By Arlen Grossman/ The Big Picture Report
There were a variety of factors that led to the re-election of President Barack Obama. One surely to be overlooked is the role of Occupy Wall Street in that decisive victory.
Flash back to early September of 2010. The Tea Party was setting the political agenda, the GOP was about to score a decisive mid-term election win, and the federal deficit and national debt were preeminent issues. President Obama was willing to trim Social Security, Medicare and other essential social services in order to get any kind of deal with the newly powerful and recalcitrant GOP leadership. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner had this president by the short hairs, and Barack Obama seemed eager to cut any deal he could. Republicans clearly had the upper hand.
Fast forward to mid-September of that same month. Occupy Wall Street began camping out in the heart of the financial industry, and within weeks the focus of political discussion altered dramatically. After news coverage tried to decipher the Occupy message, Americans began to comprehend the corruption and unaccountability of the financial industry, as well as the wide disparity in wealth between the “One Percent” and “The 99%.”
Mainstream media, owned by the One Percent, naturally glossed over issues of economic class and fairness for years. With news coverage of Occupy Wall Street and similar movements across the nation and the globe, issues of excess wealth and inequality could no longer be ignored. Americans were exposed to ideas and political discussion that crowded out the Tea Party themes of lower taxes and less government. American workers gained new awareness that big corporations and the wealthy were paying a lower tax rate than they were, and the crimes that led to the huge financial meltdown were going unpunished.
A new meme emerged across America: the worsening inequality and unfairness of our political and economic system. Meanwhile, the urgency of curbing the expanding national debt lessened, and the Tea Party lost some of its limited popularity. The Occupy movement, too, fizzled out over time, but the seeds of its ideas already had rooted in our political ideas and rhetoric. Occupy Wall Street had pointed its middle finger at the big banks, raged against the economic machine, and America couldn’t ignore the message.
Mitt Romney might be President-elect today if the 2012 presidential campaign were all about jobs, the deficit, and ObamaCare. But because of Occupy Wall Street and its focus on income inequality and the excesses of the rich, the Republican candidate for president was seen as a symbol of Wall Street greed, the epitome of the One Percent class.
The more America learned about Mitt Romney–businessman, CEO of a private equity company destroying and outsourcing jobs, multimillionaire with hidden tax returns and secret bank accounts all over the world, even an expensive Olympic Games dancing horse as his wife’s hobby and tax deduction–the more he made voters uncomfortable. They understood the choice: cast a vote for a rich white male with economic and tax policies that favored his class, or retain President Obama as president. Given that choice, they voted the latter.
Occupy Wall Street may be off the radar today, a shadow of its former self (or perhaps only dormant and waiting for a comeback), but it made a difference that carried into the 2012 election. The Occupy movement deserves credit for helping transform the political discussion, and even if that wasn’t the intention, doing its part to occupy the ballot box in 2012 and help change history. President Obama and the Democrats may not realize it, but they should be grateful.