Why Occupy Fizzled

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 4 2012 @ 2:47pm

Michael Kazin, perhaps the best historian of the American Left, dissects the promise and failure of the left-populist movement. Its promise was a uniting, inclusive message progressives had been struggling to persuasively articulate for years. Its downfall was a lack of organization and strategic acumen:

The signal achievement of the Occupy movement, at least so far, is to challenge the conservative reasoning and the narrative that accompanies it. “We are the 99%” conveys a deeply moral, democratic message that represents a leap beyond what most left activists have been saying since the 1960s. Gender equality, multiculturalism, opposition to military intervention, and global warming are all worthy causes. So was the sometimes disjointed attack on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that briefly shut down Seattle in 1999. But each represented the passions of discrete groups whose opponents were able to belittle them as “special interests.”

For all their virtues, each cause was either absorbed into the political culture (feminism) or (as with environmentalism and the movement against the invasion of Iraq) confronted powerful enemies able to wage a grossly unequal fight… But the very breadth and openness of this proudly leaderless uprising make it difficult to sustain. Even if it endures, such an insurgency is unlikely to grow into a movement that can bend politics in its direction.