How do you measure success for Occupy Wall Street movement?
Occupy Wall Street protesters hold up signs showing their frustration with the current economic situation.
October 31st, 2011
01:05 PM ET

How do you measure success for Occupy Wall Street movement?

There's no easy way to define Occupy Wall Street. That's part of what's made it hard for the media - and those involved in the protests - to wrap their arms around the movement.

Many people have questioned the movement's legitimacy, since it has no clear leadership,  nor a clear list of demands or solutions to the economic inequalities it rails against.

It also raises endgame questions.

What would it actually take to say, yes, this movement of protest, spurred by a large group of people across the country and world, was a successful movement? Or is it too early to even assess what impact it may have had?

Would success need to come in the form of large reforms being passed regarding jobs, unemployment and economic policies that affect Wall Street - or even of President Obama losing re-election? Would it be adjustment of our current government model to one that more accurately reflects what protesters want?

Jeffrey D. Sachs, an expert in economics, visited the Occupy Wall Street crowd in New York's Zuccotti Park early in October and suggested that success could come in the form of a change in what groups politicians look to for influence (hint: not the 1% that can shell out money for dinners with the politicians). He also said the protesters needed to elect a government that will represent the 99%.

"What are we going to do when we get it? We are going to re-establish government for the people. The people need help and the government is there to help. So with all that income of the 1%, there's some pretty good things to do."

Sachs suggests that the 99% could make a lot of changes with the money of the 1% - including spreading the wealth to close the financial equality gap, while taxing the rich in order to use the money to fix our struggling economy as well as bringing our troops home.

Some have suggested you wouldn't need a re-established government or new policies as a whole to be a success - just a defeat for Obama.

Jonah Goldberg, an American Enterprise Institute visiting fellow, wrote for the National Review about the Occupy Wall Street movement's potential to have political success like the tea party:

"There's only one way the Occupy Wall Street movement can become like the tea parties, and that’s for Barack Obama to lose in 2012. Why? Because Obama is the most divisive figure in American politics today. ...

If Occupy Wall Street is a sincere, organic, grassroots movement for radical change and overturning the status quo, it can’t be 100 percent behind the guy who’s been running the country for the last three years.

Moreover, Democrats had near total control of the government for Obama’s first two years. Together, Obama and congressional Democrats already got their Wall Street and student-loan reforms, their health-care overhaul, and a huge stimulus. And yet Occupy Wall Street is still furious with the political status quo. Does anyone believe Obama can both run on his record and co-opt the Occupy Wall Streeters?"

Joseph Lazzaro, the U.S. editor at the International Business Times, notes that while some on the right may believe unseating Obama is the key to ending the movement, it won't end what jump-started the movement.

"Tea party supporters, and other conservatives, argue that if only President Barack Obama is defeated, or more Republicans are elected to Congress (and more Democrats voted out of Congress) or more unions are broken up, that will be the end of Occupy Wall Street, and the nation's economic and social problems.

 In sum, the U.S.'s economic and social problems are there, Occupy Wall Street headlines or not."

NPR dedicated a segment to asking people what they felt would spell success for the movement. One listener suggested it would come in the form of presenting the movement's own political candidates and a voting bloc. Another suggested success was simply about raising greater awareness and continuing the path the movement is on. Others suggested that it meant specific reform in campaign finance laws and bankruptcy regulations.

So, you've got passing reform, ousting the leader of our country, and engagement in the political process as options. But is a defined, significant goal like that the only way to measure success? Does it depend on whether the Occupy protesters can literally weather the cold fronts that are upon them? Or is it possible you could already call the movement a winner because it has invigorated a group of people, who may not have been politically active before, to stand up and say they are unhappy with the status quo?

Don McNay, the author of "Wealth Without Wall Street: A Main Street Guide to Making Money" wrote for the Huffington Post that the movement has allowed that group and the silent majority that supports it to have a wider voice in the public discourse.

"The days of clamping down free speech with violence are over. The average citizen, using social media, has too many ways to communicate, organize and stand up to oppression.

I think it will be difficult for the Occupy movement to maintain its outdoor protests through the cold winter months, but I expect the seeds of their protest to have an impact for years.

Already, they have had an immediate victory."

While we may not know, or be able to really put into words, what a finish line looks like for the Occupy movement, there are a few things that can give us some insight on how its ideas are entering the national dialogue.  Google took the time to dedicate a blog post to looking at what search terms might tell us about the movement's impact.

"Search interest for (Occupy Wall Street) jumped ahead of the (tea party) on September 24, and hasn’t looked back. In a historical context, when viewing the snapshot of their nascent birth, we can see the peak of (Occupy Wall Street) has slightly more interest in American than searches for the (tea party) did during the groups peak in 2009."

So what would success for the movement look like to you? Do you think there is a finish line in sight? Let us know your thoughts below.

Filed under: Occupy Wall Street • Politics
soundoff (2,280 Responses)
  1. Richard

    BTW in the late 60's also lacked a clear list of demands or solutions and in the long term they changed this nation.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • AQ

      The higher ups seem to have forgotten all that LOL.

      October 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • scott

      Yeah and look what it changed into...

      October 31, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • BoogieMan

      They dropped too much acid back then and forgot what happened. Now they give their children Adderall and ridicule us saying we're all hippies. Go back to your Medicare and SS while it lasts old man.

      October 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Onegood1

    The definition of success is a new law requiring that a person has paid either income or property taxes in order for them to get a voting card.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • JimInOhio


      October 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Robert

    We can change the whole entire American problem with one thing: get rid of the two-party system! Americans today have only two choice and for a lot of people, both choices suck. We need more parties to have a voice in government!

    October 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • LJ

      The only problem with that is, you end up with a much smaller percentage of people electing leaders for everyone. Do you really want leaders that were elected by only 21% of the people?

      October 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John1Galt

    Fair enough.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anna

    Sohe media wants a list of things that that they can write and for sure, use no nuances to confuse them or the uneducated masses that they think they write for. Do you really think that the media asked Martin Luther King for lists so that they could understand racism? Ninety-nine percent of the population has been watching Wall Street tear down our society and completely blow out the entire middle class underpinnings (jobs). You can make your own list of what you have observed Wall Street doing with the help of our bought off US Congress through the Geo.W Bush administration and the feeble attempts of Obama's finqancial wizards to right this sinking ship. It is going to take a huge orchestrated effort involving all 3 branches of government to fix this. No some silly list. Media, get on it and stop whining.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. that guy

    Get back in the trailer. Your batch of meth is bubbling over.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    Oh, hey, another idiotic racist. I'm sure your religion doesn't say things like "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" or anything like that.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. eddy05

    Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.

    William Feather

    October 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. connie ross

    Hey "Bubba" – what makes you so sure their mommies are getting welfare? Their parents may work, but if they are not getting health benefits, pension plans, dental plans, etc. from their employers, they may have fewer available resources than people who get all these benefits from their empoyers (city sanitation workers???)

    October 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      There must be two people using this handle. I don't recall saying any such thing.

      October 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    Occupy wall street will make the tea party look like a tea party.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. The Ex

    They are raising awareness, pressing the issue and spending very little money to do it. I'd say they run themselves a lot more efficiently than the marketing department at McDonald's. Hang in there, occupiers. Wall Street IS the problem. They imploded themselves and then came begging for the bailouts... and they will do it again.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ancient Texan

      Some of the BANKS were forced against their will to take money they neither wanted or needed. Then they were prevented from paying back the money until the Government finally permitted. The government collected $19 billion in interest so far.

      October 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Ex

      Texan writes: "Some of the BANKS were forced against their will to take money they neither wanted or needed."

      Can you give us some examples? Who were these banks who were 'forced' to take money from the government and please send us a link to your references.

      October 31, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BoogieMan

    If they are able to find a job in this economy, they will also be paying for YOUR social security. I bet you are the type who complains about abortion rights, but also complains about paying out welfare checks. You cant have it both ways, even if you're a bagger...

    October 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ancient Texan

    Stanford- You are thinking the Corporations that are holding trillions of dollars and not spending it are REPUBLICANS? Do you not know that the BULK of money going to Candiates from corporations is going to OBAMA? But regardless which party is represented by the corporations, it's THEIR MONEY, not yours.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. that guy

    Where? Arkansas?

    October 31, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. connie ross

    And "Bubba", I am also the 53 percent. But I don't like to put other people into categories without knowing their individual situations. I could, however, make an exception for people named "Bubba".

    October 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      LOL! Passive aggressive much?

      October 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
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