Photo by Emmanuel Dunand for AFP/Getty Images.
The Occupy Wall Street protests are aimed, at least in part, at the corrupting influence of big political donations. But small ones are more than welcome, it seems.
As the demonstrations hit the one-month mark on Monday, organizers announced that supporters have contributed more than $300,000 to the cause. Much of the money has come through the movement’s website, while backers are also shipping blankets, pillows, medical supplies, and even swim goggles (to guard against pepper spray), the Associated Press reports. The money has been deposited in a union-owned bank; the goods warehoused in a union-owned building near the protests’ downtown Manhattan headquarters.
Compared to the amounts donated to big political campaigns, $300,000 isn’t much. Still, it’s a sign of the protests’ growing sophistication and increasingly diverse support. After a weekend in which demonstrations spread to more than 900 cities worldwide and seemed to grow in New York, organizers’ challenge is to keep building momentum.
“The easier part is protesting,” oft-quoted political analyst Larry Sabato told USA Today. “It’s the nitty-gritty work of politics, day in and day out, that actually makes a difference in election season.”
Speaking of politics, President Obama is looking increasingly like a supporter of the movement—if they’ll have him. The Washington Post reported on Friday that Obama’s team is looking to capitalize on anti-Wall Street sentiment as much as possible.
“We intend to make it one of the central elements of the campaign next year,” adviser David Plouffe told the Post. “One of the main elements of the contrast will be that the president passed Wall Street reform and our opponent and the other party want to repeal it.”
The Post’s Ezra Klein argued Monday that the administration is “trying to make a virtue out of necessity.” After winning Wall Street’s backing in 2008, Obama has been losing out this year to Republican contender Mitt Romney, who has pulled in $1.5 million from the financial industry to Obama’s $300,000, according to the New York Times.
But can Wall Street rage carry liberals to political victory? In The New Republic, the Progressive Policy Institute’s Will Marshall argues it could backfire. Writes Marshall:
Let’s put aside partisan calculations and ask a more basic question: How will more ideological enmity and polarization help solve the nation’s problems? Further hollowing out America’s political center isn’t the way to overcome the right or restore our political system’s capacity to solve problems. Instead, progressives need to seize the center, and shove the wingnuts back to the margins where they belong.