In just a few short weeks, Occupy Wall Street has done more than merely spawn hundreds of other Occupy protests across the country and around the world. It’s given birth to an entire movement which has rejuvenated the whole of the American left, almost literally overnight.
Labor unions, progressive advocacy organizations, and others have all rushed to associate themselves with Occupy, and that association has clearly become a two-way street. The unions and others have been supporting Occupy with financial, media, and other forms of support.
But these organizations also very much seem to want to tap into all of this new energy on the left.
Democracy For America, an organization associated with former Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean, has begun offering yard signs and bumper stickers “co-branded” with its own imprimatur, and that of Occupy.
Famously leaderless and non-hierarchical, there’s no one with the Occupy movement empowered to fight off this potential “infringement” of the Occupy brand.
More recently, though, another Washington progressive heavyweight, MoveOn.org, has taken its association with Occupy Wall Street a step further.
MoveOn.org has begun to plan its own phalanx of anti-Wall Street protests separate from those of the Occupy movement. MoveOn’s calling its brand of protests “Make Wall Street Pay.”
“How is this connected to Occupy Wall Street? Our goal is to launch targeted local campaigns to complement the amazing work being done by brave Occupy Wall Street protesters—-something MoveOn members around the country have been asking for,” Lenore Palladino of MoveOn.org says in an email. “And we’ll continue to do everything we can to support and stand in solidarity with #Occupy.
“There are plenty of ways to take action to Make Wall Street Pay—from helping homeowners facing illegal foreclosures to a campaign encouraging municipalities, schools, and organizations to move their money to local banks to protesting at branches of Wall Street banks,” she says.
In truth, these MoveOn.org demonstrations won’t be the first non-Occupy protests out there, of course. Although Occupy Wall Street clearly has become the most well-known of the protests, it’s never held a monopoly. Others have been demonstrating alongside Occupy.
The New Bottom Line, for instance, is a coalition of community organizations, congregations, labor unions, and others which has been staging demonstrations across the country, to challenge established big bank interests on behalf of struggling and middle-class communities in much the same way as Occupy. However, while the New Bottom Line shares the spirit of Occupy, it’s its own distinct entity.
Occupy, itself, also has accommodated independent groups within its own movement, such as Stop The Machine, which helped establish Occupy DC.
MoveOn.org’s own Wall Street protests could be different in at least one important way, however.
Occupy Wall Street and the other protest groups so far have not only resisted establishing internal leadership hierarchies, they’ve also not not wanted to put forward any specific demands or engage in any significant way with the political process.
It’s not clear that MoveOn.org’s protest apparatus would operate under such constraint. MoveOn.org, after all, was itself established more than a dozen years ago as an effort to try to head off the Republican-led impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Indeed, MoveOn.org today runs its own political action committee (PAC) right in the nation’s capital.
None of this is to say that there is necessarily anything nefarious, or even wrong, in what MoveOn.org is doing.
Any efforts to turn the anti-Wall Street protests toward a more explicitly political agenda — and doing so from within the established Washington progressive establishment — could wind up changing the complexion of the entire movement very quickly.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.