Ed Rendell to Occupy Wall Street protesters: Go home

Hark, the sound of the Democratic machine politician trying to channel frustrated hippies into volunteers for next year’s campaign. He’s right, of course, about the diminishing returns in building a tent city downtown. MSNBC may find the we-shall-not-be-moved live shots inspiring ‘n stuff, but the more this looks like its own freaky deaky communal subculture, the less appeal it’ll hold for the average working-class voters Dems are trying to enlist and energize. The problem is, these people seem less like O-bots waiting to happen than the nucleus of a far-left movement to primary Obama, especially given his heavy dependency on Wall Street donations. In fairness to Rendell, he seems to suggest that himself; note his point about Eugene McCarthy and LBJ at around 3:15. (That’s not as surprising as it sounds, as Rendell was a Hillary backer three years ago.) And he’s not the only one. Says Hugh Hewitt, “Occupy the Democratic presidential primaries!”

If any Democrat of standing decided to take on President Obama in the New Hampshire primary, he or she would guarantee themselves a preferred place in the 2016 field, tens of million dollars in free media exposure, an opportunity to articulate a set of goals and promises –and of course the enmity of the Chicago machine that birthed the chief executive’s political career.

If that Democrat ran in solidarity with unions across the land, blasting at the president for not going to Wisconsin and Ohio enough to stop governors Scott Walker and John Kasich, and added a specific timetable by which all American troops would be gone not just from Iraq but also Afghanistan, and if this candidate condemned and pledged to end the drone strikes and not just against American citizens but also everyone not at least indicted by U.S. courts, he or she would rally the nutroots to their flag, and union bosses would have to at least be respectful of a candidate who spoke of the need to rally to labor in the rapidly emerging era of rollback.

If that Democrat spoke to the “Occupy [Fill In The Blank]” ranks, urging them off their particular street corner and to the streets of Manchester, Nashua, and Concord, he or she could both tap into that eccentric energy, while telling mainstream center-left Americans that he or she was running to refocus everyone’s energy.

OWS has a far better chance of advancing its agenda by acting as a tea-party-esque weight on Obama’s left than by lining up as good soldiers for his campaign. And O surely realizes it: That’s part of the reason I don’t buy the theory that these protests were organized by the Democratic brain trust. There’s way too much that can go wrong for them with a crowd this radical, from momentum for a primary challenge to the sort of nightmare scenario described by Rendell in recalling the 1968 Democratic convention. What’ll be lots of fun over the next month or two is watching how the media handles its love affair with the protesters if they end up coalescing around principles that are a bit too far left for Democrats to market to undecided voters. Job one, above all else, is reelecting Obama to beat back the wingnut hordes, and there’s a chance that OWS could make that job harder, not easier. What will the New York Times op-ed page do then?