The Occupy Wall Street movement has often been labeled as the left’s answer to the conservative grassroots movement, the Tea Party, that sprung up in 2009 and is credited for handing the House of Representatives back to the GOP in 2010. However, both the Tea Party and Occupiers largely detest being compared with one another. Is this a fair perception? Is it really red versus blue, Republican versus Democrat, the preppie kid versus the hipster?
OWS and the TP: Differences
The main differences between the two movements come not necessarily in goals and frustrations but rather in who the protesters are and the method they use to protest.
As discussed in part 1, OWS protesters are mainly young, liberal, college educated people frustrated with the lack of job availability for the 99 percent. The TP members, however, were mostly older, white, and conservatives.
As such, the OWS movement has had over a 1,000 arrests in just a couple months. The TP had about 50 in three years.
The OWS protesters have camped out and have overtaken private property to use as the headquarters for their protests. The TP protests, on the other hand, were mostly held on the weekends and they received permits and paid rent for the venues they chose to occupy.
The OWS protesters are calling for more government intervention in the economy. The TP protesteors have been calling for less.
However, the differences end there. Perhaps surprisingly, the two movements have much more in common than not.
OWS and the TP: Similarities
The two movements share a lot of common ground, perhaps much more than either side would like to admit:
- Both movements want to change the course that America is currently on. A recent poll revealed that a dismal 81 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong path
- Both are popular uprisings angry at powerful institutions that they believe are responsible for America’s economic woes
- Both are not easily defined and do not have prominent leaders but instead advocate varying viewpoints
- Both have intelligent members within their ranks
- Both have crazy radicals within their ranks
Furthermore, both are angry for the same reason. The OWS movement is citizen spawned activism against the undue power and influence of large corporations. The Tea Party is – or at least was, in its infancy – citizen spawned activism against the government’s undue interference with private enterprise. As blogger James Sinclair points out, the two movements are “raging against different halves of the same machine.”
“Bailouts, subsidies, tax breaks, special rights and privileges, regulations designed to restrict competition – to name a few of the many ways the government protects and stimulates corporate interests (which agitates the occupiers), and those things are every bit as anti-free market as, not to mention directly related to, the high taxes and excessive bureaucracy that gets Tea Partiers riled up.”
So while the media would love to pit the two movements against each other and make them both seem like scary, unruly, hate-filled movements, as citizens it’s important to look beyond the rhetoric and try to find solutions to the one thing that both movements and pretty much every American agrees upon: This country needs dire economic reform.