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Is Occupy Wall Street the “Tea Party of the left?”
Time has a blog post pondering whether the two anti-elite, anti-corruption movements could ever unite. “It’s not that far-fetched,” Roya Wolverson writes. “In some ways, the tea party and OWS are like doppelgangers … Both groups are repulsed by their taxpayer dollars funding Wall Street’s bailout. Both are disenchanted by the death of the American dream. And both feel left out of a system that seems less like a democracy than a cavalier plutocracy.” The post links to a Venn diagram by blogger James Sinclair showing where the two movements’ grievances overlap.
Not so fast, tea partiers say. Politico reports that major Tea Party groups are mounting an assault intended to delegitimize the Occupy Wall Street protests. They’re “hunting for evidence of union ties, fringe rhetoric and bad behavior — ranging from news of arrests, to recordings of incendiary speeches, to tales of littering, drug use and debauchery,” Politico writes. “They’re posting what they find online, like a photograph of a demonstrator apparently defecating on a cop car that has circulated widely, and are accusing the mainstream media of ignoring extremist elements.”
The conservative columnist George Will argues in the Washington Post that the two groups aren’t comparable because Occupy Wall Street is much smaller and its tactics more radical. And a campaign director for the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks argues in the Politico article that tea partiers are “cheerful, happy warriors” while the Occupy Wall Street crowds are unhappy and angry. He compares the Tea Party to Martin Luther King Jr. and Occupy Wall Street to Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael.
One sign that the comparison might be flawed: A new Time poll shows that Occupy Wall Street is twice as popular with Americans as the Tea Party. Fifty-four percent of Americans view the “Occupy” movement favorably, compared to just 27 percent for the Tea Party. Slate’s David Weigel has a brief blog post examining the numbers.
The movement is even getting some sympathy from Wall Street itself, it seems. Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit on Wednesday called the protesters’ sentiments “completely understandable,” according to BusinessWeek. “Trust has been broken between financial institutions and the citizens of the U.S., and that is Wall Street’s job, to reach out to Main Street and rebuild that trust,” Pandit elaborated. Responding to Wednesday’s “millionaires march” on the homes of prominent New York tycoons, Pandit, who bought an $18 million Upper West Side apartment in 2007, said he’d welcome an audience with the protesters. “I’d be happy to talk to them any time they want to come up.”