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Post-Iowa Caucus, CBS/AP Dwell on Occupy’s Impact on Outcome

Protesters occupy the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters (Photo by tkru)

CBS/AP has posted a report on “Occupy the Iowa Caucus,” which sought to have some kind of influence on the Iowa Caucus that happened yesterday. The report concludes that while there were “attention-grabbing protests” in the run-up to the Caucus the outcome of the Caucus shows Occupy has not “matured into a political force.”

CBS/AP also wonders “whether it will become a liberal counterweight to the tea party this election year.” It implies Occupy could have very little effect on upcoming primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

First off, the Tea Party as a force in politics is pretty dead right now. Ever since the Occupy movement came along, there has not been much from the Tea Party, save for a volley of insults every now and then against the “dirty, smelly hippie movement” for economic equality and justice that has stolen the limelight from them.

Second, there is little indication that Occupy wants to counter the Tea Party.  In parts of the country, occupiers have actually met with Tea Partiers to form a sort of transpartisan alliance with them on issues and solutions on which they share common ground. Few actually organizing in an Occupy group have suggested this movement would act as a counterweight to the grassroots of the GOP. Being a Tea Party counterweight is liberal NGO entrepreneur Van Jones’ idea. (Jones is someone whom the media have contacted numerous times to speak for the movement.)

CBS/AP finds “smaller-than-expected crowds, a muddled message that was mostly ignored by candidates, and tactics that seem to limit their appeal raised questions” about the “long-term viability” of Occupy.

After how categorically wrong the establishment media has been on this movement since its first days, one would think CBS/AP would refrain from writing articles that speculate on how “viable” Occupy happens to be. They don’t know anymore than they know how “viable” GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is after Iowa (because let’s face it—the GOP base just doesn’t want to have to settle for Mitt Romney).

An opinion on the movement from Dave Petersen, a director of the Harkin Institute of Public Policy at Iowa State University, is featured in the report. Petersen finds “Occupy’s only discernible impact was tighter-than-usual security at Republican events.” He added the group needs to “develop leaders and a more coherent message if it wanted to make the transition from a grassroots movement to an electoral powerhouse.” That, of course, assumes that Occupy has any interest in being an “electoral powerhouse” (which to Petersen means doing what the Tea Party did by running their own candidates, etc).

Also, it is quite elitist for Petersen to say “tighter-than-usual security” is Occupy’s only “discernible impact.” This may be the only obvious impact but such an answer basically implies Occupy is responsible for the security. Petersen doesn’t appear to consider that it is the police and authorities involved in the caucus-related events that decided to increase security. And, based on what intelligence? Iowan occupiers expressly stated they would not be disrupting the Caucus.

It is true that Occupy could benefit greatly at this point if it at least had one small set of minimal demands. But, let’s not assume that Occupy has any interest in participating in a broken and rigged electoral process that typically absorbs energy from social movements. Let’s not assume that occupiers want to just go to work President Barack Obama in 2012. After all, there was an effort to convince Iowans to vote “uncommitted” in the Caucus, something that was born from the belief that none of the candidates for president represent the 99% but rather are beholden to corporate and special interests.

Keep in mind, too, that there was really only a limited number of ways Occupy could have influenced the outcome. They weren’t going to disrupt it and prevent it from happening. Obama has no primary challengers so they could not pull him to the left by going to vote for a primary challenger. Perhaps, the only way they could have had an impact is if they had moved more left-leaning Iowan voters to support and vote for Ron Paul because of his stance against preemptive wars and for restoring some civil liberties in this country. They could have rewarded Paul for not being reactionary toward the Occupy movement as all other GOP candidates have been and urged Iowans to vote for the lesser of seven evils. However, they made a decision not to associate the movement with any single candidate.

The report goes on to highlight how the campaigns informed CBS/AP there was no impact on their campaigns. That is not surprising. Again, as mentioned, all GOP candidates, except for Paul, have been inflammatory when it comes to talking about the Occupy movement.

CBS/AP does not really go further into fleshing out this notion that Occupy is not viable in the long term and should do more to get involved in the election. It essentially uses this as a framing for reporting on Occupy’s impact. So, the report is a shoddy attempt to offer insight into the movement, and any American who reads it who has been interested but kept a distance from the movement would probably continue to refrain from participating in Occupy actions.

In contrast,PBS‘s posted op-eds on the Occupy Wall Street movement from two Iranian progressives are quite perceptive. Iranian progressives do not argue Occupy has been successful because Americans only want to see a force take on the Tea Party. Rather, they find Occupy’s success to be a result of more dire and significant sociopolitical and economic trends in America: for example, the deepening crisis of capitalism, the intensification of class struggle, and the desire for an alternative system that can better provide for equality and justice.

Occupy’s value to society is that it is uniquely positioned to confront the global problem of capitalism, which has greatly perverted democracies around the world, especially through the last few decades of economic globalization or neoliberalism. This is lost on establishment media. (Of course, if one thinks this report is intellectually bankrupt, a report on an effort to reform or form an alternative to capitalism that was put in the context of the 2012 Election would surely be full of condescension and scorn.)

One should not fixate on the short-term impact that Occupy could have by getting more involved in the 2012 Election. They have much more potential if they remain an uncontrollable force not associated with any campaign or political party that candidates, politicians, the elite and various special interests have to worry about controlling.

For the latest on the Occupy movement, follow Firedoglake’s live blog.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."