Obama knows protesters at Occupy Wall Street are frustrated. Like Clinton and our pain, Obama feels that frustration.
“I think people are frustrated and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system work,” he said at his press conference Thursday.
It’s nothing new that the American people see the banks’ recovery in opposition to their own standing. This week, Rasmussen poll found that 79 percent of Americans agree with the statement that "the big banks got bailed out but the middle class got left behind."
As Occupy Wall Street looks to build power as it spreads across the country, the Tea Party has taken those numbers, well, right to the bank.
"There's never been a bigger crony capitalist that I've seen then Barack Obama," Iowa Tea Party leader Ryan Rhodes said this week when I asked him about Occupy Wall Street. And Rhodes is actively working to get Obama out.
From the beginning, the Tea Party focused its anger on officeholders - threatening to throw them out, which they did in the 2010 midterms.
In Iowa, Rhodes organized a Tea Party bus tour last summer to build momentum and allow activists to corner candidates on their positions on bailouts and big cuts to federal spending.
“If candidates are talking about our issues, we win,” he explained to The Atlantic. He endorsed Michele Bachmann on the eve of the Iowa Straw Poll.
In contrast, at the Wall Street protests in New York, there's been little focus on turning widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo into results at the polls.
"The cold fact that everybody's here is that people are aware that our votes are meaningless. It's a whole charade because it's the lobbyists that count,” said Kenny Ladd, a construction worker from Staten Island.
He still counts himself as an Obama supporter, but he said the president didn’t really have a chance when money and corporate power reign in Washington.
“Once you join the mechanism, you're part of the machinery," Ladd said. "He came in with noble ideas until the reality of politics landed on his head."
That was also the take of Elizabeth Starcevic, a retired CUNY professor who came to the protests after an afternoon union meeting this week.
“I think this is a bigger picture. I think this is an intention by the youth to say it doesn’t matter who’s in charge. There has to be a fair shake,” she said.
That wasn’t the case three years ago, when young activists were certain it mattered who was in charge, and they worked for candidate Obama.
New Yorker Alyssa Vinnik, now 26, was one of them. She knocked on doors for the campaign in Pennsylvania and Brooklyn, but is not sure she'd be great at it this time around.
"I felt very, very convinced in 2008, and think it would be a little bit harder to do that for other people who are skeptical because I feel a little skeptical myself,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a harder sell.”
Wall Street protester Heather Long, 18, is among the unconvinced.
"I’m neither here nor there on Obama,” she said.
Long drove up to the protests from Jacksonville, Florida. She's in a freshman in college, the first in her family to go - and she's felt the brunt of the bad economy close up close. Her dad works construction, and was unemployed for a four year stretch.
“It was very hard,” she said. “We went through a lot of times where the banks were trying to foreclose. We never had cable, we never had internet. We never had home phone service. Because we couldn't afford to pay those bills. It just wasn't an option."
And while Long says she’s excited to vote for the first time, she doesn't have much hope that a single election will change much.
"No matter how much sense either party makes, they're never going to agree with each other. They're always going be competing, who's right, who's better,” she said. “And as long as that's the competition, that's what they're concerned on, nothing's going to change. And so I feel like the way the government is set up needs to change."
So many find themselves at Occupy Wall Street, demonstrating for something bigger – more abstract – than electoral wins that could alter the balance of power in Washington.
All that could change when there's a Republican presidential challenger. Then, like Tea Party, they'll have someone to get fired up against.