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Larry Hirsch Headshot

OWS -- Time to Organize for Political Impact

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One of the attractions to many of Occupy Wall Street movement is that it leaderless, participatory, inclusive and is committed to not getting involved in political battles. While many say there is not a message, the simple one of economic equality for the 99% is getting through. Why the Republicans on the Budget Supercommittee are even accepting some revenue increases. In order to fully effect the change that the movement wants and the country needs, Occupy Wall Street must grow its influence so it truly becomes a rival to the Tea Party.

The Tea Party, helped by well connected consultants, has been clear in its mission. The activists believe in less government and took action to elect people that would push their agenda. Within a year the power in Congress shifted to the right. Even though the represent a minority in the Republican Party and an even smaller minority of Americans, there are many Democrats and even a few Republicans no longer in Congress because they did not meet Tea Party standards. It is because they organized, first by storming Town Hall meetings and then by electing their friends that the Tea Party influence grew.

The people I have spoken to down at Zuccotti Park don't want to compromise the purity of their movement by supporting candidates. In fact I did not see any voter registration forms during any of my visits to the park. However, if they bring their litmus test of guiding principles to those running for and holding office, they can get the candidates to support them. There are a series of steps I believe the Occupiers can take to increase their political impact.

1) Centralize the Occupy Movement: With Occupy Chapters springing up all over the country, a centralized website or communications system is important to help coordinate actions throughout the country. The different chapters need to be aligned with a central coordinating group.

2) Ally With Supportive Organizations: This already being done to some extent with labor unions but the alliance needs to be stronger to help maximize the effectiveness of the movement. This can be done in a way that keeps the independence of the Occupy movement but utilizes the expertise of others.

3) Take The Message to Members of Congress: Have members of local chapters attend Congressional meetings in their districts and ask them where they stand on helping the 99% and why they hold up progress to protect tax breaks for the 1%.

4) Take Political Action Locally: The strength of the Tea Party was that as an organization with grassroots support in local communities they were able to organize their members to make an outsize impact in local elections. They went after those that did not agree with them and often elected members of their own chapters who had never run for office before. They recognized that the only way to push their agenda forward was to change Congress and they did. There is no reason the Occupy movement can't do the same and take Congress back.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is the best grassroots movement on the Left in over a generation. Ordinary people are standing up and saying enough to a society that does not take into account their needs. The question is what happens after the rallies? It will be a shame if the movement does not have the staying power to effect the change we need. America has realized that the Tea Party message is not theirs and has found voice in Occupy Wall Street. It is crucial that this voice remains strong and does not die out.