Occupy Wall Street: Dead in 213 Days

by Anthony Dent - University of North Carolina on April 17, 2012

Based on the wave of recent reports detailing the declining interest in Occupy Wall Street, let’s just bite the bullet and publish the final obit: Occupy Wall Street, Dead, 213 Days Old.

At the University of North Carolina, The Daily Tar Heel recently observed, “Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro meeting attendees once packed a plaza, but these days they barely surround a coffee table.”

Other encampments around the country are in similar decline. While Occupy New Haven recently celebrated its six-month anniversary, the encampment is on its last legs. This despite a dose of legal life-support it received from a federal injunction overturning an earlier decision in which judges sided with the city in their efforts to evict the protesters.

A prominent member of Occupy New Haven has even joined city officials in calling for an end to the occupation. “The longer we stay [encamped] on the Green, the more damage we do to our cause,” he wrote in a statement.

This hasn’t stopped some occupiers from ignoring the doom right before their eyes as if they are the dinner guests in a sordid reproduction of the “Death” scene from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life—just look at last month’s re-occupation at UC-Davis.

Some occupiers just can’t let go.

But numbers don’t lie. While Zucotti Park, the epicenter of OWS, saw as many as 15,000 protesters one day last October, the most recent occupation last week could only boast 75 participants.

The decline of the occupy movement has had a happy side effect—arrest numbers are down. Forget headlines like “Occupy Wall Street Movement Reports 80 Arrested Today in Protests.” Today, they read more like “3 Arrested in Manhattan as March Turns Into a Melee.”

In addition, the hideous outbreak of murders, rapes and disease infestations at Occupy camps will not be missed.

The collapse of the Occupy ethos is even more pronounced in our nation’s capital. The much-vaunted Buffett Rule went down in defeat yesterday, effectively killing the only piece of legislation arguably begot by the Occupy movement.

While a majority of Americans supported the Buffett Rule, it’s not clear that OWS did anything to move the dial on tax reform generally. In fact, the most recent CBS News/New York Times poll shows that fewer people today believe that the rich need to pay more than they did last year (55% compared with last year’s 65%).

Ultimately, OWS failed because it didn’t channel all the excitement it generated into political action. In a democracy it takes “50% plus one” of the populace to bring about change. In fact, OWS earned the opposite of “50% plus one” among the citizenry.

The movement could have ended differently. Whether conservatives like it or not, the main thrust of the Occupy movement dovetailed well with the feelings around the country that something was amiss after the taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts were followed by a jobless recovery.

We are fortunate, then, that most Americans only flirted briefly with OWS. Doubtless, many were turned off by the “I want a bailout, too” mentality of the protesters, not to mention the sheer absurdity of their demands. A popular demand was forgiveness of all consumer debt—an untenable idea to an increasingly deficit conscious public.

Its consensus-driven organizational structure made OWS’s mad gallop to the fringe inevitable. Effective organizations require tangible goals and good leadership. OWS had neither.

OWS had its moment, but let it pass on by. No amount of “spring training” can bring it back to life.

Fix contributor Anthony Dent is a student at the University of North Carolina.

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