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. MrMattKFC

    "Wake up you idio..s! What ever made you think paper is so valuable" Kurt Vonnegut.

    November 1, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ben James

    The 99% Rules. Vote With Your Dollars. Rule the banks and corporation by global boycott. Start here to join: Boycott B of A and Exxon Mobile.

    November 1, 2011 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Your a typical "know nothing" person. Exxon makes alot of money, know why? Because they sell GLOBALLY. Do you realise they only make 2 cents per gallon of oil they sell?

      November 1, 2011 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      phil: no offense meant, but it's "you're." as in "you" "are." 🙂

      November 1, 2011 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  3. LOlreallynow

    If they would at least get ONE person to be their spokesperson. Maybe they could tell us what OWS is about. trying to find that out now is a futile quest.

    November 1, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. zoglet

    If OWS can break the link between corporation funding and government policy then they have delivered a huge victory for democracy. Go OWS!

    November 1, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • josh

      you big silly, we are NOT a Democracy never were and never will be. Democracy is BS

      November 1, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • LOlreallynow

      "I pledge allegiance to my Flag,
      and to the Republic for which it stands"
      Notice it doesn't say Democracy. Where are you from?

      November 1, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. Phil

    What is sucess for the OWS movement? Corporations only making 2 cents on everything they sell, and everything is free.

    November 1, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. crybaby18

    oh, look at the great success!! whatever, these guy have done NOTHING! what a shocker

    November 1, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. New Star

    The most important part of these people: it exposed the left and the Obama Administration for being anti-American socialist that want to destroy the core ideals of America. That the left view of democracy is human that defecates in a public park.

    November 1, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. LOlreallynow

    Has anyone calculated how much OWS is costing taxpayers? Adding to the problem is not solving a problem. I shudder to see what OWS/NY has cost so far.

    November 1, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. josh

    i have too laugh every time i hear a liberal talk about democracy. America is NOT a Democracy!!!! pay more attention in class silly suckers!

    November 1, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Josh: You didnt pay attention in "Critical Thinking Class" You use gross generalizations to make
      the points of your personal agenda. I'm a liberal, I'm paying attention, and yes, you are right. The
      US is no longer a democracy, thanks to conservative, greedy, mostly republican politicians

      November 1, 2011 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
    • josh

      hay dave we were never a democracy! thats what i am talking about if you payed attention in class you would know that, hell its right in the pledge of allegiance for christ sake "too the REPUBLIC for which it stands"!!!

      November 1, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • kato

      Welcome to the Police State of the United States of America, but wait Socialism for the 1% ( U gotta remember those Bailouts in '08 and stil going now).

      November 1, 2011 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      I agree josh but at the same time i disagree. Its actually you and dave who are apart of the problem. Its the 2 party system that is ruining this country. i like to think as the republican and democrat parties as a (excuse my french) S**t Sandwhich staring at itself in the mirror. Both parties are only looking out for themselves and really care little about the american people. The only way this crisis will end is with blood. The tree of liberty must be plucked from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Thomas jefferson said this and i think he might of paid a little attention in school.

      November 1, 2011 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Josh is correct. America is not a Democracy, it is a Republic. (It's in the darned Pledge of Allegiance for goodness sake)

      November 1, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
    • lexgreen

      There's no such thing as a "two party system"... that's an establishment perpetuated myth. It's just a system that happens to have 2 parties. There have been mor e in the past, and there could be others in the future. The current 2 parties, used to be called one, the "Democratic Republicans". I guess half of it decided that democratic thought was like, too much hard work.

      November 1, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
    • nolan

      Not YET you silly little boy. In the end that is what people are doing, making Democracy... Or Socialism 😀 Far better then a Rebuplic if modified a bit.

      November 1, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. RayRay

    The 99%people should stop electing the 1% to run the country.....that would be a good start

    November 1, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Lane


      November 1, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Mk2

      The highest 10% of earners in America pay 69.94% of all the income tax collected by the IRS. My sources are the IRS or the national tax payers union web site ( it will take 2 seconds to verify via google) , this means that not only do rich people pay taxes, they pay MOST of them. So it's not 99% , it's more like the 47% thAt do not pay ANY tax.

      November 1, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • kato

      The system is rigged no matter who you vote for, unless you get a third party bred from OWS and clean up our government, including the corrupted Supreme Ct. Wow... maybe more luck winning the lottery than for now!

      November 1, 2011 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Complete Picture Please

      but the 10% have more % of the money than the % they pay in taxes. They should at least pay the same % of the taxes as the % they profit, like the rest of us. We should also consider how much the policies of that upper percent have inflated that 47% you speak of. If you break it, you fix it.

      November 1, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. bigwilliestyles

    OWS can be traced to a few statements that, once resolved, will restore this country to the people those statements are things like...

    November 1, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jo

    Huge failure. They're an embarrassing joke.

    November 1, 2011 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. Robert Freund

    The idea that representative government is democracy has now been proven to be false. It is a way to conceal the manipulation of the 99% of the citizens by the rich and their corporation. Removing representative democracy and replacing it with direct democracy would be a start.
    On the financial side , taxing, adding fees or what ever to every transaction over 1 million dollars instead of taxing non passive labor.
    In international relations we need to make free trade into fair trade.

    We also have to many states to have a viable democracy, reducing the number of state by raising the requirement for state hood to 30,000,000 citizens. Would lower the cost of government significantly , coupled we codification of law a new an juster America might emerge. The representative body can propose laws which would have to be approved by an absolute majority of eligible voter. If this 50% +1 was not achieved then the legislative seat or law would not be filed.
    War – Without a majority vote in each state no war like action could be started.
    We need to make it less profitable for the rich to buy the government, conflict of interest laws need to be developed.
    we have to start thinking outside the box if we want a country worth saving, otherwise ,,,, if it is not worth saving then it will be destroyed.

    November 1, 2011 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Mk2

      The highest 10% of earners in America pay 69.94% of all the income tax collected by the IRS. My sources are the IRS or the national tax payers union web site ( it will take 2 seconds to verify via google) , this means that not only do rich people pay taxes, they pay MOST of them. So it's not 99% , what you should be saying is the 47% which is the percentage of people that DO NOT pay taxes.

      November 1, 2011 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Statistical Honestly Please

      It was just noted by an unbiased source that 1% has received 270% increases in their wealth in the last 30 years, while the lower 99% has recieved 4% increases over the same time period. I suspect that is where the 99% comes from.

      What I take issue is the statement that the top 10% pays most of the taxes., I doubt that takes into account what percentage of their wealth is taxed compared to the 99%. Yes they pay X% of taxes, which is less than what the rest pay. However what keeps getting overloked in such statements, is what percentage of their total wealth do they pay taxes on, compared to the percentage of total wealth by the lower 90%.

      I suspect after deductions and other loopholes the percent of taxes paid per person in the top 10% is actually less though they do pay more taxes. Its only fair. If everyone paid a flat tax without loopholes or unusual deductions, those with the most money would pay the most taxes, Its simple math. They have the most money to pay taxes on. Why does that part get dropped each time its brought up that the top 10% pays more taxes. That would be true so long as they own more money, under a straight flat tax.

      November 1, 2011 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. JG

    Sad to say but the only longterm victory OWS could hope for will likely involve guillotines. Anything short of that is going to be a band aid.

    November 1, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • lexgreen

      An economic guillotine, targeted at a few large corpations with eccessively compensated management might work very well. It won't take many heads to roll for the rest to start to get into line.

      November 1, 2011 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. Fred S.

    "Obama is the most divisive figure in American politics today." I don't agree with that. He's another Step'n'Fetchit like Martin. The key is to realise how irrelevant he is whether he is re-elected or not. Since when did that government down there ever solve anything.

    November 1, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • kato

      Which politician isn't? Come on we all know u r on a payroll by Koch Industries. They are all crooks..Dems and Reps...

      November 1, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Fred S.

      I'm "on the payroll of Koch inustries". That's a good one. No – Exxon, Chevron, Transocean, and BP, as well as Anadarko. Dominion Resources. Yeah. I've never had anything to do with that Koch company. Except for subsidising cancer research, I think they are mostly nuts.

      November 1, 2011 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
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