It was a movement born out of frustration and idealism and eventually wore out and was swept out of its soggy civic encampments by the municipal broom. There it was, and then there it wasn’t.
It was criticized for its lack of agenda items, and if you visited it while it was around, it was all a little vague as to what was going on. It was essentially there as a witness, to an idea. The idea was that economic and social inequality were getting out of hand, and that financial and corporate power were running away with the game.
They did achieve one thing in their not-all-that-brief moment in the sun and not-so-sunny, and that was to put the idea of the 99% into the public discussion.
And now, with Hillary’s latest speech where she followed Bernie Sanders into Occupy turf, we have the Occupy worldview dead center in a presidential election campaign. Not a bad day’s work for hippies.
The secret to having your idea gain traction is to get the idea right. That’s what Occupy did. They didn’t know what to do about it because the game was fixed at every level. No agenda items they proposed stood a chance until more people got clued in to how the political terrain had frozen. So they stood there in the rain and cold, and the idea got into the back of everyone’s head that maybe they had a point. Some further reflection was all it took.
Now it’s all anyone is talking about.
In the stages of social movements Occupy was the “take-off” of a new phase of the movement for social justice. After it landed it evolved, now the issues raised in Occupy (none of which are new) are being fought in the effort for $15 minimum wage, Black Lives Matter (yes Occupy included protests against police killings of unarmed Blacks, against mass incarceration and racism), the various efforts to shrink the wealth divide, stop corporate trade deals and fight climate change, among others.
The current stage of the social movement we are in is building national consensus. This is going to take time, but it is occurring. In fact, this headline and article shows we are making progress. We still have a lot of work to do and articles like these will build confidence of activists and spur us to do more so we can actually win. Hillary Clinton is no victory for Occupy though, in many ways, she is our opposite based on her record, despite her current rhetoric.
Essentially, most people’s dreams, regardless of all the obvious flaws (including the people who’ve been traditionally excluded) is the socio-economy of the 1950s and 1960s. In other words, capitalism with a strong labor force, fair taxes, opportunity and some mobility. If OWS had focused on the problems, they would have called for re-instating Glass Steagall, and re-pealing the carried interest tax loophole, things like that, which were the proximate causes of the meltdown. Instead, OWS wanted to throw out “the system.” Even if the worst accusations about Government interference and targeting of OWS are absolutely true, OWS would have petered out all on its own. The vast majority of people in the country were never going to buy into OWS “collectivism,” which is a distinctly different animal from Bernie Sanders’ “socialism.” Bernie Sanders is not advocating tearing down “the system,” as OWS did. Bernie’s for economic fairness, a saner income and wealth distribution, regulation. But Bernie’s not advocating the end of capitalism. Neither is Elizabeth Warren (And we sure no Hillary isn’t anti-capitalist.).
OWS lost. And OWS is not winning now. When and if we can roll back capitalism to the 1950s and 1960s model, with broader inclusion, the vast majority of Americans, particularly the Middle Class, will be perfectly happy. And the Upper Classes will still be happy, because they will still be rich, just as they were in earlier, less skewed times.