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.