Will OWS turn 2012 into 1968 for Democrats?

Capitalizing on this support is the central issue facing OWS, and its ability to do so will depend on myriad factors, including the behavior of plutocrats, politicians, and police. (In terms of presenting shocking and morally clarifying imagery, the recent pepper-spraying incident at the University of California, Davis, struck many as reminiscent of Bull Connor’s goons dousing civil-rights protesters with fire hoses in 1963.) But it will also depend on which of two broad strains within OWS turns out to be dominant: the radical reformism of social democrats such as Berger, who want to see a more humane and egalitarian form of capitalism and a government less corrupted by money, or the radical utopianism of the movement’s anarchists and Marxists, who seek to replace our current economic and political arrangements with … who knows what? “My fear is that we become the worst of the New Left,” Berger says. “I don’t want to live in a fucking commune. I don’t want to blow shit up. I want to get stuff done.”…

What Obama may not understand so well is the degree of frustration inspired by him specifically among the protesters and their prime movers. Or the extent to which OWS and its energy is, as one liberal strategist puts it, is “the rotten fruit of Obamaism”—an army of young people, many of them inspired and mobilized by his campaign in 2008, who feel betrayed by his performance since he has, er, occupied the Oval Office.

“He cheated,” says Husain, who volunteered for the campaign on the belief that Obama could be a transformative president. “He ran on a platform he never intended to push. He made promises he never intended to keep. I was just amazed in his inaugural speech how little transformative there was. And then Tim Geithner—what the hell was that? And then the bailouts. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what was going on. It was a continuation of the same bullshit.”…

Occupy Congress is intended to lobby on behalf of Obama’s jobs agenda. But in truth the expansion of OWS that it represents could pose substantial political risks to the president in 2012—and it is here that the parallels to 1968 are at once resonant and meaningful. Back then, Richard Nixon built his campaign around an appeal to “the silent majority,” fueling and exploiting a growing backlash among white middle- and working-class voters against the less palatable aspects of the counterculture and its movements, and tarring Hubert Humphrey with guilt by association with them.