In short, Thursday, November 17th may be Occupy Wall Street's "jump the shark" movement, after which it becomes a serious protest movement, or just a quick flameout co-opted by professional rabble-rousers.
For most of the world, Occupy Wall Street represents opposition to the perceived irresponsibility of "big business." The movement tries to speak to the dissatisfied, the worried among us. This is the same target constituency of the Tea Party movement, those Americans mortified by a $15 trillion national debt and a federal government hellbent on spending more of our kids' money in stimulus programs and other boondoggles which they recognize just transfer their money through taxes to the pockets of the connected and corrupt.
There are major differences between the Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movements. The Occupiers blame big business for economic exploitation of the people; the classic Tea Party blames big government for choosing winners and losers in our economic system of crony capitalism. The Occupiers are either unaware of or ignore the role of government in running and ruining our economy, while the Tea Party realizes the government has been the primary problem in shaping preferences, misallocating resources and promoting moral hazards and other perverse incentives. The Occupiers blame capitalism for society's ills, while the Tea Party movement blames government for perverting our economy into a crony capitalism that socializes losses but privatizes profits -- in plain English, the general public shares only in losses and risks.
Of course, the biggest difference between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party is in tactics. The Tea Party has always been peaceful and its members "police their own," meaning they identify and expel people who cause trouble at their events. The Occupiers have been enslaved by their desire for inclusiveness and paralyzed into inaction; the result has been to attract and be dominated by people who have co-opted the original movement to advance any of a motley crew of disparate and often-radical agendas.
The events of Thursday may reveal the extent to which professional anarchists, unrepentant Marxists and others on the absolute fringes of civil society -- never mind respected political discourse -- have ruined an opportunity for constructive political discourse on the perils of Dodd-Frank, the government-sponsored enterprises of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and other misguided regulations that have enhanced economic troubles rather than solve them.
Eric Dixon is a New York investigative attorney, political strategist and management consultant. Mr. Dixon is a 1994 graduate of Yale Law School, former election lawyer for several presidential campaigns and current legal adviser to several conservative and libertarian groups including Gotham Tea Party, Inc.