You are hereWashington Post: Occupiers aren’t running for office. They have their sights set higher.

Washington Post: Occupiers aren’t running for office. They have their sights set higher.

-By Sarah Seltzer

January 13, 2012- Members of the Occupy movement are flocking to Capitol Hill to stage “Occupy Congress” on Tuesday, determined to confront the other 1 percent — politicians, not bankers — with grievances over student debt and the economic crisis.

But the marches, sit-ins and general assemblies that Occupiers plan to hold near the halls of power are as close as they will officially get to the Capitol. The movement doesn’t have ambitions for higher office in 2012. No one is dreaming of a Democratic Occupy caucus to match the House Republicans’ tea party group.

Occupy exists outside politics on purpose. Its decision-making processes are meant as a rebuke to the electoral system, in which both parties, activists say, are influenced by lobbying and corporate cash.

And yet, the movement can have a greater impact on American politics than an Occupy caucus ever could. Putting its concerns at the forefront of the debate this campaign season through nonpartisan tactics is a stronger strategy than backing a flash-in-the-pan candidate — as the tea party found with Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, who attracted fascination but then faded in 2010. Occupy will push candidates to embrace its positions but won’t rely on them to be leaders of the movement — leaders who can fail, compromise or be toppled in a vote.

Occupy has already increased political attention for its key causes. By targeting banks, moving homeless people into foreclosed homes and even living in public, activists have forced candidates and voters to grapple with topics rare for the national stage — housing, poverty, student debt and financial influence over politics — without being tethered to politicians’ power the way a caucus or a third party might be. And they’ve had a remarkable influence on the discourse, leading even those seemingly inimical to them to offer sympathy, at least nominally.

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney went from calling the protests “class warfare” to saying, just a few days later, “I worry about the 99 percent.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) softened from calling the activists “mobs” to saying they are “justifiably frustrated.”

And President Obama himself, in a December speech in Kansas, addressed Occupy’s primary issue, income inequality, in his strongest terms yet.“This is not just another political debate,” he said. “This is the defining issue of our time.”



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