Say what you will about Occupy Philly, but they’re consistent on one front: They definitely abhor leaders.
So when one member of the 50-plus-day encampment of late 2011 announced last week that he would challenge U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Philadelphia, for her congressional seat, the group declined to endorse him.
Nathan Kleinman may be the first Occupy protester in America to run for national office, but it didn’t matter to a general assembly meeting of Occupy Philly late last week. In addition to the endorsement snub, the group also adopted a resolution stating they are not a political party and that its general assembly does not endorse any political candidate.
But Kleinman says he’s not taking it personally.
“I really don’t want this candidacy to suck energy out of this movement,” he said after the meeting. “I’m still going to be here [as an Occupy member].”
Kleinman, 29, has a background in politics — and not just the outdoor, anti-1-percent kind.
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Born in Philadelphia and raised in Abington, he graduated from Georgetown University and the Walsh School of Foreign Service with a degree in culture and politics in 2004.
In 2010, he worked as an aide to Joe Sestak during the pol’s successful primary campaign against Sen. Arlen Specter and then during Sestak’s unsuccessful general election campaign against Pat Toomey.
Kleinman also served as a legislative assistant to state Rep. Josh Shapiro in 2011 until resigning to devote his energy full time to the Occupy movement.
“The main reason why I’m running is because I’m afraid we’re losing our democracy, if we haven’t lost it already, to some creeping form of corporate fascism,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Schwartz declined comment.
For Occupy, not politics
During Thursday’s meeting at the Friends Center, Kleinman admitted that Occupy exists outside of traditional political roles. “I think the movement is not about electoral politics,”?he said.
The opinion seems in line with the group’s beliefs. Shawn McMonigle, 24, with Occupy Philly since its inception, told Metro that he doesn’t vote because the system doesn’t work.
Sean Damon, 34, another member since inception last year, had practical reasons for opposing Kleinman’s campaign. “I would prefer he didn’t run,”?he said, “because I think it’s going to take a lot of his time.”
Kleinman volunteered to work for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign in Pennsylvania and later became a paid worker for the campaign.
“I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure a Republican didn’t succeed George W. Bush,” he said.
Even more fascinating, his duties as an Obama campaign worker involved acting as Ted Kennedy’s driver for a couple days and sitting with Michelle Obama on stage during a campaign event.