Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Have More in Common than we Realize
Everybody seems to be talking about the Occupy Wall Street protests. Some folks don’t know what to make of them. Some folks love them. And, predictably, the Right is condemning them as gatherings of America-hating commie hooligans. But interestingly, the OWS protesters have more in common with the folks at Tea Party demonstrations than right-wing commentators (or OWS themselves) would care to admit.
They are (or Were) Angry About the Same Stuff
Remember when the Tea Party movement first got started? It was during the last few months of the Bush presidency. It was right about when the housing bubble had started to pop, and the government was making noise about bailing out certain banks—the ones that had messed up so badly that they were going to fail. The Tea Party was born right about then, and they said, “Hey! Why are you giving all this money to the banks? They failed. Let them fail! Don’t throw the taxpayers’ money at them!” Granted, the Tea Party seemed to be upset not that the banks had crashed the economy (hey, that’s just the free market, after all) but rather that the government was spending money to prop them up. The Tea Party didn’t seem to have a problem with the fact that the government was doing nothing to investigate the layers upon layers of malfeasance and fraud that led to the housing crash, mainly because the government doing nothing (not even catching criminals, I guess) is exactly what the Tea Party wants.
OWS on the other hand, are upset about the Wall Street bailouts not because the government did it, but because the bailouts rewarded the people most responsible for the housing collapse, and did nothing for its innocent victims: the people who borrowed responsibly and still ended up with underwater mortgages, the people who had steady jobs before the crash, lost them because of the crash, and suddenly couldn’t make their mortgage payments, and the retirees whose pensions have dropped significantly in value because a large percentage of the pension fund was invested in mortgage-backed securities.
Of course, time has passed, and now the Tea Party seems to have forgotten how angry they were about the bank bailouts, and are more focused on how furious they are about the government doing things like trying to create jobs, trying to ensure that Americans all have access to affordable quality healthcare, trying to ensure that another housing bubble won’t happen, and trying to do anything at all, really.
They are Both Being Ridiculed and Vilified by their Opponents
When the Tea Party first started up, nobody really knew what to say about them. But after the 2008 election, everybody picked sides. The Right (the side that had just lost an election) decided that the Tea Party was saying what needed to be said. The Left, on the other hand (the guys who had just won an election) did not want a large anti-government movement to be taken seriously. So they tried to paint the Tea Party as an “astro-turf” movement, bankrolled by monied interests tied to the GOP. They pointed out the folks at Tea Party protests who looked silly, sounded silly, and carried silly signs. They pointed out the folks at Tea Party rallies with the racist-looking posters. And they paid a great deal of attention to the Tea Partiers who threatened violence against the government. The GOP leaders embraced the Tea Party, though, and used the movement to win back a lot of congressional seats in the following election.
Everyone’s first reaction to the OWS protests was no reaction at all. OWS was completely ignored for the first week of its existence: completely ignored for an entire week, by the Right, the Left, and the news media. After the first week, we started seeing a few articles in a few newspapers (mostly foreign ones). But still, the only way most of us heard about OWS was via online social media like Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. When people finally started commenting on OWS, though, the comments (at least from the Right) were incredibly predictable. They ranged from amused derision to fearful warnings. The OWS crowd are being painted as a bunch of feckless rebels-without-a-clue who have no idea what they want, why they are protesting, or even who they are. Or, we’re being warned that these people are a sinister, highly organized left-wing communist America-hating revolutionary group that will soon rise up and destroy the USA—unless they’re stopped! So far, with one or two exceptions, the leaders of the Left have not embraced the OWS crowd. Rather, they have made cautious statements about how the OWS folks have a right to be upset.
They Both Have a Sizeable Group of Ill-Informed Morons in Their Ranks.
The Tea Party:
They Both Attract People who Carry Embarrassing Signs
The Tea Party:
So What’s the Difference?
The main differences between the two groups are these:
The Tea Party is mostly made up of folks who are about 40 and up. Some of them bring their kids and grandkids to the protests. The OWS crowd, on the other hand, are mostly under 30.
Who They Blame
The Tea Party blames the down economy on the Government, but seems to want government not to do anything about it. The OWS crowd blames corporations (and possibly, the Gnomes of Zurich) but not Apple or Google or Twitter.
The Tea Party folks who talk about religion are, or profess to be, Christians, and they seem to have a problem with Muslims. The OWS folks don’t talk much about religion, except one person who had a sign reminding us that Jesus fed the hungry and cured the sick.
The Tea Partiers show up, drink their tea, wear their tricorn hats, wave their misspelled signs, and go home in time to catch a Matlock rerun before bed. The OWS people show up, keep showing up, and like your college roommate’s obnoxious friend, they never. Go. Away. And they eat all the Doritos.
What They Want
The Tea Party wants to defund the entire federal government, except for the Defense Department and the War on Drugs. Oh, and Medicare. Those three things will get all the money that was cut from the EPA, Dept of Education, the National Parks, and enforcing regulations on corporate misbehavior. Corporations should be allowed to do whatever they please, to whomever they please, so that everyone can have a job that pays fifty cents an hour and like it.
OWS, in contrast, wants….well, I have no idea, really. And when it comes down to it, neither do they. Maybe someday they’ll figure out what it is they want, but until then, OWS will be to politics what the Unitarians are to religion.