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Opinion

Opinion

Occupy Wall Street vs. the tea party

October 13, 2011

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— The tea party’s splendid successes, which have altered the nation’s political vocabulary and agenda, have inspired a countermovement — Occupy Wall Street. Conservatives should rejoice and wish for it long life, abundant publicity and sufficient organization to endorse congressional candidates deemed worthy. All Democrats eager for OWS’ imprimatur, step forward.

In scale, OWS’ demonstrations-cum-encampments are to tea party events as Pittsburg, Kan., is to Pittsburgh, Pa. So far, probably fewer people have participated in all of them combined than attended just one tea party rally, that of Sept. 12, 2009, on the Washington Mall. In comportment, OWS is to the tea party as Lady Gaga is to Lord Chesterfield: Blocking the Brooklyn Bridge was not persuasion modeled on tea party tactics.

Still, OWS’ defenders correctly say it represents progressivism’s spirit and intellect. Because it embraces spontaneity and deplores elitism, it eschews deliberation and leadership. Hence its agenda, beyond eliminating one of the seven deadly sins (avarice), is opaque. Its meta-theory is, however, clear: Washington is grotesquely corrupt and insufficiently powerful.

Unfortunately for OWS, big government’s scandal du jour, the Obama administration’s Solyndra episode of crony capitalism, does not validate progressivism’s indignation, it refutes progressivism’s aspiration, which is for more minute government supervision of society. Solyndra got to the government trough with the help of a former bundler of Obama campaign contributions who was an Energy Department bureaucrat helping to dispense taxpayers’ money to politically favored companies. His wife’s law firm represented Solyndra. But, then, government of the sort progressives demand — supposed “experts,” wiser than the market, allocating wealth and opportunity by supposedly disinterested decisions — is not just susceptible to corruption, it is corruption. It is political favoritism with a clean (even green) conscience.  

Demands posted in OWS’ name include a “guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment”; a $20-an-hour minimum wage (above the $16 entry wage the United Auto Workers just negotiated with GM); ending “the fossil fuel economy”; “open borders” so “anyone can travel anywhere to work and live”; $1 trillion for infrastructure; $1 trillion for “ecological restoration” (e.g., re-establishing “the natural flow of river systems”); “free college education.”

And forgiveness of “all debt on the entire planet period.” Progressivism’s battle cry is: “Mulligan!” It demands the ultimate entitlement — emancipation from the ruinous results of all prior claims of entitlement.  

Imitation is the sincerest form of progressivism because nostalgia motivates progressives, not conservatives. Tea Party Envy is leavened by Woodstock Envy — note the drum circles at the Manhattan site — which is a facet of Sixties Envy. Hence conservatives should be rejoicing.

From 1965 through 1968, the left found its voice and style in consciousness-raising demonstrations and disruptions. In November 1968, the nation, its consciousness raised, elected Richard Nixon president and gave 56.9 percent of the popular vote to Nixon or George Wallace. Republicans won four of the next five presidential elections.

Perhaps things will go better for progressives this time. Barack Obama feels their pain — understands their “frustration.” America’s median income has declined even faster since the recovery began three Junes ago than it did during the recession, students are graduating into a jobless “recovery,” African-Americans and Hispanics have unemployment rates of 16 and 11.3 percent, respectively, but Obama is on the case: He wants corporate jets to be taxed more. OWS must still, however, raise the consciousnesses of backsliding congressional Democrats who have decided that, unlike the president, they do not believe that “the rich” begin at household incomes of $250,000.  

Tahrir Square Envy also motivates America’s Progressive Autumn, the left’s emulation of the Arab Spring. Of course, some lagoons of advanced thinking, such as Montgomery County, Md. — it is a government workers’ dormitory contiguous to Washington — were progressive before OWS’ drum(circle)beat became progressivism’s pulse. The Montgomery County town of Takoma Park is a “nuclear-free zone,” meaning it has no truck with nuclear weapons.

Responding to peace activists, some Montgomery County Council members sponsored a resolution to instruct Congress to slash defense spending. The idea died when Virginia began inviting the county’s second-largest private-sector employer, Lockheed Martin, to move across the Potomac. To OWS, this proves the power of the plutocracy. To the tea party, it proves the virtue of federalism.

As Mark Twain said, difference of opinion is what makes a horse race. It is also what makes elections necessary and entertaining. So: OWS versus the tea party. Republicans generally support the latter. Do Democrats generally support the former? Let’s find out. Let’s vote.

George Will is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. His email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

Comments

Mike Ford 2 years, 6 months ago

shame on me for telling the truth about you.....now use your circular arguement to change the subject.....

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camper 2 years, 6 months ago

"All Democrats eager for OWS’ imprimatur, step forward. "

Now that I have learned what the word imprimatur means, I'm ready to go on to the next paragraph. I figure it will be several months before I can make my way thru the rest of Will's piece. I doubt this will still be on the blog list so I guess I must hold my comments.

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Dispersant 2 years, 6 months ago

Please explain something to me...Does Wall St. pay Obama off (elections; something I hear everyday on the right)...Or...Is Obama taking on Wall St.? Which is it?

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Mike Ford 2 years, 6 months ago

that's funny born again immigrant....I read three blogs from Native American people at different ows sites nationwide talking about how corporations have always leaned on the federal government to steal lands from tribes for them... gee....is your stereotype off base????

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Mike Ford 2 years, 6 months ago

ows people are smarter...that's the difference...I haven't seen any ows people show up wearing mustaches like adult movie stars and having holsters and AR 15's in tote looking like castoffs from the squidbillies...don't compare the diplomas to the double wides....

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 6 months ago

The occupation had some signs that said whites were the problem. Obama had better be careful. His problem side may hurt him in the election.

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BornAgainAmerican 2 years, 6 months ago

The usual contingent of Larryville Whackos continue to candy coat and even lie for OWS to cover for them. It's pitiful, but I guess it's all you people have.

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its_just_math 2 years, 6 months ago

Faux news as the civil lefts likes to refer to them as will surely expose who is funding these Wall St. nutcase occupiers. My guess much of it is from Soros, of course, as usual, funneled through one of his many front groups who do the dirty work with his big donations.

This is all elementary, as we know Obama is essentially finished. But this has the left hysterical and mean, very mean.

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Windemere 2 years, 6 months ago

Sad to see each side of this debate engaging in anti-intellectual mud-slinging and name-calling (racists, xenophobes, drug addicts, sexual offenders...). Of course there are kooks on either side of these "movements." Focusing on what they advocate (or what the majority of them advocate) is so much more interesting and productive.

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jonas_opines 2 years, 6 months ago

I would never have expected a column about both OWS and the Tea Party to bring out the frothing 5%ers in such numbers. . . . .

. . . . . .

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Richard Payton 2 years, 6 months ago

George Soro's number 7 on Forbes richest list and he might be the secret funding machine for OWS. No I didn't receive the information from Fox News as liberals refer to faux news. Got my information from reuters this morning.

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jaywalker 2 years, 6 months ago

Bozo giveth: "There are a few oddballs calling for odd things... but you're just another conservative freaking out about this movement, looking for any way you can to discredit it, even if it requires implying that a few oddballs are what define this movement, and they aren't.

And Bozo resembles his own remark: "BTW, xenophobia and even outright racism most certainly are defining characteristics of a large percentage of self-identified tea partiers."

B E A uuuu T ful!

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Agnostick 2 years, 6 months ago

Quote:

"Yeah, I'm oversimplifying, but only a little. The greatest threat to our economy is neither corporations nor the government. The greatest threat to our economy is both of them working together. There are currently two sizable coalitions of angry citizens that are almost on the same page about that, and they're too busy insulting each other to notice."

Source:

http://howconservativesdrovemeaway.blogspot.com/2011/10/occupy-wall-street-vs-tea-party.html

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Jimo 2 years, 6 months ago

"OWS is to the tea party as Lady Gaga is to Lord Chesterfield"

Was it Lord Chesterfield who said: "Keep your government hands off my Medicare"?

Perhaps Will's Lordship is among the misinformed Propaganda Channel sheep who think the President is un-American, or a Muslim, or the Anti-Christ, or 'just like' Hitler, Stalin, (fill in the blank)?

ROFL

There's stupid and then there's Tea Party stupid. Where OWS will end up isn't not yet knowable despite Will's desperate need to revisit his obsession with hippies.

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Jimo 2 years, 6 months ago

As has been the trend for some while, Will moves from conservative pundit to cranky old reactionary.

Bottom Line:

OWS is 2x as popular as the Mad Tea Hatters and no amount of crap from Will or any other nattering nabob of negativism changes that.

http://swampland.time.com/full-results-of-oct-9-10-2011-time-poll/

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kcgregory 2 years, 6 months ago

Conservative blogger James Sinclair wrote recently:

"The greatest threat to our economy is neither corporations nor the government. The greatest threat to our economy is both of them working together. There are currently two sizable coalitions of angry citizens that are almost on the same page about that, and they're too busy insulting each other to notice."

I could get behind either or both of the Tea Party and OWS if they actually were movements towards what they say they are movements towards. Instead, like most of you, they can not for the life of them get the two party system out of their heads. BOTH parties are corrupt and when you strip away the rhetoric they really stand for mostly the same things.

Also, I fully realize the right-wingers will claim Mr. Sinclair is no conservative. Save the whining on that one.

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Blessed4x 2 years, 6 months ago

I will fight for either group to say what they will and organize the way that they would like. That's the American way. We are a society of malcontents that occasionally get so ticked off that we take to the streets. That's a great thing as long as it's done within the confines of decency and the law. I support the right of the OWS folks to make their position known, but I do not condone the stories of lawlessness and baseness that are coming out of the areas where the OWS members are protesting. And don't give me any nonsense about my definition of decency vs. yours. If you think defecating on police cars and urinating in the street are perfectly acceptable behaviors then I fear you and I will never see eye to eye. By all means, give voice to your opinion but please bear in mind that you have no right to act like an animal and it does nothing but harm to your cause.

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autie 2 years, 6 months ago

I am amazeded at how many people apparently missed the point entirely. It does make it easier to not listen, then conjure up what you didn't hear.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 6 months ago

"gimme, gimme, gimme" vs "leave me alone"

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rockchalk1977 2 years, 6 months ago

New York City police plan to evict the OWS protesters to clean. The owner of the park told police they have received “hundreds of phone calls and emails” from locals complaining about "lewdness, groping, drinking and drug use, the lack of safe access to and usage of the Park, ongoing noise at all hours, unsanitary conditions and offensive odors. Sounds like the fleabagger's movements are all over the park. Did we have this problem with the Tea Party gatherings?

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/10/12/occupy-wall-street-protesters-to-be-temporarily-forced-out-new-york-park-by/

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Windemere 2 years, 6 months ago

A previous post said OWS and TP have nothing in common. Actually, significant numbers of those in each camp are against the corporate bailouts. I also see another difference based upon the reports I've seen on OWS. TP people seem to support specific policy changes or initiatives (e.g. concerning bailouts, immigration, etc.). From what I've seen of OWS, they think "the system is broken" and "the economy doesn't work for ordinary Americans" but very few mention specific goals or initiatives. Some give specifics, but vast majority of examples I've seen indicate few do so.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 6 months ago

The occupation of Wall St. by Obama's troops is about all these shiftless characters are good for. At least the normal people that call themselves tea party clean up after themselves.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 6 months ago

Yet another conservative freaking out about Occupy Wall Street, et al., attempting furiously to pin as many straw men to it as they can conjure up.

But one thing is for certain-- it isn't a response to or imitation of the tea partiers.

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cthulhu_4_president 2 years, 6 months ago

Funny, I haven't heard any of those "demands posted in OWS name" that Will mentions from the OWS people, and I have a lot of people each posting 20 + items a day about the movement on my social media feeds, including some in New York. Forgive me if I don't trust you, Mr. Will, to tell me what their goals are in an unbiased way. I'll get it from the source, thank you. Everything I've read from them about the goals of the movement seems to suggest that their only main goal is to start a dialogue in our society about the issues of corporate involvement in government.

The hilarious overreactions to a little civil disobediance by Will, the talking heads (on both sides), and screeching commenters above only prove that it's working. They should all be very proud, because their screaming and whining has given the OWS movement more credibility than it ever could have gathered on it's own.

The Tea Party and OWS both exist because in this country we are allowed to assemble and voice our grievances if we are not happy about something. Period. I think it's awesome that we live in a country where both positions can exist and have a public presence, but the similarity ends there, and any further comparison is asanine, and is an obvious attempt at obfuscation. If someone wants to denigrate OWS because they're not 'grassroots' enough, well, that's a convenient way to keep from talking about the issues, isn't it?

Also, it seems a little ironic for the modern tea partiers to whine about the civil disobediance associated with this movement. What, exactly, was the Tea Party (the original)? Didn't it show us that a little civil disobediance can go a long way? Seems a little hypocritical to me.

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Fossick 2 years, 6 months ago

Well, here's the funny part. If some of the truly oddball stuff, like protestors claiming the Jews control Wall Street, or calling for French Revolution-style bloodshed* had been done by Tea Party people, there would have been no end to the Sunday Morning shows playing the tapes over and over, and shaking their heads and pretending to worry about it. They would have done as they did for the one or two racists they managed to find - paint the whole movement with that brush. But they're not doing that for the OWS people. The question is, why not?

Most conservatives would argue, I suppose, that the legacy media is on cahoots with the protestors, secretly agrees with them, or is in some way working to advance the protestors' aims. I think in this line of thinking they are exactly wrong.

What is really going on is that the media realizes these people are simply moonbats. They are not taken seriously because they are not serious people. Yes, that they are sleeping in a park is interesting, that is why the stories are being covered. But that does not make them important.

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jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

I think both groups are an expression of the various frustrations many Americans have with our political and economic situation right now.

The T-Party focuses on the lack of fiscal soundness in Washington, while the OWS group is more upset about the actions of corporations, banks, etc. and their ability to get bailed out by Washington.

I'd say that all of these things are worth paying attention to, and that there's no good reason to pit these groups against each other.

And, both groups are composed of a variety of people, some intelligent and articulate, and others less so - both groups had a diffuse focus at their inception, and will probably come together more as they continue, etc.

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ENGWOOD 2 years, 6 months ago

OWS whiners supported by the Obama, Soros, Hoffa Union Mafia thugs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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deathpenaltyliberal 2 years, 6 months ago

I see the right wing circle jerk, err, echo chamber is in gear.

Now that the media elites at FoxNews have taken notice of OWS, they are spreading the disinformation and trying to turn Americans against Americans. And apparently it is working on the dim-witted posters above.

To say that the Tea Party is a grassroots movement is to ignore the millions of dollars it receives from the Kochs and others. Heck, Dick Armey pulls in $500K a year to coordinate the "grass roots".

Maybe OWS and the TP are the opposite sides of the same coin? In the meantime, stop hating on your fellow Americans and ask why does Fox and the rest of the MSM hype this up? Follow the money, pinheads.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 6 months ago

OWS in some circles are being called "The Fleabaggers" as they are generally unbathed and really don't have any desire to work.

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BornAgainAmerican 2 years, 6 months ago

The T-Party and OWS are world's apart. The T-Party was truly a grass roots movement with focus, made their well defined points without resorting to civil disobedience, did not use drugs or have public sex while demonstrating, and cleaned up after themselves. OWS continues to be arrested, trash public property, deficate on police cars and sidewalks, engage in public displays of sex, and advocate revolution. When will the real thuggery and violence begin? OWS is an out of control mob funded by the likes of George Soros and the unions.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 6 months ago

the difference between occupy wall street and the tea party?

the tea party is real grass-roots.

occupy wall street is a concoction organized by the left to appear grass-roots.

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 6 months ago

Many of these "protestors" on Wall Street are spoiled rich kids who attend some of the the most prestigious prep schools, colleges, and universities in the country. They apparently enjoy protesting against their own parents, a direct parallel with the hippie protests of the late '60s and early '70s, which proved to be hard cheese indeed for Democrats at the polls in 1968 and 1972.

By the way, when are these immature loons going to protest at the homes of all of the filthy rich limousine liberals in Hollywood?

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jaywalker 2 years, 6 months ago

"And forgiveness of “all debt on the entire planet period.” Progressivism’s battle cry is: “Mulligan!” It demands the ultimate entitlement — emancipation from the ruinous results of all prior claims of entitlement."

Accurate or not, "Mulligan!" brought coffee to my nose. Good a.m chortle.

Speaking of funny and on this topic, did anyone catch "The Daily Show" with Hugh Jackman last week? Couldn't stop laughing when Stewart played a clip of Hannity supposedly backing the OWS movement, only to discover the clip was from '09 and he was talking Tea Party. His opinion of OWS was actually that they were "against freedom." Hilarious hypocrisy!

To all who don't realize, 'The Daily Show' is definitely worth taping. Almost always hysterical and with excellent guests, particularly the authors.

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