You don’t have to look too hard to find someone equating the Occupy Wall Street movement to some sort of “liberal answer” to the Tea Party. Right-wing talking heads and Republicans blowhards are chomping at the bit to paint the national uprising as some kind of Democratic plot to manufacture a popular movement (sort of how Republicans manufactured the Tea Party, by and large). In a continuing attempt by the conservative media to downplay the importance of OWS, we’re going to see them, more and more, considered a fringe sock puppet of crazy Democrats at worst, or a hollow attempt to replicate the Tea Party at best.
These criticisms are unfounded, though, and even the most cursory glance at the two movements should shoot that down.
- Occupy Wall Street isn’t led by politicians. The genesis of the Tea Party was via the Ron Paul semi-revolution. Paul, the only guy who should be allowed to associate with “Tea Party” ideals, fired up the libertarian base and managed to yank in a number of standard right-wingers by decrying the administration’s economic policies and people came along the for the ride. Later, names like Sarah Palin became the “new” face of the Teabaggers.
- Occupy Wall Street isn’t a political party. There are candidates on ballots who are running as “Tea Party” candidates. Occupy Wall Street is not fielding candidates under their moniker. They’re hoping to influence policy, no doubt, but they are not a political entity in any kind of formal sense.
- Occupy Wall Street is focused. Despite what FOX might want you to believe, OWS has a pretty damn clear message: no more coddling of the wealthiest 1% by crony capitalism at the expense of the 99%. The Tea Party is a directionless cabal of every nutbar conservative thought process possible, most of which are best distilled as “we don’t like Democrats”.
- Occupy Wall Street is true activism. Far from just gathering to wear silly hats and talk about how much Obama sucks, the OWS movement is truly a protest, pressing against authority in the interest of promoting their message. The number of arrests is in four digits now, and looking unlikely to slow down. This is likely why the right hates it so much: the Tea Party was belligerent spectacle with costumes and nonsense, OWS is an actual popular uprising.
- Occupy Wall Street represents the majority of the United States. Most of the Tea Party economic braying centers around giving corporate tax cuts, keeping the wealthy from paying inheritance taxes, letting them pay under the minimum wage, and so forth. OWS is representing those of us who aren’t getting multi-million dollar estates from our parents or aiming for giant severance packages because we “accidentally” annihilated our stockholder’s assets.
- Occupy Wall Street has no significant media/political backing. Far from how quickly Republicans and the right-wing media embraced the Tea Party, OWS has a kind of Michael Moore stigma around it that leaves them insanely popular by the people but avoided by the higher-ups. This might be thanks to all the arrests and police clashes, but the point remains.
Occupy Wall Street is the Iron Maiden to the Tea Party’s Metallica. OWS isn’t getting a lot of support from any establishment, but they’re spreading like wildfire and everyone exposed to them is down with the movement. The Tea Party started out with good ideas, but sold out pretty quickly and now they’re pretty much a joke, still getting fellated by TV talking heads for no discernible reason.