Many journalists and Democrats are hailing Occupy Wall Street as a tea party for their side.
Whenever I see OWS compared to the tea party, I think of this headline:
Occupy Wall Streeter Defecates on Police Car
Leaving aside matters of personal hygiene, I think the left is making a big fat tactical error in its embrace of Occupy Wall Street. The tea party comparison could turn out to be a disaster for them, showing just how far removed Beltway types are from regular folks, who are unlikely to find people who defecate on police cars extremely appealing. (Herman Cain, who has been most outspoken among GOP candidates against OWS, gets this.)
Just for the record, I’ve been to quite a few tea party events, and I always notice that the crowds are genial and polite and that they have a coherent message (limited government, lower taxes, and a return to constitutional principles). They can express this viewpoint with clarity, and it is one that is likely to resonate in a nation overwhelmed by public debt.
In contrast, Occupy Wall Street knows it wants something and it wants it now. Unfortunately, they have trouble putting into words what it is that they want now. I gather it has something to do with getting millionaires and billionaires to share their money with them. As Brian Calle of the OC Register notes, Occupy Wall Street has embraced the worst ideas going, some of them coming from the president:
Whether intentional or not, President Obama's consistent us-versus-them message has helped spawn a loose assemblage of citizens angry about a potpourri of economic issues, with the focus being wealthy Americans.
This ragtag assembly, though, is already being courted by powerful political special interests, from labor unions to Moveon.org, perhaps eager to mold the disparate groups into a movement. The Left is looking for its own grass-roots, Tea Party-equivalent to marshal and manage for Election 2012. But what they will create instead is more polarization.
What started Sept. 17 as a somewhat localized counterculture protest on Wall Street, magnified by a national spotlight, is attempting to grow into a nationwide (if not global) movement aimed at diminishing corporate power and challenging the purported influence of business, particularly big business, in the United States. It is not only an attack on corporations, though, but also an assault of the economic system that allows for them to flourish – free-market capitalism.
Occupy Wall Street is out on the streets because the economy is so bad. It is therefore ironic that they in general seem to want more of the kinds of policies that President Obama has instituted and that have stalled the economy (for a counter view, see Victor Davis Hanson, who has distilled what he sees as their agenda into bullet points and some of them are not so bad). OWS is angry but at the wrong people.
It is interesting that Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein, who wishes that Occupy would “morph” into a tea party for the left (but thinks that there are impediments to this glorious outcome), is attracted to the very thing that many outside the Washington-New York bubble must find most troubling: that anger. Pearlstein writes:
I wish it were true that the Obama administration had learned how to channel public anger to lasting political advantage.
I don’t think most of us want a polity based on anger. But it does seem to me that Occupy Wall Street is going to make people plenty angry—just not at Mr. Pearlstein’s targets of choice. Regular people are likely to be more angry with the protestors themselves than with billionaires. Billionaires aren't turning our parks into trash dumps and demanding that others solve their problems right now.
Occupy Wall Street’s rhetoric may focus on the evil rich, but the left has always been willing to walk all over just about anybody. Occupy Wall Street is no exception. Michael Goodwin recounts the reaction of one ordinary American to these hoods:
Sheri Rosen said she works downtown, at 111 Broadway, and is sick of the filth and mayhem [created by Occupy Wall Street].
“We work very hard every day for not that much money,” she writes. “We don’t camp out at a park and act like animals by urinating and stealing milk from the coffee vendors that are also trying to make a living.”
Next time you hear a Democratic politician making common cause with Occupy Wall Street, remember Sheri Rosen.