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In our opinion: Occupy Wall Street movement a failure one year later

Published: Friday, Sept. 21 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

As Congress returns from its winter recess, protesters aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, to decry the influence of corporate money in politics.

Associated Press

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A political movement succeeds when it carries a message that resonates, which in turn unites people to effect change. In the United States, where people tend to respect laws and procedures, it can succeed by working through those procedures to change laws.

After one year, the most the Occupy movement can celebrate is the occasional court victory over charges of disturbing the peace or violating curfews.

By any measure, that's a dismal record.

Small wonder that only a few hundred protesters showed up on the one-year anniversary to try blocking access to the New York Stock Exchange. They were easily handled by an army of police officers who arrested 185 of them.

The protesters shouted about economic inequality, corporate greed and the 99 percent. All of which elicited yawns from coast to coast. We get the message. We heard you last year. So?

It is perhaps true, as supporters are quick to say, that the Occupy protests have injected themselves in some small way into the political dialog of an election year. Some politicians talk about corporate greed and the need to extract more from the rich when they feel there are political points to be made. But those were talking points before the movement began, as well. What is absent is any cohesive solution to the problem the protesters believe they identified.

What's missing are candidates generated from their ranks or legislation drafted and supported by supporters who use their popular support to lobby the halls of government.

Endless chants and arrests for disturbing the peace quickly become a nuisance. Americans aren't interested in grabbing pitchforks and storming society's public and private institutions. The movement itself is splintered and dying, and it has in the past attracted elements that resort to vandalism and violence. This is not the sort of thing that captures the public's imagination.

On the other end of the spectrum, the tea party also has begun to lose energy. By contrast, however, its movement used official channels to elect candidates and push for change. Its influence now has a foothold on real power, instead of a foothold on the back steps of a paddy wagon. However it, too, won't succeed much further without ideas and solutions that resonate through large swaths of the public.

The beauty of a constitutional republic is that voices can compete for the hearts and souls of the public at-large, and that popular will can change the course of history.

The Occupy movement, however, seems more interested in defying laws and attracting attention through petulant behavior. Americans tend not to have much time to waste on such foolishness, and like most things that get ignored, the movement seems to be going away.

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