If there has been a consistent, non-partisan critique of the Occupy Wall Street movement it has been that it lacks clear and common vision. That’s fine. So Occupy Wall Street doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker. But it doesn’t take a lot to see that the underlying movement circles around the problem of economic disenfranchisement. To that end, Occupy Wall Street could be seen as an economic movement– a response to persistent and ugly unemployment and wage stagnation and home depreciation and foreclosures, rather than a political movement. For now, that is.
With widespread economic disenfranchisement squeezing out the number of people able to effectively participate in our economy and with wealth increasingly concentrated among the upper 1% of our citizens, it should come as little surprise that the push for civic disenfranchisement is on as well. State-by-state Republicans have declared a war on voting. The assaults include copy-cat Voter ID bills as well as direct challenges to the Voting Rights Act. The less people who participate in the democratic process, the better for the right, it would seem.
Those occupiers (both in fact and in spirit) should see the push against voting access as a companion assault to the push against economic independence. It is as offensive as charging excessive bank fees and pushing through foreclosures and as effective. Both attempt to game the system, whether economic or political, and both depend on the passivity of the population to succeed.
So maybe if we need a tag for Occupy Wall Street, if we are looking for a common theme to unite the interests of the occupiers, that tag could be this: enfranchise. Or re-enfranchise. Our current economic and political climate is the direct result of siphoning off participants–participants in the economy and participants in our civic life. Which means the answer is not an either/or. It is neither Occupy Wall Street nor occupy the voting booth. It’s both.