'We Are The 99 Percent' Is the Best Populist Message We've Had in Years
One phrase from Occupy Wall Street puts a much-needed "everyperson" face to the movement.
I doled out some serious criticism last week to the still-evolving movement called Occupy Wall Street—namely, that it didn't leverage the public's power, that it took on too many issues, and that it was co-opting an outdated protest aesthetic that alienates the rest of the country. But there is a slogan and Tumblr blog attached to this movement that could fix some of these problems: We Are The 99 Percent.
This simple concept—that the vast majority of us are getting screwed because of policies that protect the rich minority—is the best populist message I've heard in years. Unlike Occupy Wall Street's official declaration, which couches the movement's many demands in terms of "they"—the rich—this slogan draws attention to "we," to the people's sheer numbers, and therefore our power. It distills the movement's huge range of issues into one devastating phenomenon: the wealth gap. It reclaims populism from conservatives and the Tea Party in a very literal way, yet it doesn't divide the country along political party lines.
The accompanying Tumblr, especially, puts a much-needed "everyperson" face on this movement. The site is filled with photos of people holding up pieces of paper, describing how they've been hurt by a system that favors the rich. They're faces of all backgrounds—and styles and hairdos—dealing with massive student debt, no health insurance, no job. Virtually everyone can relate to their woes. We see ourselves in the eyes peeking out above the handwritten confessions.
This idea needs to take center stage as the movement grows and prepares for a major march this Wednesday, October 5, when unions will officially join forces with the protesters. A unifying battle cry that draws attention to the wealth gap is a powerful weapon, particularly when a large portion of the country doesn't even realize how wide the gap has become. If people are reminded that this fight is personal, they might just be inclined to join it.