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Monday, Jan 9, 2012, 8:52 am

Occupying The Elections

By Allison Kilkenny

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Until Occupy Wall Street can regroup in the spring, the movement has fragmented into smaller action cells such as the one that reclaims foreclosed houses for families and defends others from eviction, while some other protest cells have been occupying the elections in Iowa and New Hampshire.

In comparison to the roar of last fall's protests, Occupying The Elections has been comprised of quieter, but seemingly ubiquitous drips.

Occupy Des Moines made a week of protesting every presidential candidate, including Ron Paul, during which handfuls of activists were arrested at any given event. Twelve over there. Another 18 over there. Until, at the end of the Iowa caucuses, upwards of 50 had been arrested.

“We’ve done our job,” said David Goodner, an Occupy Des Moines member and organizer. “We’ll keep at it and everything but it’s time to take this thing out to New Hampshire, and Nevada and South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states.”

The Occupiers chose to focus on all candidates because their grievances cannot be directed at a single individual or issue, but rather more broadly at a broken system, corrupted by corporate cash, which has marginalized the majority of Americans.

During the Mitt Romney protest in Iowa, protesters demanded Romney return the $61,500 he received in campaign contributions from Wells Fargo and that he release his tax returns.

While protesting Michele Bachmann, a young occupier said she wished the candidate would come out and hear her concerns about the cost of higher education, the war in Afghanistan, and the national debt.

When the elections moved to New Hampshire, so did the eye of Occupy, prompting a typically condescending response from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during an interrupted rally.

At a rally meant to be all about boosting support for Mitt Romney, protesters instead took center stage, evoking colorful responses from both Romney and his outspoken surrogate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who at one time referred to one of the protestors as “sweetheart.”

“Really?” said Christie, as soon as protestors interrupted him, the second outburst of the night from the group, who had already gone after Romney. “You know, something may go down tonight, but it ain’t going to be jobs, sweetheart.”

Romney lost whatever patience he had for the occupiers when they interrupted him a second time.

[W]hen Romney was approached again by protestors in the overflow room after the event, his patience seemed to have been worn thin.

As protestors yelled about who was to blame for the failing economy, Romney spun around on his heels, going back to address the crowd.

“You know what?” Romney said. “This president has caused a deepening recession and is responsible for 25 million Americans being out of work or stopped working or not being able to get jobs, and let me tell you, this president’s been a failure and that’s one of the reasons I’m running is to help you get a job.”

Think Progress does a nice job of fact-checking Romney's soundbites.

More than half a million of the jobs lost since Obama took office belonged to public sector workers and are the types of jobs Romney himself has promised to eliminate should he become president. And as this chart shows, the private sector job losses under Obama happened immediately after he took office, when the economy was still on the downswing following President Bush. Since then, the trend has been positive.

On Jan. 4, Romney came under intense questioning at a campaign event in New Hampshire from members of Occupy over his past remarks that "corporations are people."

Occupiers also disrupted a town hall starring Newt Gringrich and were promptly kicked out of the event. The group gathered outside to bang drums and rattle the windows, shouting through a bullhorn, "Newt! Newt! Come outside with your hands up and your pants down! We have you surrounded!" 

This is Gringrich's second run-in with Occupy. The first occurred on Dec. 21 at an Iowa Statehouse press conference.

Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.

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