Occupy Wall St. Versus the Tea Party

The recent movement to “occupy” Wall St. and various American cities is being likened to a progressive Tea Party by many on the left and in the media. There are important distinctions between the three-year-old Tea Party movement and the three-week-old occupations.

The most obvious is that the Tea Party is a right-wing movement made of conservatives and libertarians. These are people who do not normally take part in demonstrations. Conversely, the left-wingers that make up the occupation movement will typically demonstrate at the drop of a hat. Over the years there have been leftist demonstrations to save the whales, encourage a nuclear freeze, end global warming, save the spotted owls, and end whichever war is going on at the time, among many others.

Along the same lines, the Tea Partiers go home. Most of them have jobs and families to go home to. Many of the occupiers seem to be young people who recently graduated and have not been able to find jobs. This explains why they are able to stay in their occupation zones for so long. The occupations started on September 17, approximately three weeks ago, and they show no signs of going home.

The Tea Party also offered concrete ideas for reform in contrast to the occupiers, who don’t seem to know what they want, other than to rail against Wall St. and capitalism. The Tea Party advocates cuts in government spending and a return to a more limited role of government. In particular, they opposed the passage of Obamacare and press for its repeal.

The occupiers have yet to find a voice, however. The Occupy Wall St. web site itself contains a discussion titled “Occupy Wall St. demands are abstract.” The “about” section of the site says that “our species and our world are in crisis” and that the “U.S. has an important role to play in the solution,” but it doesn’t say what they imagine the solution to be.

Ominously, another difference in the Tea Party and the occupiers is the propensity for racism and violence. Arrests at Tea Party events were rare if they happened at all. Already, however, there have been arrests at the sites of many occupations including Wall St., Des Moines, San Francisco, and Seattle. Although there is an Occupy Atlanta encampment in Woodruff Park, thus far no arrests have been reported there.

The hacker group Anonymous has threatened to attack financial company computer systems on behalf of the occupiers after violence between protesters and police broke out when the occupiers decided to stop traffic. There have been more direct threats of violence as well. Politico reports that state legislators in New York received an email message that threatened to “kill the wealthy.” The email, which contained talking points from the Occupy Wall St. movement such as the claim that one percent of the population controls 99 percent of the wealth, said that if New York did not renew the surtax on millionaires that “I’m going to pay a visit with my carbine to one of those tech companies you are so proud of and shoot every spoiled Ivy League [expletive] I can find.”

Racism at Tea Parties was an oft made charge, but there was very little evidence to back up the claim. On this the occupy movement is also different. Several videos have surfaced of occupiers making anti-Semitic comments and voicing conspiracy theories about how the “Jews control Wall St.”

There may be racism against some minorities as well as anti-Semitism. At the Occupy Atlanta encampment, the protesters refused to allow John Lewis, a U.S. congressman and hero of the civil rights movement, to speak. In fairness, this might not have been racism as much as disenchantment with the political process and political parties in general. Regardless, the video of the incident, with occupiers repeating the words of each speaker en masse, is amusing to watch.

In general, while the Tea Party is largely mainstream in their composition and beliefs, the occupation movement is made of left-wing radicals that most Americans would find out of the mainstream. While Tea Partiers typically say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the “Star Spangled Banner,” the occupiers seem to feel ill at ease in America. This is an obvious explanation for the phrase “occupy Wall St.” They are in the midst of an ideological war against the rest of the country. This includes the current Democratic administration, which is probably fooling itself if it thinks that the occupations will help its reelection campaign.

Oh, and by the way, about that claim that one percent controls 99 percent of the wealth? It isn’t true. You can look it up for yourself here.

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