Occupy Wall Street has captured both headlines and water cooler banter in recent weeks as the movement has spread from New York across the country. Cheered on by everyone from Kanye West and Labor Unions to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic establishment, it has quickly become a buzzword and national movement. Yet as participants in the movement lay out their laundry list of demands, it’s clear that the real catalyst for their outbreak of frustration isn’t Wall Street. Instead of leveling their vitriol at financial institutions, CEO’s and Congress, it’s clear: the Occupy movement should cast its blame at the current occupant of the White House.
The roots of unrest began early, with the White House pursuing a strategy that seemingly resembled “shock and awe”. Aided by a Congress whose Democratic majorities were all to willing to rubber stamp the legislative wishes of its newly minted President, Americans of all stripes were hit with a government stimulus, a health care plan that has already resulted in thousands of employers dropping company funded insurance and a Wall Street reform bill that unleashed a new wave of uncertainty on Wall Street, locking up new investment as big business waited for some kind of certainty.
Each bill passed with promises of new jobs, justice for the middle class and the kind of “hope and change” young voters had been promised in the 2008 election. Unfortunately, each proved to be a failure, with the stimulus failing to hold down unemployment, the health care bill continuing to unleash one bad surprise after another and Wall Street reform already costing consumers more in the form of new debit card fees.
As his poll numbers began to sink, the President attempted to deflect attention from his policy failures by blaming everyone from Republicans in Congress to oil companies and private jet owners. The results of the President’s efforts were evident in the first issue of the “Occupied Wall Street Journal”, a communiqué that quickly became the voice of a disjointed movement. An article entitled, “The Revolution Begins at Home” discusses “liberating territory from the financial overlords and their police army”. Further into the article, it likens NYPD police interventions to the violence unleashed in Egypt.
This is not to suggest that President himself is to blame for some of the more extreme rhetoric of the protesters, but certainly, his efforts to repeatedly invoke class warfare to score cheap political points has resulted in pushing an electorate, already frustrated by years of failed policies into the extreme.
The misbehavior of a few notwithstanding, outcries like we’ve seen from occupy Wall Street are worth paying attention to. However, instead of simply focusing on the loud minority, the true feelings of Americans were better reflected in an ABC News focus group where a group of self proclaimed “Wal-Mart Moms” said that they wouldn’t have time to protest in a park and if they did, would rather spend time with their families. While Nancy Pelosi was incorrect that Occupy Wall Street “reflects America”, it is the working families who have suffered from the President’s policies, and more importantly, it is those families who will vote next November.
The President has a chance to work in bi-partisan fashion with Congressional Republicans on real solutions, such as a payroll tax holiday that would ease the burden for both job creators and seekers. Instead of continuing the class warfare and government based solutions that have trademarked his time in office, the President should work toward mitigating the damage caused by his ambitious legislative strategy and stop fueling the destructive dialogue that has fed the poisonous rhetoric pouring out of Occupy site across the country.
Joe Brettell is a GOP Consultant based in Virginia.
Joe Brettell is a former Capitol Hill Communications Director and currently a strategist with FleishmanHillard Public Affairs. Follow him on Twitter@joebrettell.