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Ehrenreich: Democratic Establishment Abandoned Occupy Wall Street

Author says she is 'disgusted' that Obama and other Democrats did not act to stop Zuccotti Park evictions

by Suzanne Goldenberg

Author Barbara Ehrenreich accused Barack Obama and the Democratic establishment of betraying the Occupy movement on Tuesday by failing to stop the evictions from Zuccotti Park.

Ehrenreich, who has championed the struggles of working class Americans in books such as Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America said her outrage at the police crackdowns was magnified by the acquiescence of Democratic leaders.

"One of the appalling things here is that there are so many Democratic mayors involved in these crackdowns or in Bloomberg's case, someone who is seen as a liberal," Ehrenreich said in a telephone interview. "And where in all this was Obama? Why couldn't he have picked up the phone at some point a couple of weeks ago and called the mayors of Portland and Oakland and said: 'go easy on these people. They represent the anger and aspirations of the majority'. Would that have been so difficult?"

She said Obama had been practically silent since the protesters first descended on New York two months ago. "There have been a few little muffled comments but he has practically disappeared."

For Ehrenreich, who has written in support of the protesters, the Occupy movement was an inflection point in American politics.

It was a repudiation of bureaucratic politics - even as pursued by those on the left, she said, and it was embraced across the country.

She said she had been astounded to learn that some 1,600 cities were under occupation at one point this autumn from the metropolis of New York to Ehrenreich's home town of Butte, Montana.

For years, she said, she had maintained the importance of going out to vote. Now, she suggested she was becoming sympathetic to the argument of some of the protesters that the political system was so corrupted that elections were irrelevant.

"I am a responsible citizen. I always tend to drag myself out to vote but I am having trouble making arguments for that. I find myself having a lot of trouble," she said. "We do not seem to be heard or represented."

She added: "I just feel so disgusted at this point."

For all her anger, though, Ehrenreich said she remained confident that the evictions were not the last for the movement.

As the weather started to turn, she had grown nervous, she said, about the living conditions of those camping out on the streets. Would they be risking exposure? Would it be like watching hunger strikers starve to death?

But over the last several weeks, she said she had watched the protesters in New York and Los Angeles abandon their fixed positions and move out on a series of spontaneous actions, setting up union picket lines or as flash mobs.

That, Ehrenreich said, could be the future for the Occupy protests, as the demonstrators are moved on from city centers. They might find a home on university campuses, or they might just keep moving.

"I think the spirit is there. It's defiant. It's contagious," she said. "They are beginning to think of themselves as flying squadrons - flying squadrons for justice."

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