As the police have been dismantling some Occupy encampments around the country and our nation's consciousness of the movement wanes as we move into the holiday season it may seem a little odd to contemplate whether or not the Occupy movement has made gains or perhaps even to suggest that they can claim some victories along the way.
Many analysts and media personalities criticized the movement for refusing to limit its mission or narrowly define their purpose. Predictions of doom and failure were inevitable. Conservative news hosts worked themselves into a tizzy over the lack of focus and the lack of a recognized leader to whom they could ask those all important questions.
It is true that the movement's desire to maintain a horizontal organizational structure does not readily lend itself to the inevitable emergence of a visible leader, but in every community across the country which has played or is playing host to the Occupy movement, a whole host of activist leaders have risen up to motivate, to organize and to inspire. In addition, relationships have been built and networks of motivated people have been formed. This aspect alone is a victory for the progressive community.
There has been one Occupy protestor however, that has been elevated to the national stage. In one interview, a Fox News producer was left wishing he had chosen to stay in bed after he stumbled across Jesse LaGreca. To this date, Mr. LaGreca has appeared on many national news shows and never has any difficulty explaining the purpose of the Occupy movement and confronting conservatives such as George Will and their rhetoric. Liberals around the country are ever so grateful that Jesse LaGreca is on our side. If Trump really wanted some ratings for his debate he should tell Santorum to sit home and pit the silver haired Gingrich against the silver tongued LaGreca. Trump could sell out the Garden with that match-up. Score one more for the Occupy movement.
I guess the ultimate measure of success is to determine if Jesse and the rest of the Occupy protesters changed the dynamic? Have they awoken our friends and neighbors to an impending oligarchy? Have they shifted the game and Democrats to the left?
After President Obama's speech last Tuesday in Osawatomie Kansas, we have the answer. If the folks at Fox News were able to listen to the content of the speech while they counted how many times the president referenced "God," they would now be able to understand the gist of the Occupy movement.
"For most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before, but everyone else struggled."
Is President Obama likely to show up at an Occupy protest and hold a sign or give a speech utilizing the human microphone? Nope. Does he embrace the Occupy movement? You bet your ass he does.
Much like the Tea Party rallies gave political cover to the right in their war against health care reform, the Occupy movement allowed President Obama to confidently make this speech about income inequality. Like John Boehner and Republicans insisted that President Obama listen to the American people, the Occupy protesters are insisting that Washington listen to them. Thus far it seems that Speaker Boehner has developed some selective hearing as he enters his glory years.
While the Tea Party played to the emotions of senior citizens and the working class, using manufactured fear to unite them against the evils of government and the "other" who occupies the Oval Office, the Occupy movement struck a similar emotional chord with many people as they expressed their displeasure over the undue influence of personal wealth and corporate money on our elected officials. There seems to be a direct relationship between this undue influence and our inequality issues.
The conversation has indeed changed to a topic that makes conservatives a little nervous. The only tools they have at their disposal when discussing income inequality are rhetoric, manufactured fear and their failed concept of trickle-down economics.
Democrats on the other hand have a long history of promoting programs which benefit the middle class, protect our seniors and educate our youth and, while they have no need to manufacture fear, this movement is driven by a very real fear that we as a society are moving dangerously close to an America where our future is not aligned with the economic mobility of its people, but rather the success of corporations.
Do not get the impression that I am suggesting that the Occupy movement has seen its best days. I am simply suggesting that the protesters have already scored significant victories and it is my hope that they will achieve the change and the ultimate victories that we all seek and desperately need.
For now though, as a barometer for the success of the movement to date we can use the popular support of the people, the implied endorsement of the current administration or the very sincere hatred of the movement by conservatives.