Occupy a Wing of the Democratic Party

Earlier this week, Occupy protests erupted across the country. I'm inspired by the movement. I could smell democracy in the air last fall when young and old were peacefully standing in solidarity against income inequality. It was emblematic of the best of democracy -- ideas expressed in the public square.

When I think of what Chinese dissident Chen Chen Guangcheng had to endure just for criticizing Chinese policies -- house arrest, a flight as a blind man from brutality -- it makes me proud that in this country, we endure even uncomfortable encampments. Or we should -- even when tent cities are inconvenient, even when they invite a wide array of humanity, like a wild and beautiful garden.

I love the protest signs protected by the First Amendment -- some of them humorous, some of them passionate, some factual, some entirely incorrect -- all of them free ideas.

But there's another outgrowth of the occupy movement that isn't healthy at all -- the anarchists and violent outsiders aiming to co-opt and delegitimize the movement. Whoever they are and whatever their motive, engaging in violence is ruining a very special thing.

In some places, the violent images have overtaken the message. In some places, parents don't feel it's safe to take their children to protest.

Now, I get it -- many original occupiers believe the political system has become so corrupt that even participating in it, engaging with it, corrupts the movement. I understand what they are saying. But often, change does come more quickly from the inside rather than the outside. My advice: try both. But don't try violence.

And by the way, not engaging misses a real opportunity for change. Instead, perhaps the original Occupy movement should occupy a wing of the Democratic Party. Become an alternative to the Tea Party, as Josh Harkinson from Mother Jones has suggested. And then, once that happens, occupy the majority in Congress.

Cross-posted at "The War Room" blog. Follow Jennifer Granholm on Facebook and Twitter and War Room on Facebook and Twitter.