Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tea Party Nothing Like OWS

By Michael Johns

In terms of its influence, clarity of its policy agenda, and number of supporters, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement fails to match that of America's tea party movement, whose membership ranks have swollen to the tens of millions these past two years and whose organization and passion in 2010 changed the leadership of Congress. Yet OWS's anti-establishment, anti-corporate, and anti-bailout themes have caught on surprisingly quickly, making it perhaps inevitable that media comparisons would be drawn between the two national protest movements.

But how much do the two movements really have in common? Not too much, say both political analysts and tea party leaders and activists. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Republican political pro and Fox News commentator Karl Rove contends that "Occupy Wall Street isn't a movement. It's a series of events populated by a weird cast of disaffected characters, ranging from anarchists and anti-Semites to socialists and LaRouchies."

While the OWS movement has garnered large national media attention, especially due to a sizable number of arrests and clashes with police at its events, its size is dwarfed by the tea party. Writing in The Washington Post, conservative columnist George Will observed correctly that fewer people have participated in all OWS events to date than participated in just one tea party event, the September 11, 2009 rally on the Washington, D.C. mall. "In comportment, OWS is to the Tea Party as Lady Gaga is to Lord Chesterfield," Will wrote.

Meanwhile two national Tea Party organizations have been quick to distance themselves from OWS. "The left is trying to create a counter force to the tea party, but it’s almost laughable that anyone is comparing the two, because they’re totally different," Tea Party Express strategist Sal Russo told Politico. In a fundraising appeal, Tea Party Express contrasted the two movements through photos, including Tea Party members, dressed patriotically, saying the Pledge of Allegiance along with OWS members clashing with police. “Why can’t the media tell the difference between these two [sets of] photos?” Tea Party Express asked, urging Tea Party members to “stand up to these comparisons and stand up for our principles."

Another national Tea Party organization, Tea Party Patriots, sent their members an e-mail with the title, "Occupy Wall Street? They're no Tea Partiers."

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