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Tea Party vs. Occupy: Which Is Winning?
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What may be a declining force in American political life is the Tea Party movement, which in 2010 played a critical role in winning congressional seats and governorships for the economically conservative wing of the GOP. Since then, national support for this loosely organized movement has fallen precipitously. Between March 2010 and April 2011, according to Pew polls, disapproval for the Tea Party rose by 19%, while only 21 % expressed positive views about it. 49% of those polled held no opinion on the subject and were not even motivated to inquire. At the same time, support for Occupy Wall Street movement has held steady at 21% and is now almost equal to the popularity of its right-of-center competitor.

There are several factors that make these findings curious. One, the Tea Party has obviously declined in its confrontational relation to the two-party establishment since 2010. For the last several months Tea Party leaders Senator Jim DeMint and Governor Nikki Haley in South Carolina, Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey, Governor Janice Brewer in Arizona, and Congressman Paul Ryan in Wisconsin have been piling on to the Mitt Romney bandwagon, and self-identified Tea Party sympathizers have been doing the same in primaries in Florida, Colorado, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Their support for the quintessential small-government candidate Ron Paul has been minimal, which should not be surprising. We are talking here primarily about Bush-McCain Republicans, who went on the attack against Democratic spending, and particularly against Obamacare, after the 2008 election. Tea Party demonstrators were mostly, according to polls, high on Medicare, which many of them are receiving, and have no desire to play around with entitlements. They are mostly objecting to Obama’s expansion of government spending.

Two, the fact that Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party levels of popularity are roughly equal has nothing to do with how the two groups have behaved. Although the Tea Party rallies probably drew larger participation, the Anti-Wall Street demonstrators have been much more riotous. While the former made speeches and then went home, the latter took over entire parks and public squares in major and middle-sized cities and then camped out for months. They hectored passers by, made lots of noise and littered streets with debris. In Philadelphia and New York there were reports of violence and even rapes in Anti-Wall Street occupied areas; and in Oakland there was a standoff between demonstrators, who refused to vacate the downtown area, and the police.

This confrontation occurred in what may the most leftist city in the US. There is also an unsettling vagueness in what the demonstrators are calling for, beyond government control of corporations and free college education for everyone who wants to attend universities. Yet roughly the same percentage of Americans approves of this group as do those who identify with the less radical, more mainstream Tea Party.


The reason seems apparent. While the Tea Party stands for the GOP with budget-reductions, at least while the Democrats are in power, the Occupy movement represents cataclysmic change. It is the American precursor of what is happening in France, Greece, and elsewhere in Europe, where the public sector dominates political life. In France a fake conservative administration is about to fall to a Socialist one that promises to subsidize more teachers and expand public sector employment– and will pay for these extravagance by soaking the rich. In Greece the situation is even worse. EU subsidies there were lavished on increased public employments and added pensions; then riots occurred when the EU asked for repayment on its loans. In the US, we are assured by the media, President Obama is trying his best to shake down the rich, but he may not be doing enough to please millions of Americans. Like the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, they want to end “economic inequality” by confiscating wealth and then having the government redistribute it to them.

Bread and the games will indeed be supplied but not much more can be taken from the rich, without drying up our investment sources. And Obama will not pay for the goodies that the public wants by creating real jobs. Like his Republican predecessor he will finance our appetites by convincing the Chinese to buy up our debts. This has been going on for years, and heaven save us if the Chinese ask for the money back. (Out of our national debt of \$15.7 trillion, the Chinese are holding \$2 trillion.)

It seems likely the power of public sector unions will continue to grow; and if this interest remains linked to other protests, for example, demanding amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Occupy movement will be only the rough beginning of what awaits us. By comparison the Tea Party demonstrators are weak tea indeed. They have all the extremism of senior citizens attending a church social gathering.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Occupy, Tea Party 
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  1. platocrat says:

    Voters in 2012 will continue to remove incumbents of both parties. Not enough of them, to be sure, but they will continue to do it. The “Tea Party” and “Occupy” are two sides of the same coin, which is the seething popular rage against the corruption in both political parties, the government, and Wall Street.

  2. If nearly the same number of Americans approve of the radical Occupiers and the mainstream, reasonable Tea Partiers, wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that perhaps the Tea Party isn’t that much more reasonable or mainstream in the eyes of the Reasonable Mainstream than Occupy? Or maybe that reasonable mainstream-ness isn’t the entire ball of wax as far as the viability and credibility of a political movement.

    Besides perceptions and soundbites, the Tea Party has had much more success in acquiring and exercising actual political power. The results have been mixed, at best. Why should its elected representatives should be held unaccountable? Because their supporters understand the bare minimum of civilized behavior is not to fling trash and black traffic? The Reasonable Mainstream would agree with that minimum, I’m sure. But to actually produce sound policy instead of politely but ridiculously posturing at every media opportunity is decidedly more than that minimum.

    The Tea Party seems to have learned, if not the worst, then at least the dumbest lessons of the 60s, as represented by its agitprop-heavy culture of marches, assemblies, pickets and costumes. It doesn’t seem to have learned any of the policy lessons of the past 45 years, (especially the last decade) at all.

  3. The T-party is fundamentally selfish and present-oriented (“…Tea Party demonstrators were mostly, according to polls, high on Medicare…”, the Occupy-WS crowd is fundamentally infantile and pleasure-principle driven … (“They hectored passers by, made lots of noise and littered streets with debris.”

    Given the reigning affairs of state (“Out of our national debt of \$15.7 trillion, the Chinese are holding \$2 trillion.”“), voted in by the people over decades, the Reasonable Mainstream is less reasonable, than fundamentally denying to the point of psychosis. It is all of the above, in a sense: selfish as to the present, but surely if blindly accepting of violence and riots … but please, not in our present.

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Lets just be clear as to why the MainStream Likes the Tea Party

    about as Much as OWS…

    Mainstream America is MODERATE…. We do not like Radicalism.

    Both of these Orgs are RADICAL.

    The Tea Party for Instance wishes to soak the Poor to further Enrich the Wealthy

    OWS on the opposite end wants to Soak the Wealthy to ‘Help’ the Poor

    Mainstream Moderate Americans are not Ideologues.. They are not Radical.. They like the word COMPROMISE.

    If you ask a Moderate MainStream American what they want it is Clear

    1) A Strong Military

    2) Social Security and Medi-Care to be Funded in existence and Fiscally Viable

    3) Quality Schools and High Quality Teachers

    4) Continued upkeep of existing Infrastructure with new projects being brought online as well

    5) Regulations that protect the Consumer so what happened at the end of Bush Jr.’s Presidency NEVER happens again.

    6) Oil and Energy as well as other Corporations brought back under control so they can be stopped form the Environmental Damage they are creating

    7) Alternative Energy Sources that would help us with Number 6

    8) All this done in the Cheapest most Fiscally Responsible Manner

    To Achieve this Moderates know what needs to be done…

    1) Raise Taxes on those that can afford it (The Richest of the Rich)

    2) Streamline Government to reduce as much Monetary Waste as possible

    3) Reduce the Complexity of Regulation (this does not mean eliminate it) so as to make following it less confusing and cheaper for Companies to do

    4) Find a Solution to Spiraling Health Care Costs (The Ones in the PRIVATE Sector especially)

    Conservatives are on Borrowed Time if they do not learn the Word Compromise….

    The Tea Party is already Dead as a Result, there is NO Coming back for them.

    The Republicans and Conservatives still have a chance to recover. But with the Rhetoric this Moderate sees Continuing, I find their Continued Survival Unlikely..

    The Baby Boomers that propped them up for Decades are dying off… And they are NOT being replaced in anything that can remotely resemble equal Numbers.

  5. platocrat says:

    “Mainstream America is MODERATE…. We do not like Radicalism.”

    Well, MODERATE Mainstream America should be quietly taken aside and told that now is as good a time as any for a little remedial instruction in the rules of capitalization.

  6. Brutus says: • Website

    TruthSayer: Americans might be classified as moderates in terms of the Political spectrum, yet that would classify them as radical. It is radical to attempt not to cut the debt. The toothless Tea Party seeks to conserve a fifteen trillion dollar debt. The politicians they support? Well, they have all voted for spending increases at least in the past. The so called Ryan cuts? They do not cut a penny, they just slow down spending. What is radical are the worthless fools who would do nothing to make real cuts in spending. Cut corporate subsidies, do not increase taxes. Cutting subsidies would be more in line with the constitution. I can guarantee you that should taxes be raised, the moment that an annual surplus was ran, they would spend that money. There is nothing moderate about a fifteen trillion dollar debt nor the ridiculous spending that causes it. On a final note, there is nothing radical about a plan that would cut the spending levels of the country back to 2007 levels. That is what a one trillion dollar cut would do.

  7. Tea Party was co-opted by the Republican neoliberals AKA neocons. It limply serves up nothing more now than standard War Party fare and in fact is seen as an adjunct to that Party. In fact, it is so meaningless as far as change is concerned now, that even the uber-wealthy bankster class, as embodied by Mitt, has no problem genuflecting, if disingenuously. In fact that it can be done so disingenuously shows how bereft of real content or any challenge for serious change it has become.

    All was not so sanguine at the earlier Tea Party rallies either; there were plenty of firearms concealed and on hip at Tea Parties and there was antisocial behavior.

    Occupy Wall Street certainly had greater numbers; and the authorities were openly antagonistic: after all, the 1% really does rule America, politically and economically. You can bet the police wouldn’t have tolerated armed OWS demonstrators the way they did gun-toting and gun-displaying Tea Partiers – but again, the Tea Party movement was easily absorbed by mainstream Republican one-percenters who considered them rubes, and no serious threat to the status quo, anyhow.

    The group whose economic hegemony over our lives and whose greed, corruption and offshoring of our economic well being really is that 1%, roughly calculated.

    It might be conservative often means being reflexively for the status quo – or re-embracing it after firing a few blanks into the air like Tea Partiers, but the status quo of “Gekkonomics” has brought us into a world of hurt. Being afraid to change away from a mutated form of rogue crony capitalism gone bad, which most resembles Russian oligarchs in predatory behavior, is not the way restoration of health, if it is even possible now, lies for our USA.

  8. TomB says:

    Of course it depends on what you mean by “winning” when you ask which “Third Force”-type movement is or was doing better, the Tea Party people or the Occupiers.

    But by all reasonable definitions I think the Occupy movement has and more importantly will in the future be seen as being the most popular, successful and enduring in terms of representing a genuine Third-Force movement.

    For all its juvenile antics and incoherent talk I think the Occupy movement nevertheless had the greater, more fundamental recognied truth on its side. And that truth was that whether they identify themselves as being Democrats, or Republicans, or a business or clatch of people doing this or doing that, essentially the country has been seized by and is being run for what is best described as an American Nomenklatura.

    That Nomenklatura lots pretends to fight amongst itself, and sometimes indeed has real fights among itself, just as the old Soviet one did. And all the Tea Partyers did—while perhaps starting out at least a bit angry at all of them—was miss this fundamental truth and thus were very quickly and easily co-opted by one component of the Nomenklatura to attack the other.

    The Occupy movement on the other hand, for all its antics and incoherent talk, at least more recognizes the fundamental truth that this *is* such a Nomenklatura, and started honing in on its bankers and paymasters.

    As usual the future will tell who is right, but I at least would be more than willing to bet that the future Third-Force-type movement that lasts, or the future movements that spring up and prove to have some real force and popular sympathy are not going to be the Tea Partys or those being suckered like the Tea Party into just being tools in the hands of one or the other components of the Nomenklatura.

    Instead, even if it’s a Rand Paul-type movement, it will far more closely agree with the fundamental if poorly expressed understanding that the Occupy movement recognized that the entire game now is essentially rigged. And that the solution is not to merely empower one component of the ruling claque over the other, but to sweep away that entire claque.

    Don’t know if it will be successful in doing so; indeed I doubt it, but if you measure a movement’s success or “winning” in relative terms of the numbers of people persuaded or sympathetic to it, then that’s the sort of Third-Force movement that I believe will clearly emerge as the biggest winner.

  9. The tea party was co-opted by the Republican wing of the establishment within weeks of being started and OWS, after some initial hesitation, was shut down by the liberal mainly Democratic administrations of the cities in which it emerged. My guess is you won’t have a long hot summer of OWS in 2012 because it would cost Obama the election. Real winner (no surprise) is the ruling establishment.

  10. CD File says:

    The TEA party lost favor because it accomplished absolutely nothing. The majority of what it elected went lockstep with everything that is wrong with the republican party delving in everything social that had nothing to do with its mandate or namesake. I have no respect with OWS because it represents everything wrong with America and its unsustainable love affair with entitlements. If it had any real objective it would be Occupy K Street. The rampant corporatism is only possible with sympathetic politicians leaving all blame to government. The blame for government largess we can only blame on ourselves.

  11. Jim says:

    The Tea Party is nothing more than aging Baby Boomers who don’t want to pay taxes to help out younger generations, but who expect younger generations to pay taxes for their Social Security and Medicare. They also have not said anything about America’s ridiculous ‘defense’ budget. As such, the Tea Party combines the worst elements of the extreme right-wing with the Me Me Me attitude of the 60s left.

  12. platocrat says:

    “The TEA party lost favor because it accomplished absolutely nothing.”

    Wrong. It removed a lot of incumbents. It needs to remove even more and probably will. Occupy has nothing on the Tea Party when it comes to actually changing who governs. Occupy is spectacle. The Tea Party actually votes.

  13. “Occupy has nothing on the Tea Party when it comes to actually changing who governs.”

    that’s because Occupy correctly understand that it matters little who holds elected office. any substantive change will come from the collective action of economically victimized people, and that has little to do with any ballot box.

  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The TPM actually votes and is organized around truly Constitutional methods and goals. They moved 700 seats during 2010 and are still very active. They are still actively engaging voters, fundraising and getting the message out that conservatism, free markets, less regulation, spending cuts and taxation changes must be made. They back candidates and work for them.

    The OWS gets press and sympathetic lefties eat it up and I guess that’s what you mean by winning, but if they had any truth at all they would go after Obama and his ties to Wall Street and the 1%. They wouldn’t accept him if they weren’t very partisan. Their tactics are not appreciated by many Americans and most do not back them because they see them for what they are: hypocrites and useful idiots. Does any candidate want OWS backing? Do any of them admit it proudly? Van Jones, sure, but he’s a Truther and left wing radical.

    Don’t count the TPM down and out just yet. We’ll have our say in November. Look for results.

  15. platocrat says:

    I consider myself to be a Tea Party voter. Much as I disagree with them on specific issues, I welcome and generally approve of the Occupy movement.

    Occupy is obviously just as disgusted with the culture of corruption on Wall Street, the incompetence and corruption of politicians as I am. And they agree with me as to the futility and dishonor of these bankrupting wars.

    Media coverage tends to obscure the significant overlap between the two, which is substantial enough to suggest the possibility that collectively they may form the new center of a new political spectrum, committed to clean government, restoration of traditional American rights and freedoms, non-intervention abroad, and to prosecution of the “Big Criminals” who have been wrecking and degrading our country.

  16. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    An actual Occupy vs. Tea party reality show is in production right now. Raising funds at Kickstarter to complete production.

    Go here to see the trailer –

  17. platocrat says:

    I want to get rid of Lindsay Graham and Eric Cantor just as much as I want to get rid of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. That’s what I think the Tea Party is all about.

  18. james says:

    The Tea party is about responsible government, a message which has been sullied by constant relentless media attacks, and the Occupy movement is about pooping in the streets and getting stuff for free because “one day my parents will kick me out”. Both republicans and democrats are corrupt beyond salvation. getting rid of ALL incumbants is the only hope America has, and it’s a slim one. Neither of these movements will probably save us. I fear it;s almost time to water the tree of liberty.

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