The 2012 elections will dominate the mass media in the next year. With tens of millions out of work, facing foreclosures, or desperately trying to keep their heads above water, the debate around the 2012 elections will provoke a wider and more serious discussion of politics among workers and young people than is usually the case in non-election years, though it is likely this year’s race will have a lower level of political interest than the exceptionally intense levels generated in 2008 and 2004.

2011 was an extraordinary year. Decades of pain inflicted on working-class people and the poor found expression in a new social movement against the ruling elite – Occupy Wall Street. Occupy has overcome a number of obstacles, including media shutout and police violence. But 2012, an election year, offers new dangers and opportunities. Will Occupy and the left be able to keep building a dynamic movement in the face of a barrage of pressure from the liberal establishment centered around its demand that all progressives focus on electing Democrats?

The four-year cycle of presidential elections – along with a myriad of state and local elections – is a unique time in the U.S., when tens and hundreds of millions of Americans tune in to politics. Because of the level of prominence it has achieved, Occupy is in a unique position, if it runs its own candidates in this election year, to bring its message into the homes of tens of millions of Americans who are looking for an alternative to the corporate-dominated two parties in Washington.