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. LOlreallynow

    I originally posted this one another CNN OWS related video. AND OWS supporters jumped all over it saying That is exactly what this was about...

    "This National Socialist revolution has
    but one goal, namely to restore order within its own nation, to give our
    hungry masses work and bread, to champion the concepts of honor,
    loyalty and decency as the basis of a moral code which cannot harm other
    nations but only contribute to their general welfare. If the National
    Socialist movement did not represent a body of ideas and ideals, it
    could never have succeeded in saving our People from ultimate

    THEN I later informed them it was a speech from Adolf Hitler in 1939. NO OWS you are not the 99%. You are wanna be Nazis. Anyone else miss the the signs the carries saying Down with the greedy Jewish banks? Figure it out. It isnt that hard.

    October 31, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Logic is good

      I'll re-post this reply I did earlier here so you can learn a thing or two. You may kick & squirm, but you cannot argue against the logic I present and actually believe in the ideals we often tout as our greatest asset: freedom. you are just like sooooo many in my family, at work and other places that THINK they know something but don't know crap. I'm a free thinker, support the IDEA we were founded which was a progressive ideology by it's nature, and I'm NOT what your simple mind would quickly spout "commie" or whatever. I'm just a logical person not extreme in any way. Here, nibble on this and be truthful to yourselves...

      The answer? SIMPLE. It'll take an end of fascism-lite in American business practices as a basic model. What I mean by that is when business' interests (ie: getting attention of politicians, generally "getting their way") are put above the citizens' in the name of ___________ ("freedom" or "free-markets" or any jingoistic term used in the name of profit). Not that the OWS have this idea as a dominating thought. No way! Because think of how ignorant the average citizen is of the term fascism yet throw it around to ridicule anyone they don't like. ie: Obama is often called fascist when in fact that's the opposite extreme ideology of the one they are trying to exaggerate: communism!! Which anyone that has taken a basic course in history instantly understand is absurd and is only coming from either an ignorant person, a misguided one, or a deliberate one trying to confuse the first two. And even a "right-wing" idiot like G.W. Bush wasn't a true one. And although his administration DID take a step that direction because the GOP's conservative nationalism values are naturally in line with fascist ideals, it's irresponsible to call even him an outright fascist like many did. Or anyone running today for that matter. They may have similar traits as a seedling but it'd be too hard in today's connected world to push it too far.

      But do ponder this as food for thought: have there been untold "lessons" learned in WW2 by those who still may admire and adhere to the basic fascist idea realize it's (awful) potential but learned by the Axis' defeat and only around 12 years of rule that to go at it full-force is the wrong way? And to perhaps slowly incorporate a twisted message of altruism towards business interests (they call "unregulated") as equal to patriotism into our society is a much more effective method?

      But why is this OWS thing happening and what can be addressed? Well, this is the result of not understanding how we are manipulated with a carrot of consumerism propaganda within the fascist-lite model, and then after a while get the natural unsettling feeling we are being duped through life at expense of our money and health for the few at the top's benefit, and being told / convinced the whole time it's the "best way to live and best place on Earth, you don't like it leave!" as if that's some kind of noble stance. The long-term build-up of this has been brewing for decades because the methods are so slick and hard to see in action because it's a mindset we are groomed with from birth now. I mean it's easy to see if you look, but most do not, and it's not just greed either, it's the idea of self-preservation of an ideology by it's very victims. But even the subtle unseen and unacknowledged fascism-lite that exists merely as a single yet inseparable element of capitalism has the effect of showing the ugly reality of powerful greedy people that utilize it's benefits here... the "benefit" being fascism and capitalism share obvious traits so it cannot be narrowed down too easily and both reward greed so it's really a double-whammy of a dose that's at work. Many seem to think "share the wealth" is communism which is just dumb and a product of fascist propaganda. It's a simplified slogan that comes across all wrong. But what about the flip side to all that? I'm anti-communist or anti-"control" too, but what about the fact capitalism is a stage a society MUST go through on the way to fascism? Where is the outrage in THAT obvious fact?? Are we really so mesmerized? No, we are not. The OWS movement is a natural somewhat "leftish / progressive angle" reaction to these forces I think, which are themselves hard to define, so this movement too is hard to define. In essence, it's a balancing act that plays out confusing in the details.

      (I do NOT mean Nazism when I say fascism either... that's a whole other level of fascism with extreme racist and religious elements... although there is kind of an argument there as I've personally seen/heard in my home state in the south...... ok, ok, I'll save the rest for the meeting at the docks behind the warehouses... 😉

      November 1, 2011 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mk54

    Success comes when everyone in America who wants a job can find one.....then if they are still on the street it isn't a protest movement, it is a congregation of lazy bums

    October 31, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank Airport

    "David Graeber is a 50-year-old anthropologist - among the brightest, some argue, of his generation... An American, he teaches at (the) University of London.

    "He’s also an anarchist and radical organizer, a veteran of many of the major left-wing demonstrations of the past decade: Quebec City and Genoa, the Republican National Convention protests in Philadelphia (2000, George W. Bush) and New York, the World Economic Forum in New York in 2002, the London tuition protests this year.

    "This summer, Graeber was a key member of a small band of activists who quietly planned, then noisily carried out, the occupation of Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, providing the focal point for what has grown into an amorphous global movement known as Occupy Wall Street."


    October 31, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. conoclast

    To a large extent the Occupiers' ends and their means are the same: to finally take a stand against the plutocracy's arrogance is an end in itself. At this point in time NOT taking that stand means we acquiesce, that we meekly accept what this country is fast becoming. So the "goal" of the Occupations has to a large extent been met: that we HAVE finally stood up; our "end" is that it is a beginning.

    October 31, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. PerfectSolution

    The 1%ers are in the looting mode since they know they will get their a$$ kicked anytime, Board of Directors of big corps are part of the scams and part of 1% in the looting mode also. Steal while you can! Just like Sanjay Kumar and party of Computer Associates. These big CEO's employ an army of VP's to shield them from law. Corp's are structured to protect the 1%ers. LOOT LOOT LOOT is the formula.

    October 31, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kathryn flynn

    I'm from the south–lived here all my life. I have a good education, a stable job, marriage and family. I am a democrat, support Occupy Wall Street and support Obama. I try very hard not to judge people by the color of their skin, their religion, or what part of the country they come from. Please at least try not to pigeonhole all southerners as uneducated, intolerant, racists. Those traits can be found anywhere.

    October 31, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Logic is good

      well I'm from Arkansas & I've lived in OKC, Ft. Smith, Dallas, Tulsa, Orlando, Portland & Seattle. Only the northwest has been anything close to open minded like you speak of. I'll never leave it either. I worked at hospitals in each of those places and even the educated like surgeons and other doctors on average had that dinner table racism i was brought up with too. Not the blatant kind, but the subtle kind where you'll hear things like "well it's not their fault I guess that they always resort to stealin'" or something because a black guy robbed a store. THAT'S the kind that still exists and not so much the "hang 'em" talk.

      November 1, 2011 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |

    I don't understand why these right-wing Tea Partying fanatics here want to go on with their anti-OWS rantings since all that proves is just how ignorant they are. Have these people no pride at all??? Unfortunately, these people can and do vote and therein lies the future downfall of this great nation of ours!

    October 31, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |

    We are trying to determine the issues at – please go and vote now and submit ideas for polls

    October 31, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Atlas Shrugged

    What a joke of a comment by Don McNay of the Huffington Post: " but I expect the seeds of their protest to have an impact for years". Most people have already forgotten and one week after this thing ends – it will be long forgotten.

    October 31, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crazyvermont

      I also was at Wall Street second week of movement and see a far different picture. While the majority of the protesters are "sheep" and have no idea why they are there, I see this movement continuing and unfortunately eventually violence. There definitely has been groundwork laid by groups who do not appreciate our way of life and there will be a struggle:(

      October 31, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duke S Rogers

      A lot of people are tired of politicians being bought be big money – whether it comes from corporations (they are not people) or rich individuals. A lot of people are tired of policies that lead to to a greater and greater inequality of wealth for a few while the lower and middle classes get squeezed. If there was a "level playing field" in the US as conservatives claim, then all it would take is hard work (regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic status) to succeed. That is not reality. People of color and less means have a much more difficult time attaining the American Dream. In fact, it is harder for most folks except (mostly) those who are wealthy and white. The solution is to elect candidates at all levels of political office who will get behind true campaign finance reform. This will give everyone an equal voice.

      October 31, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Eric

    How the author can suggest that Obama's defeat is a goal of the protester's is repugnant. The author is spinning in a most ridiculous fashion. Obama is pushing for taxing the rich more. That is clearly the goal of the movement. CNN should be embarrassed to allow this king of propaganda on its page.

    October 31, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fed up

      It isn't propaganda. The fact is, the article quoted something that all real democrats need to heed. The so-called democrats of the government had control for 2 years and did little according to what was promised. The health care reform didn't help the majority of people. In fact, I got a 30 percent increase in premiums on my insurance thanks to it. He promised to push for something more like universal and instead rolled over for the republicans. He didn't get us out of Iraq by the time he said. He instead said, "it's over" and left our people there to fight. Still fighting = not over. Obama is also accepting money from lobbyists, but via a loophole that doesn't technically violate his promise not to do so. He's taking the money from people that are lobbyists, but not from them as functioning lobbyists. Obama turned out to be a moderate republican and I regret voting for the liar. I'm embarrassed that I donated some of my family's hard earned money to the false change campaign. At least if I would have voted republican I would have known I was getting a fraud. The dems of the last few years have completely ruined my belief that any politician is really in it for the people. They're all the same. We need to somehow break the corporate stranglehold on the government via these liars, but I don't see it happening.

      October 31, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Watcher

    By the way: 1% of the people in the USA own more wealth than 95% of the rest. People must be asleep to believe in “American Dream”

    October 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Madtown90

      I understand discontent with the way the economy is but your statement is just plain untrue, and would only serve to increase people's divisiveness. The top 1% control roughly a third of the wealth of the country, fluctuating slightly depending on a variety of factors that I don't feel like talking about in a simple response post.

      October 31, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • anon

      You have a math problem. Wealth distribution has remained essentially unchanged the last 75 years.

      US wealth distribution – See table 3 and Figure 5

      October 31, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • InDisguise

      Given the most recent data says that the wealthiest 1% of the US controls only 17% of the nation's wealth, your statement is mathematically impossible. But lets not let facts get in the way of political rhetoric.

      October 31, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark Jeffreys

      @Watcher – uh, the top 1% of income earners, by definition, earn more than the other 99%. Otherwise, how are they the top 1%? But the collective income of the top 1% earners amounts to 16.7% of ALL earned income. NOT 95%. BTW, the top 1% pay 34.3% of ALL income taxes. In other words, we already have a punitive, progressive income tax. Taking this a step further, the top 0.1% (one-tenth of one percent) earn on average $4.4 million annually, and pay on average $1.07 million in taxes, a rate of 24.3%. Warren Buffet and YOUR President are liars, by intent. You are being used. Wake up.

      October 31, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Richard Wallace Williams

    Eliminate the undue influence of MONEY from the equation, "The Collective Will of the People = Government By the People and For the People".

    October 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brie

      you are pathetic.

      October 31, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill


      Why don't you tell us why he is pathetic. You have not said one thing with any real substance here. My thoughts are you don't have a well thought out argument. Just poor pathetic one liners. sincerely a top 5% tax paying, educated professional.

      October 31, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. soupfork

    hippies go home

    October 31, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. soupfork

    the stench at tent city must be horrific

    October 31, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • joel

      Obviously, there's no reason to exchange words with a hatemonger. But for all of you who haven't been to any of the occupations, let me address the issue of cleanliness. The kids who are the driving spirit of this movement are all about SAVE THE EARTH! No one dares throw an empty plastic water bottle in the wrong recycling bin. Everyone is majoring in sustainable energy and permaculture (whatever that is). If cleanliness is compromised, it's part of the authorities' strategy to weaken the movement by failing to provide facilities. More importantly, the 'smelly hippie' propaganda is part of the right's dehumanization of the protesters, the kind of dehumanization which always precedes violence.

      October 31, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ray E. Georgia

    Thr Revolution was faught around 1776. It is over. I'm sorry if Liberal Policies by the Government has brought us to this prediciment but Occuping anything won't fix anything.. Business is learning how to get by with less workers so getting enployment may be harder than before. Employers aren't hiring because they don't know what regulation they will be saddled with next. Liberalisim fiailed in the Old Soviet Union. Same in Greece. Same here. Sorry.

    October 31, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brie

      OMG !!!

      October 31, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • joel

      I'll leave your historical summary aside, Ray. Occupying is clearly effective, though, as can be seen by the fact that Obama took 2 actions (refinance and student loans) just this week to transfer money from banks to real people. Why are the banks relatively passive about this? Connect the dots, Ray. They're hiding until the pressure is off.

      October 31, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
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