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Will Occupy Wall Street's Spark Reshape Our Politics? | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Will Occupy Wall Street's Spark Reshape Our Politics?

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

When the organizers of Occupy Wall Street first gathered to discuss their plan of action, the strategy that resonated most came from those who had occupied squares in Madrid and Athens, Tunis and Cairo. According to David Graeber, one of Occupy Wall Street’s organizers, “they explained that the model that seemed to work was to take something that seemed to be public space, reclaim it, and build up an organization and headquarters around [it].”

Six weeks later, on September 17, the occupation in downtown New York began, with scant attention, minimal and often derisive media coverage, and little expectation that it would light a spark where others had not. Now, in its fourth week, Occupy Wall Street has the quality of an exploding star: It is gathering energy in enormous and potent quantities, and propelling it outward to all corners of the country.

The protesters in the nascent movement have been criticized for being too decentralized and lacking a clear list of demands. But they are bearing witness to the corruption of our politics; if they made demands to those in power, it would suggest those in power could do something about it. This contradicts what is, perhaps, their most compelling point: that our institutions and politicians serve the top 1 percent, not the other 99.

The movement doesn’t need a policy or legislative agenda to send its message. The thrust of what it seeks–fueled both by anger and deep principles–has moral clarity. It wants corporate money out of politics. It wants the widening gap of income inequality to be narrowed substantially. And it wants meaningful solutions to the jobless crisis. In short, it wants a system that works for the 99 percent. Already Occupy Wall Street has sparked a conversation about reforms far more substantial than the stunted debate in Washington. Its energy will supercharge the arduous work other organizations have been doing for years, amplifying their actions as well as their agendas.

Occupy Wall Street is now in more than 800 cities and counting. Each encampment has its own character, from thousands marching in San Francisco to a handful gathering in Boise. These are authentic grassroots operations, so each one will reflect the local culture of protest while reproducing what seems right from the original.

Republicans have reacted bitterly.

Editor’s Note: Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

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