Critics of the Occupy protesters say they are naïve and incoherent; others accuse them of being anything from Communists to anarchists.
However, many proponents see the Occupy movement as a nascent populist
counterweight to the Tea Party movement. The Occupy protesters
"represent a genuine spark of grassroots political action--a chance,
finally, to redeem the promise of Obama's 2008 campaign," write John B. Judis and Jonathan Cohn in the New Republic.
However, Cornell University professor Sidney Tarrow cautions against
seeing the Occupy movement through the lens of the Tea Party: The former
has few policy plans and is comprised of a "shifting configuration of supporters".
Still, President Barack Obama--who received sizable
campaign contributions from Wall Street in 2008--sought to tap into the
movement's energy this weekend, gently lending it credence (Bloomberg)."The unemployed worker," he said, "can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there."
European leaders were more unequivocal in their support of the weekend protesters, openly sympathizing with widespread anger
at the continent's big banks. German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble
said he was taking the protests "very seriously," while incoming
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said, "The young people
have a right to be furious." In the UK, Foreign Minister William Hague
acknowledged, "in the banking system a lot has gone wrong." The protests
in Europe have an even greater sense of urgency than in the United
States, as policymakers call for recapitalizing European banks to avoid
sovereign debt contagion from Greece.
While the Occupy protesters and their offshoots may
not articulate a clear set of policy objectives, "their mere existence
shows that people are determined to think globally about routes out of
this crisis," argues the BBC's Paul Mason. Writing in the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart comments that the movement is gaining strength as a result of its "global nature."
While that doesn't mean the protesters have a "clear critique of
unregulated capitalism yet, let alone a concrete agenda for reform," it
signals that the left "finally is forcing those questions onto the
By contrast, Will Marshall argues in the New Republic,
that the Occupy protesters will only exacerbate ideological tensions
and partisanship in American political life. Marshall says the protests
are being hijacked by the "usual congeries of lefty fringe groups,"
which undermine the important message that the United States is becoming
increasingly economically unequal. Meanwhile, the Weekly Standard's
Daniel Halper dismisses the protesters as "hooligans" and "criminals,"
lumping together a minority of violent opportunists with the majority of
However, as the Occupy movement becomes more global,
its supporters are becoming more politically diverse. As Erik Tarloff
writes in the Atlantic,
the lack of political cohesion is perhaps irrelevant. "What does matter
is that popular refusal to tolerate the current state of affairs
appears to be reaching a tipping point."
This article originally appeared at CFR.org, an Atlantic partner site.