Pin It
Favorite

Grassroots Energy 

Sizing up the electoral impact of the local Tea Party and Occupy movements

click to enlarge Occupy Spokane organizers say the movement helped shift the public debate.
  • Occupy Spokane organizers say the movement helped shift the public debate.

While most have laid down their banners and bullhorns, organizers from both the regional Tea Party Patriots and the Occupy Wall Street movement believe they have helped channel political energy into Northwest campaigns this election season.

Pam Stout, a Tea Party organizer in North Idaho, says the group has played a significant role in defining the issues candidates and constituents discussed as they went to the polls.

“What we have done is really open people’s eyes,” she says.

Former Occupy Spokane organizer Wayne Spitzer says the Occupy movement similarly forced a new debate on issues of financial inequality, corporate privilege and social justice.

“I think that’s been huge,” he says. “I think it’s helped bring attention to things that were left out of the conversation. ... It brought a lot of people into the political process.”

Neither group existed during the 2008 election. Both grassroots movements grew from the frustration of the recession and both claimed to speak for the unheard masses. From opposite ends of the political spectrum, they offered the average person a doorway into activism.

Stout argues the Tea Party has brought thousands of people into its discussion regarding the role of government and fiscal responsibility. The group has also pushed for more accountability for public officials, forcing lawmakers to reconsider their platforms and voting decisions.

“When you vote, you have to look at somebody’s record,” Stout says. “You have to be awake.”

Some efforts have gone further, with the Tea Party helping leverage several fresh candidates into office during the 2010 mid-term election. Washington state Tea Party coordinator Woody Hertzog says the group does not specifically endorse candidates, but it will lend support to some races that share their political priorities.

He says the group has flown extra Tea Party members into the state several times this year to help certain candidates, both Republican and Democrat, canvass neighborhoods or phone voters.

Compared to 2010, “We have significantly more people involved,” he says. “[But] it’s hard to say what the actual impact will be.”

Spitzer says the local Occupy effort has had its greatest success in simply bringing like-minded people together for the community good. He said many Occupy Spokane protesters later volunteered for campaigns or local nonprofits after getting their first taste of activism at an Occupy rally.

“Everybody just found their own little thread,” he says of the group’s outreach to other organizations.

Brian Davenport, a doctoral candidate at Gonzaga University, says his research on the Occupy movement shows it has largely fallen out of the national conversation. But, like Spitzer, he believes the movement helped many people find their way into politics, increasing voter engagement and volunteerism.

The Occupy protests did not have the clarity of vision that the Tea Party has, Davenport says, but they have launched many smaller efforts and work groups that may leave a lasting effect on the community or influence future elections.

“I think those working groups are going to spin off into important things,” he says. “We’ll start to see other movements pop up that had their genesis in the Occupy movement.” 

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Recall and Response
  • Recall and Response

    The attempt to remove Spokane Mayor David Condon from office may be a long shot, but he isn't taking any chances
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Shades of Black Lives
  • Shades of Black Lives

    A Spokane County detective's Facebook post about Black Lives Matter sparks debate among local law enforcement
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Fires Hit Home
  • Fires Hit Home

    Tens of thousands of acres burn around Spokane on Sunday and Monday; plus, DOJ weighs in on concerns over bail system
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue
Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion

Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Jacob Jones

Most Commented On

  • 'Unreasonable Threat to Life and Property'

    Spokane's rental housing has problems, but landlord and tenant groups are split on a solution
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • 'End of Story'

    Condon administration aims to close the controversial Frank Straub chapter — but last week's scathing report has irrevocably changed the narrative
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


election 2016


green zone


marijuana


trail mix


Readers also liked…

  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • A New Voice
  • A New Voice

    The Black Lens, continues Spokane's long tradition of African-American publications
    • Jan 21, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation