President could find political cover
8:41 am
Mon March 19, 2012

Occupy Wall Street Could Lead to Shift in Policies

Although the Occupy Wall Street movement is not involved in conventional campaigning, a political expert says it could have a dramatic effect on a second Obama administration.

Keith Boeckelman is chair of the political science department at Western Illinois University.

He says the president had to toe a moderate line after Republicans took control of the House of  Representatives and the Tea Party movement played a major part in House politics.

Boeckelman says, if Obama wins a second term, OWS might allow the president to navigate in a different political direction by giving him political cover.

He said, “If the major player is also OWS, then he has more room to move to the left. He can justify his positions and justify his movements based on 'I have to compromise with a wide variety of actors that are out there making noise politically'.”

Boeckelman thinks the president's speeches show he is tuned into the message of the Occupy movement, particularly its message highlighting income inequality. He says the president has paid more attention to the movement as it has gained momentum.

There are two ways Obama could actively move to the center. One is to take pro-union positions on more issues. Boeckelman says despite union support in his first campaign for president, Obama has been silent on labor issues in his first term. He also says Obama could turn away from free trade in the international arena though that is not likely.

He says history will judge OWS by its I think they have to have some staying power, obviously if they can last through the next election and still shape the debate on economic policy, I think that will make a big difference.”

Boeckelman says he was surprised by the president focused more on bailing out banks than homeowners. He says the president seems to feel that was a mistake.

Boeckelman is author of the book “Barack Obama, The New Face of American Politics” published in 2007.