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Occupy Wall Street: Polls and Demands

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Rather than 2 discrete posts on OWS, it makes more sense to combine them.

First, I really don’t care whether OWS is losing popular support, as one poll suggests. While I suppose falling support might be rhetorically challenging because of the 99% rhetoric, the reality is that social movements should pay no attention to polls. They are not running for office. The power is in their ideas and their actions. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to what attracts or alienates people, but our poll-driven society is not useful for OWS or other social movements. Acting on your beliefs regardless of the vagaries of public popularity is what activists do. Conservatives are trying to pick up on these polls to discourage OWS. In a tweet today, Grover Norquist said he hoped OWS keeps it up since it was people like them who elected Nixon in 68. Well, shut up Grover. The situations are completely different and I hope no one listens to that gasbag.

In any case, I haven’t heard a lot of gnashing of teeth over these poll numbers so hopefully everyone is ignoring them.

Second, one of the biggest points of contention between OWS and liberals is its lack of concrete demands. I mostly share this critique, but at the same time, I don’t necessarily blame this nascent movement. The demands follow the development of collective experience and core leadership. OWS and labor have been dancing around each other for the last two months, with the AFL-CIO offering their experience and organizing skills and OWS rightfully being wary of being co-opted.

Still, labor has a lot to offer, including the ability to articulate and publicize broad demands that might be acceptable to most OWSers. This list of 9 demands (including #9 that you are supposed to fill in) is a good place to start. It includes broad goals that I think would solidify support for the protestors like relieving student loan debt, extend unemployment insurance, and passing legislation to help people stay in their homes. As for #9, I’d actually make 2 suggestions–treat immigrants like humans and press for clean energy. In any case, the 8 stated goals effectively sums up the vision of much of Occupy Wall Street and the openness of #9 suggests that many in labor understands this needs to be a bottom-up movement.

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