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Occupy Obama

by JOHN STAUBER

President Barack Obama is no longer running unchallenged in all the major primary states, thanks to activists in Iowa who are focusing their Occupy Wall Street activism onto the headquarters of the Obama for President campaign office this Saturday, October 22,  in Des Moines.

The “Occupy Obama” event is being organized in part  by veteran rabble rouser Hugh Espey and his highly effective Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a grassroots force that has been fighting for economic and social justice since the 1970s.  CCI members are already participating in Occupy Wall Street actions in nine Iowa towns.  Occupy Obama seems a logical next step to escalate the movement further into national view and create the potential for debate and organizing within the Iowa presidential caucuses in January.

Espey criticized Obama by name in a Des Moines Register guest editorial of October 6, 2011 announcing CCI’s support for Occupy Wall Street actions in Iowa.  “Our political leaders are too busy asking big banks and Wall Street corporations for campaign contributions to push the ‘put people first’ policies that this nation needs,” he wrote.  CCI will march on Obama’s campaign headquarters in Des Moines on Saturday.  This Occupy Obama action could catch fire nationally, especially given the frustration widely voiced that not one prominent Democrat is willing to oppose Obama in the Democratic Party’s primary races.  Occupy Obama could partly fill that void.  “We’ll deliver a simple, powerful message to Obama staffers, and do a speak-out as well.  We want regular folks telling the Obama staffers what they think.  We want Obama to understand that the 99% demand action from him to put communities before corporations and people before profits,” says CCI.

Obama’s social and economic justice rhetoric, and his opposition to the war in Iraq, won him the 2008 Democratic nomination and the presidency.  Millions of independents, young and ethnically diverse voters found him a compelling agent for the “Change” and “Hope” he extolled as a mantra.  But the failure of Obama’s policies to adhere to his campaign rhetoric should not really be surprising.   Candidate Obama in 2008 beat every other Democrat in collecting the most campaign contributions from the wealthiest funders of the Democratic Party, the 1% as opposed to the 99%, aka Wall Street.  He has announced his goal for 2012 of raising one billion dollars which again will require the firm support of the very wealthiest Democratic Party interests.

President Obama has been a huge disappointment on issues across the board, yet he was running unchallenged in the primaries until CCI announced its Occupy Obama action.  Don’t be surprised if this Des Moines event is the start of a successful nation-wide Occupy Obama movement.  In Iowa an Occupy Obama movement has real potential because it could choose to become a player in the Iowa caucuses in a way that is much more than symbolic.  Occupy Obama activists could show up at the caucus meetings in January, for instance, and organize support for an Uncommitted slate of  Occupy Obama convention activists.  These Uncommitted delegates could provide a critical voice on the floor of the Obama convention in the summer of 2012.

Some Obama supporters and interest groups have advocated using the Occupy Wall Street cause to help elect Obama and other Democrats, coopting the movement.  However, an Occupy Obama movement could turn that scenario on its head.  A growing Occupy Obama movement could directly confront the failures of the Democratic Party to represent most people.

If Occupy Obama takes off, 2012 might feel a bit like 1968.  Back then the Guns And Butter policies of Lyndon Johnson were destroying not just Vietnam, where millions eventually died, but also killing Johnson’s own domestic social programs, his Great Society reforms.  The rapidly growing anti-war movement in 1968 rallied behind two Democratic Party primary challengers, Senators Gene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy.  It forced the resignation of Johnson, but the bosses of the Democratic Party handed the nomination to Johnson’s Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who lost to Richard Nixon.

While an Occupy Obama movement would be very unlikely to prevent his renomination, it could make him and his Party’s shortcomings a front and center issue.  It could ignite a  Democratic Party reform movement, as 1968 did, leading to some take back of the corporate Democratic Party by grassroots activists.  It could also lead to the support and emergence of other parties more representative of the people, as opposed to helping Wall Street and giant corporations.

2012’s interwoven crises of failing empire, economic desperation, corporate corruption, corporate control of government and bought elections, might have created a political turning point if the Occupy movement can keep upping the ante and building its numbers.  Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement could well be firing a shot heard round the nation, if an Occupy Obama movement emerges to pressure the Democrats, utilizing the 2012 election to pursue this goal.  Occupy Obama 2012 may be coming soon to an Obama Campaign or Democratic Party office near you!

JOHN STAUBER is the co-author of six books including Iraq: Weapons of Mass Deception and The Best War Ever. His anti-war activism began in high school in the 1960s opposing the war in Vietnam. The opinions in this article are his alone. His email address is: john.stauber@gmail.com
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