Many Democrats hope to reap a ballot box benefit in 2012 from the Occupy Wall Street movement. Thus far, though, there is little indication that OWS will become an organized force for impacting elections.
Tea Party groups, which sprung up as spontaneous anti-bailout protests in 2009, quickly organized into local units focused on getting out the vote last year for GOP candidates that backed the movement’s principles.
Yet those on both the political right and left see little likelihood that OWS will follow suit.
“There are a lot of things working against them turning into a movement that is going to impact politics,” said Matthew Vadum, senior editor at the conservative Capital Research Center. “For one, a lot of these people are anarchists who don’t believe in the democratic process.”
Jim Hightower, a liberal talk radio host, added, “Becoming a player quickly like the Tea Party, I don’t see that happening … No grass-roots progressive movement moves directly into an itemized legislative agenda and into electing people.”
Hightower is organizing a left-wing group, “We the People,” to build on the OWS movement.
Many top Democrats have signaled support for OWS, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee. President Obama recently said that OWS “expresses the frustrations that the American people feel.”
But people age 18-24 have the lowest election turnout of any age group. In 2008, supposedly a banner year for the youth vote, less than half of those eligible actually filled out a ballot, according to the Census Bureau.
Tea Party supporters tend to be older: A 2010 Gallup poll found 50% were 50 and up, a group which has turnout rates around 70% in presidential elections.
“Heather,” a 23-year-old at Occupy D.C., said, “I don’t think there is a lot of interest in organizing for elections. There are some people who are inclined to do so, but a majority here don’t feel that will make a difference.”