September 17th, 2012
05:15 PM ET

Opinion: Occupy fizzled, but made 99% a force

Editor's note: Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, is an editor of "Nonviolent Social Movements: A Geographical Perspective."

By Stephen Zunes, Special to CNN

(CNN) - It's been a year since the Occupy Wall Street movement sprang up. Since then, it has fizzled, but this does not mean that the underlying issues that gave rise to the protests have gone away.

Until last year, mainstream political discourse did not include nearly as much emphasis on such populist concerns as rising income inequality, tax policies that favor the rich, growing influence by large corporate interests in elections and the reckless deregulation of financial institutions that resulted in the 2008 crisis. It is hard to miss them now.

These concerns still impact 99% of Americans. Even if Occupy protests have petered out, the movement has affected the political narrative in our country.

Meet the Original Occupiers

We can see Occupy's impact in the current presidential campaign. Whereas Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election strategy focused on the idea of "triangulation" - taking centrist positions on key economic issues to isolate his Republican opponent on the right - President Barack Obama has taken on much more of a populist stance, mobilizing his Democratic base and economically stressed independents against an opponent whom his campaign is depicting as the quintessential representative of the 1%.

Occupy activists justifiably express skepticism over how much to trust the president's left-leaning rhetoric when his actual economic policies have been decidedly centrist. Still, the fact that Obama's re-election campaign recognizes the advantage of decrying unfair tax laws and similar policies that affect middle class Americans is indicative of how the tone has shifted.

Read Stephen Zunes' full column