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Occupy Wall Street: a Tea Party by any other name

Tea Party activists and the much younger Occupy Wall Street protesters are in furious agreement that they are not alike. But neither generation has exclusive ownership of the frustration sweeping the United States.

Even in the liberal streets of Washington DC you’ll get the same answer as from its conservative small towns and military communities: nearly everybody thinks the government is unfairly giving benefit to someone they don’t like.

If the grievances of the Occupy Wall Street protests look like a shopping list of progressive causes — tomorrow’s October 2011 protest in Washington offers a selection — then the Tea Party’s beginning should be instructive.

The Tea Party may not have styled themselves so grandiosely as The 99 Percent but they probably have more justification to do so. They did hand President Obama a “shellacking” in last year’s mid-term elections and given the powerful Republican Speaker of the House reason to fear his own caucus. But it could have gone very different.

Tax Day protests struggled with a nebulous array of conservative beliefs that threatened to overshadow their core economic message. Representative Ron Paul, one of its early figureheads, often strayed from auditing the federal reserve into difficult issues such as dismissing evolution. It didn’t have clear early solutions either, often more focused on ideology and interpretations of America’s founding principles.

Its success came in part by a false belief that the mainstream news media was ignoring it, sparking even more outrage and enthusiasm. I didn’t see Twitter hashtags at their rallies, and most of the YouTube videos were produced instead by their opponents. But they sure managed to make effective use of corporate donations to produce professional looking pamphlets and DVDs, and most importantly, a political campaign machine.

The union backing of the protesters this week, as well as the suddenly support of the left leaning cable news network MSNBC mirrors the growth in support the Tea Party enjoyed.

Already we’re seeing all these signs in the Occupy Wall Street movement, including strong interest from moveon.org and the Democratic machine which needs that enthusiasm for President Obama’s re-election.

It’s too soon to tell if these protests will grow as large as the movement that shook Congress to its core in the last two years. If that becomes its aim, then it will have as much time to build as the Tea Party did before facing its first electoral test.

A smart re-election campaign might avert this becoming an adversarial movement and instead co-opt it into a message about leading the whole country, the little guy and those who prefer little tax.

Not that the Tea Party would find common ground. One of its leaders, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler, told The Daily Caller: “These are law breaking people. We have nothing in common with them other than we are all American citizens. My read on the news is that they do not even know what they are protesting.”

Meanwhile, New Jersey governor Chris Christie spent much of his hour long televised “not running for president” event Tuesday putting the boot into President Obama for being unable to bridge the divide and be a leader for the entire nation.

6
  • 1
    Murray Hall
    Posted Wednesday, 5 October 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Tea Party 2.0, I like it.

  • 2
    Mack the Knife
    Posted Wednesday, 5 October 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Not even remotely like the Tea part mate. And the way the police are attacking them is it any wonder the military veterans are coming in now to protect them for official violence. You’re a bit of a right wing shill it seems.

  • 3
    Salamander
    Posted Wednesday, 5 October 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    So they are both protesting against the status quo. So what? Their notions of how to go about improving things are likely to be diametrically opposed. Albeit both groups would agree on objectives like jobs and houses, no politician can wave the recession away. So rebels of either stripe will inevitably engage their own inbuilt political spectra to assess the candidate’s appeal. Where is the ambidextrous chameleon with required sleight of hand?

    It would take a fast talker indeed to be all things to all or even many of these disparate (and desperate) disillusioned. Surely the former orator-magician has worn himself out trying to please them.

  • 4
    michael crook
    Posted Wednesday, 5 October 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    The Tea Party is funded by the KOCH Bros, and they have had extremely good value for money, from the gullible members of those of the US public who actually believe that commercial “Advertising” is somehow connected to reality, instead of being an ongoing American fantasy. As in Australia, our political choices are determined by the geniuses who come up with ads benefitting the wealthy, eg Mining Tax, Poker machine change, and convincing us the “fresh Food People” actually means that instead of monoculture low nutrient rubbish.. The Wall st protests are something completely different to the tea party being a grassroots expression of absolute frustration. That this movement has come out the US that we know and hate for its demonising of dissidents is extremely important, and I for one wish them well. I have contacted friends in NYC to ask if there is anything we can do help and if there is, we will. This is the beginning of the struggle we need to have.

    The media, of course, including the ABC, will generally refuse to report it which means that it never happened. Did you know for example that in the the early days of the Iraq war there were almost weekly 500,000 strong anti war demos in NYC, no? I thought not.

  • 5
    Bob the builder
    Posted Wednesday, 5 October 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Crikey, please stop publishing this shite!
    This isn’t news and it isn’t analysis and it isn’t commentary - it’s just the same article over and over again, pushing a far-right ideological line. Your sole left-wing correspondent Guy Rundle is erudite, knowledgeable, surprising and logical. Your many centre and right correspondents are generally the same.
    This far-right idiot does not belong here, he belongs with Andrew Bolt.

  • 6
    Harley Dennett
    Posted Thursday, 6 October 2011 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    The notion that the OWS protests are still some lonely voice of reason ignored by the institutions of society is ridiculous. I’ve seen reports on every network, every newspaper. Not just the arrests. MSNBC has actually championed these protests like Fox News did with the early Tea Party protests. There are celebrities and unions adding their support. And we already know that Soros outfits are looking for ways to co-opt these protesters just like the Koch Brothers did three years ago with that frustration movement. They aren’t innocent Bambis anymore.

    The Tea Party got funded because it had enthusiasm. The Koch Brothers and industry lobbies already have their astroturf groups; but they can’t buy the enthusiasm that allowed the Tea Party to pass as legitimate. Not to mention one of its core goals was to unseat establishment Republicans. If today’s movement doesn’t fizzle out, then you can be sure someone will find a way to fund it into a front for the Democratic Party, just like the hollow shell of the Tea Party has become for the Republican Party.

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