Disenfranchisement Is A Two-Step Process
If there has been a consistent non-partisan critique of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it has been that it lacks clear and common vision. Depending on which protest you attend, and the occupiers present, you can hear calls to end the Federal Reserve, halt foreclosure proceedings, or claw-back TARP funds.
That’s fine. So far Occupy Wall Street doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker. But it also doesn’t take a lot to see that the underlying movement circles around the problem of economic disenfranchisement. To that end, Occupy Wall Street could be seen as an economic movement– a response to persistent and ugly unemployment and wage stagnation and home depreciation and foreclosures. For now.
With widespread economic disenfranchisement, it should also come as no surprise that the push for civic disenfranchisement is on as well. State-by-state Republicans have declared a war on voting. The assaults include copy-cat Voter ID bills as well as direct challenges to the Voting Rights Act. The less people who participate in the democratic process, the better for the right, it would seem.
Those occupiers (both in fact and in spirit) should see the push against voting access as a companion assault. It is as offensive as charging excessive bank fees and pushing through foreclosures. Both are attempts to game the system and both depend on the passivity of the population to succeed.
So maybe if we need a tag for Occupy Wall Street, if we are looking for a common theme to unite the interests of the occupiers, that tag could be this: enfranchise. Or re-enfranchise. Our current economic and political climate is the direct result of siphoning off participants–participants in the economy and participants in our civic life. Which means the answer is not an either/or. It is neither Occupy Wall Street nor occupy the voting booth. It’s both.