I've been reflecting this week upon Occupy Wall Street's recent accomplishments -- its substantive hurricane aid efforts and amazing debt relief initiatives. And while doing so, I realized that one of the movement's greatest recent accomplishments is going largely unnoticed: it created a socio-political environment which ultimately brought Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy to its knees.
Allow me to explain.
Before Occupy Wall Street, domestic economic chatter in mainstream news outlets, at a time when unemployment was reaching epic proportions, was largely dominated by two words Republicans were only too happy to magnify: the deficit and the national debt.
In fact, Think Progress measured some of the most-repeated words on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN during the last week of July, 2011 and again in October, 2011. Here is what it found:
The most substantive accomplishment, and the accomplishment which made Romney most vulnerable as a candidate, was the evolution of this shift in the public discourse. For in the weeks and months after Occupy Wall Street arrived on the scene, outlets began to discuss income inequality and greed in startlingly increasing terms.
These shifts in discourse that spiked in October of 2011 altered our social and political landscapes permanently. Which is why, during the presidential campaign, little attention was paid to the deficit and the national debt compared with discussions that related to income inequality: debates over tax reform and whether or not America's one percent needed to pay more, pay inequality for women, corporate outsourcing, job growth relative to Democratic and Republican economic policies, and so forth.
Number of articles with the word 'inequality' in U.S. newspapers - October 2010 through October 2011
Now, such topics would have been on the table in a presidential election. However, they were prominently on display because, at its core, our national discourse had shifted from focusing on debt ceiling battles to personal income disparities.
And this ultimately brought Mitt Romney to his knees, for in this context, he became even more vulnerable as a candidate than he already was. Which is why the Obama campaign hammered Romney as a wealthy CEO, as a job outsourcer, as a member of the one percent only concerned with tax cuts for the rich, as one who fired loyal, blue-collar workers and outsourced their jobs.
All of these attacks were made more potent by the shift in our national discourse, a shift which focused our attention collectively on the growing disparity between the rich and poor in our country, between the 1 and the 99 percent.
And for this, Occupy Wall Street is largely responsible.