Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Different Flavor of Tea

I find it rather amusing when people get indignant about comparisons that are made about the Tea Partiers and the Occupy Wall Streeters (OWSers). Conservatives are quick to argue that Tea Partiers are regular hard working folks who protest peacefully, while OWSers are unbathed nose-ringed unemployables that destroy property and get into fights with the cops. Liberals are quick to argue that OWSers are legitimately aggrieved progressive types, while Tea Partiers are angry racists with unrealistic goals. But let's consider the following:

1) Both groups have their embarrassing fringe elements present at their rallies. Tea Party rallies do feature nuts with signs referring to Hitler and thinking it's a good idea to bring their legally-owned firearms to a peaceful protest because that's totally a good idea. OWS has its share of dreadlocked professional agitators who are ironically part of organizations with the word "Workers" in their title, despite a lack of ever doing anything that can be called "work". But both rallies also feature a large number of regular folks who are pissed enough to come out in big numbers--the nuts alone aren't enough to fill those rallies.

2) The majority of those protesting are angry for good reason. A serious recession that won't quit, a government that spends far more than it takes in, a tax system that is a complete joke, and political parties in charge that really have no sense of how to fix anything wrong. Tea partiers (who tend to be older) are angry about watching their retirement savings and house values disappear, and OWSers are angry about their massive student loan debt and poor job prospects. It's easy to sympathise with all of them.

3) Both Tea Partiers and OWSers don't really have solutions to their problems that will actually fix the problems that they're protesting about. Platforms involving cutting government spending (except on social security, medicare, and defense) and leaving taxes at current levels will not ever see the light of day, let alone help our economy getting moving, and plans to "soak the rich" by taxing "the top 1%" are just as unlikely to fix our economy (and any wholesale loan forgiveness is only going to wreck the financial sector even more, having a nice ripple effect on the economy).

4) Both groups tend to be largely white and middle class. All stupid accusations of racism aside, there's a good reason for this--through history, the most "revolutionary" classes tend not to be the most downtrodden but rather those who had more to lose and felt in danger of losing it. (Think the urban proletariat instead of the peasantry in 1917 Russia, as an example)

5) Both groups are summarily dismissed by the other side of the political spectrum, which focuses only on the nutjobs and the incoherent political demands, rather than the justifiable anger of the regular folks in those masses.

While some of what the Tea Party and the OWSers call for are at odds (one wanting less taxes, the other wanting more taxes, at least for Americans who aren't them), the degree of overlap for these two groups is significant--anger at the elites, anger at the "crony capitalism" of government being in bed with business, and a failure of the financial system--and one wonders what would happen if the two groups ever joined forces. Perhaps it's best for the powers that be if such a thing never were to happen.

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