The ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations against corporate greed began with no political affiliation, but in Washington, debate about the protests has cast them as a partisan struggle. Now the campaign arm of congressional Democrats is using the ongoing protest to build support for the party.
In an email to supporters, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Executive Director Robby Mook notes that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week referred to the protesters as "mobs."
"Mobs? That must be what Republicans refer to as the middle class, or maybe the millions of unemployed Americans across the country," the email says. It asks Democratic supporters to "send a message" to Republican leadership and sign a DCCC petition to "help us reach 100,000 strong standing with #OccupyWallStreet protestors."
Cantor is one of several Republican politicians in recent days to denounce the protests, which started about three weeks ago in New York City and have spread to cities nationwide. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the protests amounted to "class warfare," while presidential candidate Herman Cain accused the anti-Wall Street protesters of playing the "victim card."
Democrats, meanwhile, have expressed sympathy for the protesters, saying they speak to the problems that Democrats have been trying to solve with laws like the Dodd Frank Act.
"We share the anger and frustration of so many Americans who have seen the enormous toll that an unchecked Wall Street has taken on the overwhelming majority of Americans while benefitting the super wealthy," Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the co-chairs of the House Progressive Caucus, said in a statement last week.
Many of the protesters that have taken to the streets have expressed anger at Washington and the political system in general -- not necessarily the Republican party specifically. Groups that are allied with the Democratic party, such as unions and political grassroots groups, have attempted to capture the energy of the "Occupy" protests to advance their causes -- without alienating the disenchanted and angry protesters by co-opting the burgeoning movement.