Get used to the Occupy movement

It's tempting, particularly for Democrats, to compare the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Tea Party. Supporters of both hate the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and have no chosen leader — and that's pretty much where the similarities end. This grassroots effort is likely to continue, with protests moving to warmer climes as the cold sets in in lower Manhattan. And a new report published today shows median income dropped nearly 10 percent since the start of the recession in the summer of 2007, and dropping more sharply after the recession officially ended in 2009 than during the recession itself.

This new data shows why the protests around the country will probably expand as economic hardship endures and increases. In addition, should the U.S. government ultimately choose to tackle our debt crisis, solutions will involve further cuts to spending and services, which will spark more backlash nationwide. Yes, the anger is here to stay and therefore so are the protests.

But what will be done? Not much, probably. The Tea Party, in its attack on big government, has pushed the Republican Party to the far right — and the Democratic Party to the right as well. Why would we expect, as a result of Occupy Wall Street, minds to be changed in corporate boardrooms or congressional committees?

Occupy Wall Street might find a way to activate politically, to pressure lawmakers in primaries and try to push at least some elected officials leftward. But a sit-in won't do it. Meanwhile, as Democrats, starved for some grassroots energy and enthusiasm, try desperately to capitalize on the movement, Republicans should remain quiet. They shouldn't be quick to criticize the protesters and should find a way to associate themselves with the frustration over unemployment the protesters are expressing.

Democrats, on the other hand, need to be careful about jumping on this bandwagon, if only to avoid looking hypocritical. Sure, most of the protesters are progressive, but they also think — for the most part — that President Obama and congressional Democrats are sellouts who are owned by corporate America. Democrats should find a way to share the anger over wage disparity and credit card fees without pretending they never voted for TARP or Dodd-Frank.


WILL THE WHITE HOUSE APPOINT A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR TO INVESTIGATE THE FAST AND FURIOUS CASE? Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, Oct. 11. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.