As labor unions flocked to their side Wednesday for a massive demonstration in New York City, Occupy Wall Street picked up some fresh political capital with prominent Democrats, and they’re not ashamed to say it.
Speaking to The National Memo this week, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) made supportive comments. They were joined by Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and fourth-ranking House Democrat John Larson, who issued similar statements of support.
So too did Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former Democratic governor of New York whose aggressive stance toward the banking sector was a hallmark of his political record. Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), similarly, tossed his hat in with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying it will “make the tea party look like a tea party.”
And naturally, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the only declared socialist in Congress, has been out in front of the movement since just after it began. His sentiments have also been echoed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who insisted the protests are “making a difference.”
Even a few Republicans made positive remarks: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, called the demonstrations “a legitimate effort;” Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who’s also running for president, told protesters, “Please know that I stand by you.”
“I think it has become a vehicle for people to vent their frustration with the economy,” Gillibrand told The National Memo. “Everywhere I travel across New York State I meet with every day families and small businesses, and they are deeply worried about the economy. I share the frustration at how broken Washington has become in forging solutions.”
Dean, similarly, commented to reporter Matt Taylor that he has been “waiting for something like this to happen.”
“Wall Street is an institution that is not serving the country well,” he said. “Because of their financial practices, money’s not getting invested in the long-term creation of jobs. They basically have turned Wall Street into a gambling casino. Credit default swaps, about 95 percent of that is speculation. So I’m glad to see all these young people on Wall Street.”
“We share the anger and frustration of so many Americans who have seen the enormous toll that an unchecked Wall Street has taken on the overwhelming majority of Americans while benefiting the super-wealthy,” Grijalva and Ellison said, in their prepared statement.
Larson added: “The silent masses aren’t so silent anymore. They are fighting to give voice to the struggles that everyday Americans are going through.”
“This is organic,” Spitzer explained. “It is genuine. It is amassing more and more support day by day. It has touched a nerve and I think this could really begin to say to the Obama administration, ‘Hey you don’t understand what we, the public, are saying to you.’ He’s off there — he has been so flat on this issue of Wall Street and the economy. Maybe this will push the president to speak with a new more aggressive, dynamic voice.”
Their voices were also joined yesterday by one of the most influential figures of the modern American labor movement: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who leads the nation’s largest federation of labor unions.
Up until Wednesday’s march, he had not voiced support for the three-week-old demonstration that has now swept the country, with events taking place in 447 cities nation-wide so far, according to organizers.
“Occupy Wall Street has captured the imagination and passion of millions of Americans who have lost hope that our nation’s policymakers are speaking for them,” Trumka said. “We support the protesters in their determination to hold Wall Street accountable and create good jobs.”
Photo: Flickr user riterzbloc.