The first Occupy candidate for Congress announced his run in Pennsylvania yesterday, Politico's Dylan Byers reports. Wary of being coopted, the Occupy movement has always shied away from participating in mainstream politics. But now that occupiers are starving for buzz, we're seeing more of an effort from some corners of the movement to get involved in the 2012 elections. The surprising part is that it took this long.
Byers writes that 29-year-old Nathan Kleinman of Jenkintown, Penn., will run for a seat in the 13th congressional district. Kleinman's been involved with Occupy Philadelphia for some time, "participating in a number of associated working groups, including 'Free University,' 'Outreach Working Group,' 'Process Working Group,'
'Camp Liberty,' and 'The Committee of Correspondence.'"
Kleinman is the first Occupy congressional candidate, though he's not literally the first person involved in Occupy to run for public office. That honor goes to Vermin Supreme, the man who wears a boot on his head and was on the ballot in the New Hampshire primary.
But Kleinman's run shows a new kind of seriousness about getting involved in the electoral process -- or maybe an exasperation with how little the movement has accomplished in raging against the mainstream.
Apart from Kleinman, there are other Occupy-related measures afoot for 2012. An initiative called Occupy the Ballot, which says it's not officially endorsed by Occupy Wall Street (but then, nothing is), is touting itself as "the practical expression of one vision of representative democracy in American politics inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement."
Occupy the Ballot's idea is to get people to run for local office on a platform based on OWS principles. The candidates, if they win, will govern their constituencies by consensus and hold General Assemblies with them; if the candidate doesn't agree with the consensus achieved by his or her constituents, "then you might consider stepping down."
Occupy the Ballot doesn't encourage its candidates to affiliate themselves with any political parties, but those inclined to run on a third party basis do have an Occupy-flavored option: the Occupation Party, which is backing a congressional candidate in Michigan and a candidate for New York State Assembly.
The Occupation Party will not try to field a presidential candidate this cycle, though it hopes to do so in 2016:
"To accomplish this, in 2012 our candidates will run for election to the Senate or House. We will continue communicating our agenda, platform, and values in social media and traditional media. We’ll pursue the same strategy in 2014. By 2016, we will have a strong presence in Congress, and we will have established our credibility and effectiveness."
The idea sounds ambitious to the point of fantasy, but this is basically what the Tea Party has accomplished in the last few years -- a comparison that Occupy has always hated, but that might provide a blueprint to their becoming relevant again.