Can Occupy Wall Street be Co-Opted?

I don’t think so.

Yesterday, Business Insider reported that “Obama Has Embraced Occupy Wall Street.” If either party is going to be more sympathetic to the cause, it’s certainly going to be the Democratic Party, especially considering the way the right-wing has been demonizing the now-nationwide protests. But will the movement really allow itself to be co-opted by either major party?

If we look at the history of the Tea Party, we see an originally organic movement which sprung up as a result of anger, fear, and confusion. In fact, many of the reasons that the Tea Party came to be are the same reasons that the Occupy Wall Street movement began – they just took root in different socioeconomic, political and cultural groups and therefore developed with much different appearances. The Tea Party was eventually courted to and welcomed by the Republican Party and given access to a great deal of funding through those channels. Whether or not it’s been a co-habitual and successful arrangement for either group is a topic for a different day.

The Occupy Wall Street movement does not align as well with the Democratic Party as does the Tea Party with the Republican Party. The OWS protesters have a major problem with the influence of money in politics, and the Democratic Party is not free of that influence by any means. More importantly, many of them are outright fed-up with the two-party system and wish to see more Progressive choices for political offices around the country.

It’s a smart tactic for the Democratic Party to show sympathy towards the movement, because the Republicans are clearly very, very far from understanding the wishes of the Occupiers. And, out of the two major parties, the Democrats do align more with the desires of the movement, if only in a few ways. However, OWS carries with it complaints and grievances of so many different political stripes, colors and flavors that I firmly doubt either party can generate from it any significant support in 2012.

However, the Tea Partiers have seen an increased number of candidates it deems desirable running for office since they generated closer ties with the GOP. Should Occupy Wall Street coalesce into a more organized political faction and align with Democrats, there may be room for a similar phenomenon – and more Progressives – on ballots across the country. And, even if that doesn’t happen, OWS is at least raising very important issues that ought to be talked about, both at kitchen tables and during presidential debates.

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About Alex Fitzpatrick

Alex Fitzpatrick is Homepage Editor for Time.com, also covering technology, policy and cybersecurity. He previously covered politics and policy for Mashable. Fitzpatrick has a degree in International Relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he also served as News Director and Station Manager for the campus radio station, 89.3 WGSU. Follow Fitzpatrick on Twitter at @AlexJamesFitz or email him at alex.fitzpatrick@timeinc.com.
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