine’s capital Thursday as about two dozen trade workers, state employees and residents held a rally calling for passage of a federal jobs bill and a new tax to pay for it.

“They got bailed out, we got sold out,” the protesters chanted from under their umbrellas as they left the State House in the rain for the federal building a couple of blocks away to deliver their demands to the offices of U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Those demands included lists of projects that could be funded in Maine. […]

“Workers like us didn’t crash the economy; Wall Street did,” said Dawn Frank of Oxford, an electrician who has had difficulty finding work. “It’s been rough. It’s been rough for everybody. Let’s get Maine workers like me rebuilding our country.”

Donna Dachs, a retired teacher from Readfield, said the state’s schools, roads, bridges and ports urgently need upgrades.

And the protesters aren’t just unhappy with Wall Street — they want some answers from their senators, too:

The folks here, like Cokie Giles, President of the Maine State Nurses Association, say they want congress to pass legislation to create jobs. “The first one is good jobs with livable wages. There’s a difference between having a job and having livable wages,” Giles said. […]

Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins both voted against the president’s jobs bill earlier this week. A move that angered the people gathered in Augusta. “What we’re gonna do is ask Senators Snowe and Collins what side they’re on. Are they on Wall Street’s side or are they on Main street?” Giles asked the supporters.

That’s a good question — but Snowe has already answered it. In her five-paragraph statement about her vote against the jobs bill, Snowe indicated an objection to only one of the bill’s provisions: the surcharge on adjusted gross income in excess of one million dollars a year, which would affect only one-tenth of one percent of Maine residents.

So it’s pretty clear what side Snowe is on: She sides with the richest one-tenth of one percent of Mainers, and against 99.9 percent of her constituents. It really doesn’t get much clearer than that. But just to drive the point home, Snowe spoke to group of businessmen this morning, where she courageously told themtheir taxes are too high and they are over-regulated. That probably played better with the financial elites who fund her campaigns than with the struggling working-class voters who elect her, but it is neither the problem with the economy nor the solution to its problems. Snowe also backed a balanced budget amendment, which, according to Gus Faucher, Moody’s Analytics’ director of macroeconomics, “is likely to push the economy back into recession.” Naturally, Snowe didn’t explain how she’d balance the budget — she likes to leave the solutions to others.

 

Jamison Foser, Media Matters, October 14, 2011

October 17, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Middle Class, Taxes, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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