WASHINGTON, DC - Anyone still looking for evidence that Occupy Wall Street has had a profound, observable effect on the trajectory of American politics can stop searching after Obama's State of the Union address.
The theme of the president's speech was income bifurcation in our dysfunctional economy and the failure of the American dream. "The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive," he said. Importantly, he didn't focus on the financial crisis alone, but acknowledged structural weaknesses in the economy that have been developing for decades. "Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores," the president said, in a passage that set the foundation of the entire speech. "Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren't, and personal debt that kept piling up."
Yes, it's true, presidents always say the same things in the SOTU. But we have not seen this level of direct, populist impulse yet from Obama, nor for many years before him -- perhaps never in the modern era of big-production, Made-For-TV SOTU addresses.
And whence, you ask, did this unvarnished populist ethos come? For your answer, see this graph from Google search trends for the phrase "income inequality" below. Recall that Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, 2011.
The effect is the same for search phrases like "poverty," "wealth distribution," and of course, those unfortunate fortunates, the "1 percent."
Not bad for a bunch of dancing, bongo drum playing hippies, eh Erin Burnett?