OK, Occupy Boston, What's Next?

Occupy Boston has captured lots of media space with their occupation of the Greenway, but I’m still searching for the long-term strategy.

It has tapped into the collective unease over the state of employment in this country. Faced with flat or declining incomes over time (with compensation increases being consumed by healthcare) and the effects of the recession — high unemployment, widespread underemployment, and declining workforce participation — many are either unemployed or deeply insecure financially.

The physical protest itself raises questions about the coherence and potential longevity of the movement. The protesters (from my highly unscientific inspection and reading of news coverage) appear to be mostly white 20-something males. Not sure that’s the broadest base for a movement. (Side note: News photographers seem to have a knack for catching the bandanna-masked libertarian-anarchist types, of which I’ve seen none.)

The question that keeps cropping up is “What do you want?” Aside from the theme of removing the corporate influence over politics, I’m not sure. Their missives are laden with lists of complaints about the actions of “they” and “them,” but there’s less about what specific reforms are needed.

It’s probably unfair to look for a specific platform so early on, but their political path looks uncertain. The Tea Party movement still lacks some coherence, but it’s action in the last few election cycles — primarying moderate Republicans with their own candidates — is what has given them power.

Will the “Occupy” movement take the same steps? It’s hard to envision them primarying people like Mike Capuano, Tom Menino, or Barney Frank. The most current local analog to the Tea Party strategy might be the 2010 primary challenge to Congressman Steven Lynch by Mac D’Alessandro — which Lynch won by roughly 2-1. Again, I’m hard-pressed to see the potential for the movement to do this on widespread basis.

And on a more minor note: I’m curious why they chose the Greenway. That’s supposed to be the public’s reward for enduring and funding the Big Dig. Now, that portion of the park is effectively shut off to anyone but themselves (unless the notion of walking on muddy, wet cardboard and pallets between tightly packed tents is your idea of a pastoral stroll). And, given the current funding strategy for the Greenway, it appears that the wealthy developers (card-carrying 1 percenters, to be sure) will end up paying for the repairs.