Decades before Occupy Wall Street, “King announced a shift from ‘reform’ to ‘revolution’ and stated: ‘we have moved from the era of civil rights to an era of human rights.’” Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed this during the Poor People’s Campaign. Many Americans are comparing what went on then to the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. However, according to a study, “more than a third of activists in the Occupy movement in New York City had household incomes above $100,000.” I think this was the first downfall of the movement. The main protesters were not suffering as much as the rest of the ‘99%’ were. OWS is seen as very exclusive, with the majority of protesters being white.
The most recent extension of the OWS movement comes in the form of the recent climb of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 democratic primary. In similar comparison this “revolution” was criticized for being run primarily by white men and lacked the depth to appeal to many minorities. The ultimate sputtering out of the campaign in crucial areas was yet another nail in the coffin for these populist political movements. While Bernie Sanders has continued his efforts in forming OurRevolution and supporting local candidates, we yet again see that the broad anti-business goals of these movements are not capable of cohesive, immediate change.
Many elected representatives say they are going to do something about the wealth divide including Barack Obama and the progressive caucus in the house. The same congressmen and senators making $174,000 and $193,400 a year, high above the national average, are doing very little to actually create growth for the middle class. It is really hard to believe they are going to devote the majority of their time, or even go out of their way, to try and help out the ‘99%’ if they continue to face no consequences. I believe if the problems in America are not affecting you head on, being part of the movement is simply not effective.
King, Jr., Martin Luther. “To Charter a Course for Our Future.” Frogmore, SC, May 21, 1967. Quoted in Wright, Unfinished Business (2007), p. 151.