Occupy Maine (and everywhere else)
While its members (and the rest of the 99 percent) wait to see about how OccupyMaine fares in court — and in possible multiple rounds of appeals and requests for reconsideration — they're not resting on their pallets and sleeping mats. After the lawsuit was filed, OccupyMaine's outward-looking activist efforts stepped up noticeably, with several rallies and events, including screening an inspirational film about the Arab Spring, supporting clean air and peace on Earth, attending a ceremony remembering homeless people who have died, and continuing the weekly series of community discussions and potluck meals.
In Augusta and elsewhere around the state, Occupiers no longer in encampments are planning how to approach lawmakers when the Legislature comes back into session. And nationally, the movement is retooling as well, with possible futures ranging from spreading the movement across the nation (in the style of Spain's indignados), continued General Assemblies (like in Boston), official recognition (such as Portland Mayor Mike Brennan's offer to create a mayoral task force reviewing issues Occupy has brought to the fore), and continued spotlighting of human-services needs (as seen in the OccupyMaine meetings with Portland officials that resulted in housing for several homeless protesters). Around the country there have been Occupy actions protesting foreclosures; look for something along that line to happen locally too. There's even a suggestion (from former Wall Street regulator Eliot Spitzer) that the slogan change to We Own Wall Street, and that efforts shift to shareholder activism by the millions of Americans who own mutual funds, retirement accounts, and other investments — with the goal of demanding that corporate officials respond to not just the needs of our democracy, but also of their real owners, the American people.
We'll also see how the Occupy message and its larger philosophies affect the 2012 presidential race. President Obama has already issued some 99-percenter rhetoric, and GOP candidates are struggling to respond to their financial backers and their voters, who have never seemed to overlap less. Closer to home, the Occupy movement appears ineffective in penetrating Governor LePage's single-minded neoconservative agenda, but it remains to be seen whether state Republicans in a legislative election year will stick with him or shift left with their constituents.
Lots of attention will be focused on the presidential election, but Maine will be inundated with local campaigns too. State legislators are up for re-election, giving voters the chance to repudiate or affirm two years of conservative majority rule in Augusta.
In addition, two Democrats and two Tea Partiers have announced plans to challenge US Senate veteran Olympia Snowe, the (sometimes) moderate Republican who has served in Congress since 1973. Former Maine secretary of state Matt Dunlap, of Old Town, will run against Portland state representative and attorney Jon Hinck in a Democratic primary.
"The lens from which I'm approaching the race is: greater respect and support for the American middle class," Hinck said, adding that Snowe has been "glaringly weak" on issues that affect the 99 percent.