By Trinh Truong

I’ll admit–As an occupier this was one specific question that I danced around for quite some time. I’m not sure what it was, the lack of concrete victories that encompass the whole collective, or only the certainty of uncertainty.

Having been vigorously involved in a local occupation, I could easily ramble on and on about all of the progress and ground that we’ve broken as a small, yet productive group. For example the Justice for John campaign; organizing successful food drives; helping a local family enduring hard times due to an imprisoned breadwinner; helping to improve the local common council. Okay, so enough gloating here. But the point of the matter is that with my encounters on a small-scale, we have been quite successful and will hopefully continue to be.

I had an extremely thought-provoking experience with a friend of mine today over a nice, warm, cup of Joe. The main purpose of our two-man coffee klatch was to hash out our difference over our one, main point of contention–the Occupy movement. It was then that I was faced with the million dollar question: “So where is Occupy going?” My friend’s main argument about Occupy was that we weren’t utilizing our momentum in a productive way and that we should try to get Occupy-backed elected officials into office. He cited the Tea Party’s strategy, which, you’ve got to admit, has been somewhat successful. Crucify me for this, but I’d say that his argument was quite valid.

However, getting an Occupy-backed official into office is the equivalent to an oxymoron. My response was that it was a contradiction so asinine, much like if you were to say that Sarah Palin was quite sane. In today’s political battlefield, with precedents such as Citizens United vs. FEC, it’s quite hard to win an election without a stockpile of dollar signs. Not impossible, but an uphill battle is almost certain without the latter. There would also be the challenge of having an official comprehensively represent the whole collective, as the point of Occupy was to be inclusive of all views and political affiliations. No constituent left behind! His rebuttal was the suggestion to centralize our movement and to have a more rigid and clear set of ideals and goals.

“L’esprit de l’escalier” is an idiomatic expression that translates to the feeling of thinking of the right comeback too late. Extremely suitable for my predicament. I wasn’t exactly sure on how to formulate logical, coherent thoughts on the conversation I had earlier today, because I was engulfed in humility. However, my thoughts are starting to come full circle now, hours after the happening.

In my opinion, ideally (here we go with my raging idealistic inclinations now), Occupy should have elected representatives on our behalf. Let’s face it, in this instance it’s much easier to exploit an institution to work in our favor rather than completely uprooting it and starting anew. As I’ve stated previously, there are a myriad of reservations about the conquest of getting Occupy-backed elected officials into office. Personally, I’m not too crazy about the idea, but on a pragmatic level (which is hard for me), it’s the only way of maximizing our effectiveness and spurring lasting reform.

The area of controversy isn’t what the end destination is, it’s more of the strategical route that we will choose to get from A to B. And remember, this is all hypothetical! Should we use money and lobbyists to get there? Abiding by our morals and values, absolutely not. But when abiding by the rules of the modern, ruthless and cutthroat race… We might be forced to. Hypocrisy has its own elegant symmetry, eh?

Despite which route we decide to take if we’re ever faced with the situation, I’ve managed to identify one barrier that would possibly deter us from attaining our desired impact. Drum roll please… VOTING! Especially on a local level. Utica has roughly 62,000 residents yet only about 3,000 voted in the recent school board elections. You heard that right, only about 4.8% of registered voters came out. Frightening if you think about it. Anyway, that’s just the local feel of the negligent voting proclivity. On a national level, only about 2/3 of registered voters cast their votes in the Obama vs. McCain race. 2/3 isn’t as good as 3/3, but at least it was an increase in the voter turnout.

Anyway, I digress.

Enough with the statistical data, the point of the matter is that voting is key. How can we ever have duties delegated to a favorable candidate if we don’t support them in the most important way–at the booth? You can be any candidate’s number one fan, yard signs, bumper stickers et al but you’ll still be rendered useless to them if you don’t get out there and vote. Sometimes I wonder how people don’t vote. I know for sure I’d want to add input into the selection of who would be writing legislation that I’d have to abide by and who would be making decisions on my behalf. We, as the Occupy movement, would have the daunting task of educating and motivating everyone in our collective to take the initiative to vote if we were to endorse a candidate for an elected position.

If Occupy wants to build a foundation for lasting change and favorable socioeconomic policies, we must mobilize in order to produce candidates that will serve their term in whichever office with the utmost consideration of the people who put them there, figure out a game plan to get them elected, and getting people to not only talk the talk but to walk the walk as well.