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Republicans who simply dismiss the concerns of working-class voters and reject lower payroll taxes unless they are offset with spending cuts don’t have a clue how voters view Congress or how they feel.
Perhaps surprisingly, the OWS movement is a potentially bigger problem for Democrats, many of whom can’t quite figure out how to deal with a movement that reflects some of their concerns about economic inequality, environmentalism and the evils of big business but too often appears radical, confrontational and unkempt.
Democrats now face the same problem on their left that the GOP has been facing for the past couple of years with those on its right.
Where Republican Reps. Steve King (Iowa) and Joe Walsh (Ill.) seemed to echo tea party sentiments and rhetoric no matter how impolitic, impolite or mindless, now it is those on the left, such as Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison (Minn.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), who have been outspoken in their sympathy, or even support, for the Occupy movement, no matter how confrontational, crude and rude the behavior of protesters.
While the Occupy movement is likely to show up at the Democratic and Republican conventions in Charlotte and Tampa respectively, activists will potentially be more disruptive in Charlotte.
Republicans can easily dismiss the Occupy crowd as a bunch of radicals, and the more confrontational the protesters look, the better the Republican view will appear.
Democrats will be in an inherently more awkward position, because the party and the Occupy activists will be blaming corporations, the banks, Wall Street and the wealthy for taking advantage of the “little guy” and for refusing to pay their fair share.
The Democratic National Convention, of course, will be held in the Time Warner Cable Arena. The city’s football stadium, where President Barack Obama could give his acceptance speech, is Bank of America Stadium.
Charlotte is Bank of America’s corporate headquarters, along with Duke Energy and Goodrich, the former rubber and tire company that now calls itself “a global leader in the aerospace, defense and homeland security markets” on its website.
You get the picture. There will be plenty of opportunities and venues for OWS activists to make statements about the country — statements which could well make some Democrats very uncomfortable.
The Charlotte convention managers, the party’s Congressional leadership and, most importantly, the White House will have to figure out how to deal with Occupy Wall Street in a way that echoes some of the message without elevating the group and forcing the Democratic Party to either totally reject or embrace the OWS movement, and all that that includes.
It will be a delicate balancing act.
Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.