The bipartisan system has, within the past couple decades, been rejected more and more by burgeoning groups of society, shunned in favor of the Independent label or to join Nader’s Raiders or some equally enthusiastic third party. Many of the people who stayed, the people who still loyally cling to their relationships with elephants and donkeys, seem to be the people with money, the good ol’ boys.
And what about the rest of us—the, oh, 99% or so that are left, in financial and political impoverishment?
We form a populist rebellion. After much publicity, a number of infamous confrontations with political pundits and agencies, and widespread debate about the movement’s ideals, there is a solid core that forms. Meetings follow a certain process, and the goals become more tangible: ask politicians to sign treaties and support laws. Participate in protests against specific institutions. Ask supporters to donate for media production and the support of full-time Occupiers. News published on the Fourth of July by Occupy Boston proclaimed the group’s plan to participate in Occupy Wall Street’s Day of Action on September 17th, in an attempt to shut down New York City’s Financial District.
Much like the governing rules of Senate proceedings, the proposal and passage of laws, and politicians who survive off of campaign contributions, and much like the Republican caucus or a Democratic rally, these parallels are loose, but the similarities are helpful for putting the movement into context. Despite the obvious contradiction, it is useful to think of Occupy as a political party, one that is largely defined by class—another characteristic of party affiliation.
Each city is different, and as such, each Occupy Here and Now is different—just as there are differences between Bible-thumping and secular Republicans.
Expecting one person to represent the entire movement, or expecting the entire movement to represent one idea, is like saying all Democrats agree with Obama or that the Republican Party only represents cuts to women’s health care (even if sometimes it feels that way).
The Occupy movement should not be considered a political party for a number of important reasons that define contemporary politics, such as the fact that our republican democracy operates very much under a capitalist system—which is kind of Occupy’s thing—and the fact that its culture of consent is intrinsic to its being; if Occupy was incubated in the womb of anti-oppression, then it was pushed through the birth canal of direct democracy. But the form it has taken on reflects a normative political party in interesting ways, and conceptualizing it as such helps explain some of the most basic questions many people have about Occupy: What’s their deal? What do they want, and why? What are their goals? And what’s their place in contemporary society?
Political parties struggle with the same rudimentary questions, and are constantly adjusting their platforms and messaging based on changing trends in popular opinion. Parties don’t address just one issue, they approach a plethora of issues with a particular perspective and set of values. Similarly, Occupy doesn’t limit itself to a single goal, but has a comprehensive vision of society, which is conceived of by its participants, that necessarily tackles a whole web of topics.
And sometimes it changes, and that’s okay, because political parties and social movements alike evolve in order to sustain themselves. And this one’s not going away.