What started as a simple protest on September 17 has evolved into a global movement. As when President Barack Obama capitalized on the overarching belief in hope during the first 100 days of his presidency, the Occupy Wall Street movement has equally capitalized on the unequivocal need for change. Forty days later it seems as if the OWS movement is well on its way to using their “honey moon phase” as a strong platform to create policy change in American politics.
Both OWS and Obama capitalized on the abject condition of the state of our nation to inspire a rethinking of politics early on. Taking hold of the ideal that “there is no greater time like the present,” this honeymoon phase for OWS is similar to that of the president when he is first elected. For instance, during Obama’s first 100 days as president, he was able to pass a $789 billion stimulus bill, make sweeping changes in American foreign policy by lifting travel restrictions with Cuba, and began to overhaul the entire financial system. Similarly, OWS during its inaugural 40 days, much like Obama, was able to redirect the focus of American politics, and change the scope of the conversation. In 100 days, Obama changed the perception of the state of our nation and expressed the need for radical change and reform. Similarly, in 40 days, OWS has redirected national dialogue to the frustrations of the 99% and the need for change.
As Time magazine reported, “The most important thing we now know about Barack Obama, after nearly 100 days in office, is that he means to confront that way of life directly and profoundly, to exchange sand for rock if he can. Whether you agree with him or not — whether you think he is too ambitious or just plain wrong — his is as serious and challenging a presidency as we have had in quite some time.”
Similarly, Occupy Wall Street was born out of a general discontent with the state of the American political and financial system. Though their signs are often disjointed, their message is clear. The rich are getting richer as the poor grow poorer. The inequality of wealth that has long plagued the United States must come to an end, and finally, the nation is responding. They have made their voices heard during these first 40 days by demanding financial reform, and justice for the 2008 economic collapse. They have unified the unions and sparked movements not only nationwide, but on a global scale. Most of all, they have gained a voice in the current political discourse; they have focused the concerns and anger on “the country's growing economic gap,” and have “planted the seed of an organized voice” that occupiers from all walks of life can cling to. Their movement has forced us to reconsider the way in which our nation does business, and has set the wheels in motion to essentially change the nature of American capitalism.
Yesterday, Obama announced a plan to alleviate the growing student loan crisis, one which would allow students to reduce their interest rates by consolidating their debts into a single government loan. The nation’s student loan debt — which now exceeds credit card debt and stands at $1 trillion — is at the core of the problems cited by the OWS movement. With the student loan debt plan, it is clear that Washington is sending a message that they are listening.
Obama’s presidency is no different. As Ron Suskind's writes in his book Confidence Men, Obama himself “finds opportunities in the larger body of players to create circumstances where change can happen. He's creating a space where solutions can happen.” In this same token, the OWS movement has grabbed hold of national sentiment and as is demonstrated through the response from Washington, is already creating a platform from which serious policy change can be built.
Occupy Wall Street is a movement that won’t be stifled until a significant change is made. In an era where our nation is undergoing a distinct change in both its economic climate and political culture, this space for solutions is where our future lies.
The OWS movement’s first 40 days and Obama’s first 100 days were marked by the belief in significant change, and the overarching will to make it happen. Can America move forward with the help of Occupy Wall Street? Yes we can.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons