To the consternation of some, and the joy of others, the ballooning Occupy Wall Street movement has so far resisted injecting itself into the nation’s political debate.
Even without a concrete list of policy goals or demands, however, there is a growing sense that, by simply existing and persevering, the month — old movement already is exerting a new influence. President Obama, for instance, has appeared to be taking a more forceful, populist, and progressive tone in recent weeks. And Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) has explicitly given Occupy Wall Street credit for the renewed energy on the left: “We’re coming together. Maybe the protesters unified the Democratic Party.”
If Occupy Wall Street is indeed exerting a new gravitational pull leftward, and it continues to do so in the coming weeks as seems likely, a sign of just how strong that pull is could come soon. A new confidence of Democrats to tilt leftward could affect the outcome of the ongoing deficit-reduction talks of the so-called bipartisan supercommittee. The supercommittee, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, is tasked with developing a plan by Thanksgiving that finds ways to reduce the federal budget deficit by more than $1 trillion over ten years.
Despite the protestations of the likes of GOP House Speaker John Boehner, the panel could well recommend reducing the deficit by raising federal taxes, not just further cuts to federal spending. The Occupy movement likely will have no effect on the six supercommittee Republicans. Led by hardline conservative Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, they also include Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who once headed the anti-tax group, Club for Growth. Occupy could, however, embolden the supercommittee Democrats to stand up to the Republicans with more vigor.
Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article originally was published as “Occupy vs the Supercommittee: How the Movement Could Soon Impact the Debate,” on Blogcritics.