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Monday, October 10, 2011

Comparing Occupy Wall Street With The Tea Party

I caught my first live glimpse -- and whiff -- of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Downtown New York's Zuccotti Park Monday. At first glance, there seem to be some parallels and many sharp differences between the Occupiers and the Tea Parties.

The most obvious differences are the form of protest, and the demographic of the protestors. The Occupiers are in a semi-permanent occupation, surely doing this in shifts and shuttling back and forth to other residences. The Tea Parties do not do permanent protests, working in short bursts to make a point to Congress, the news media and the general public. The Occupiers also seem disproportionately college-aged twentysomethings, and stylish. There is an element of coming there to look good and to attract attention -- just like in college or high school -- but that surely is not the case with the mad-as-hell Tea Party.

Both groups do have a point, and a shared ground in opposing fiscal irresponsibility. The Tea Party targets government irresponsibility, of which some manifested in the ill-conceived bailouts of 2008-09 that produced little but for which we will pay for decades. Occupy Wall Street really ought to target the same thing, as their anger at bankers is really a derivative of the suspicion that government bailouts of Wall Street were nothing more than a huge transfer of wealth from tomorrow's taxpayers to today's bankers, with risk coming back in return.

As with all protests, there are opportunistic groups which try to "free ride" on the available media attention and use the implied credibility of the main, core group for their own advantage. But if there is a strong "Leftist" or "Marxist" component to the Occupiers, it was not on display on Columbus Day.

Eric Dixon is a New York election lawyer for candidates all over the political spectrum, and legal advisor to several Tea Party organizations.

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