Question: OWS and the Tea Party

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66 Responses

  1. Avatar Kolohe says:

    They both think Ben Bernanke is history’s greatest monster.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Both groups are greatly suspicious of the machinations of big business and how it is controlling the government for its own end leading to the middle class being eviscerated. It is a fear of a large impersonal forces running everything for their own greed.

    How much that is true is either presentation is a different question. Some on both sides are basically conspiracy theorists who will find some pattern of distant evil doers doing evil no matter happens. Others have cogent complaints.

    Of course neither the OWS or TP seem to have set up armed road blocks with armed thugs like the Bund is alleged to be doing in Nevada.Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

      Maybe but I see the Tea Party as being more pro big-business than they actually think or say they are even if inadvertently.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Yeah i think there are serious contradictions in the TP view: they distrust big business and distant rich people but don’t want to do anything that might limit the power of the groups they fear.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Has the government limited the power of the groups they fear?Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Some yes, some no, jay is i guess the answer. Not sure what that has to do with the internal contradictions of the TP though.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        but I see the Tea Party as being more pro big-business than they actually think or say they are even if inadvertently.

        They’re not anti-big business; they’re anti-big business and government making sweet sweet love to each other. I’m pretty sure the OWS folks are, too.

        Whether the similarities go much beyond that, I doubt. There are too many differences to allow them to build a real political coalition. But they could have a marriage of convenience on that issue. (Which is to say, both sides should support my anti-rent amendment.)Report

  3. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    There are some underlying concerns in common. I’d say it is a stretch to say a lot in common though. I see a commonly held critique of crony capitalism and a concern that too big to fail harms the little guy. Also a concern about oligarchy/plutocracy in the state’s tools being deployed for the benefit of the undeserving.

    That said, I’m deeply skeptical of any prospect of any durable OWS-Tea Party coalition/alliance. I think the outlook differences you outlined are enough to torpedo the prospect of cooperation beyond perhaps tactical things, like maybe, an amendment to a bill that says the Fed must disclose more information about practice X.

    But more than that kind of low level, situational/tactical stuff, the prescriptions on offer are really different. The more government less government divide is a simplification that doesn’t always map onto a given political situation, but in this instance it fits pretty well. Austerity, cut the welfare state, cut taxes versus soak the rich, more social benefits provision, and support unions’ efforts. There aren’t really easy bridges between the positions.Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

      I think you are right. A Tea Partier once tried to convince me that regulations just try and hold the little guy down and gave the example of someone who wanted to start a custom-made luxury car business in his garage.

      I always think of this when people say that OWS and the Tea Party have a lot in common because I very much doubt that OWS cares about a luxury car business.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        A better example is how occupational licensing prevents people from hair styling or being a locksmith. This almost a cliched example of business and government being in bed to protect incumbents.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


        I don’t know enough about locksmithing to comment but I think barbers and esthecians need training because they use chemicals, hot wax, razors, etc. I like the idea of getting a professional shave with a straight-edge razor every now and then. It makes me feel better that my barber was trained and licensed to use it.

        I think government licensing is a bit of a red herring. Suppose instead of government licenses for locksmiths, there was an organization called the International Association of Keymasters. They establish an identical but private licensing scheme as the government one and also constantly advertise and warn about the public about not trusting any locksmith who does not have the licensed gatekeeper seal on their window, website, whatever. Members proudly show their licenses whenever asked “Are you the keymaster?”

        The result of this is that a person could theoretically become a locksmith without the license but in actuality they would not get sustainable business without membership or approval from the International Association of Keymasters.

        Why is this any better than government licensing?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Some regs help the big guys, others help the little guys.
        Often it depends on whether the enforcement costs scale nicely.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “Why is this any better than government licensing?”

        the difference between social enforcement and legal enforcement in this case is pretty sharp; one involves legally levied fines, shutdowns, etc.

        as to whether it’s “better” depends on what you think licensing is good for and how far it should extend. but in terms of how it’s different, that is more obvious.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @saul-degraw We’re talking about cutting and braiding hair. You know, things that we allow parents to do with kids at home, with no training or licensing

        The difference is choice. Your Keymaster’s Association is a false analogy because people can determine whether or not to deal with KA. There’s a difference between illegal and private organizations. With a required license the consumer gets no choice, with the association, there is a choice. A good example of this is UL. Nothing requires people to look for the UL seal of approval and many people don’t care. Maybe if there was something more akin to contractors, where consumers can choose whether or not to deal with unlicensed providers. I think you’d find that most people don’t care if their barber has a license or not.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        We’re talking about cutting and braiding hair.

        I think there’s a bit more to it. We’re also talking toxic chemicals used to color and perm hair (hair dressers have a lot of health problems due to this), waxing eyebrows and other body parts, shaving men’s faces and necks with a razor. . . a host of services that require training to make sure they’re done in methods that both protect the hair dresser and the customer.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        Except the licensing arrangements aren’t that narrow. The guy with the candy cane striped pole that just cuts and shaves needs a license. Depending on the state, you need a license to braid hair. That’s insanity.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        considering the health problems caused by use of certain shampoos at home, I sometimes wonder if we shouldn’t have better licensing. But, then again, who really is going to tell a mama “don’t let your daughter use your shampoo”??Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        As someone whose grandfather was the guy with the candy came poll, I agree with Mo.Report

      • @mo Yup. An equally good example is CPSIA. Unfortunately, my main piece on that – my only ever foray into real, actual journalism – has been lost to the dustbin of Culture11. Regardless, the (IMHO, somewhat intended) effect of that POS legislation was to place minimal new product safety burdens on the largest toy manufacturers and publishers, easily met due to their economies of scale, while placing massive burdens on small producers who had done nothing wrong and who often weren’t even using regulated materials or making early childhood products.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Meh, I don’t think the dudes know much about women’s grooming products and the dangers they present (says the woman who does not wear any makeup, refuses to color her graying hair).

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Zic, at least a part of what we’re saying is that the regulatory structure doesn’t care whether a particular barber uses the things you refer to or not.Report

      • @will-truman Aye. I don’t think many people have much of a problem with the notion of requiring licenses to handle or acquire particular chemicals. But what can possibly be the basis for requiring a blanket license not only to handle those chemicals but also to do something for pay that people routinely do for free?Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    One difference seems to be the organizing; some top-down organizing and money to pay for transporting protestors to Tea Party events; bottom-up and without funding for OWS.

    A second was in police response to the protests; hands-off at Tea Party events, mace the college kids sitting on the street at OWS events.

    A third would be media presence; Tea Party protests got a lot of TV promotion before they happened, OWS had been going on for a while (I was in NYC during the first few days, and it was not on the national news much yet).

    Both are incoherent collections of people who feel left out and on the fringe, so they hold that in common.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      I think that’s correct as to the concerns. How to fix it differs significantly. OWS wants more gov’t to fix these problems, more regulation, more “justice”, etc. The TP wants the opposite, with the large caveat that neither side wants to give up what they have or get their own ox gored.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yeah, that’s pretty good.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      Bull. When the Bush administration was running amok, there was no Tea Party staging protests. The Tea Party hasn’t accomplished jack squat about crony capitalism. In states where the Tea Party wing of the GOP has control, crony capitalism flourishes.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’m with ya Barry. THe idea that the Tea Party is fundamentally, or primarily, or tangentially, or even marginally opposed to corporate influence on gummint is based on a mythological origins story that is completely disconnected from reality.

        OWS, on the other hand … I never could figure out what they were on about. It seemed to me like they were just complaining about problems without proposing any real solutions.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Barry, I can easily see people starting to be worried about the NSA one of the fine mornings of 2016… people who, for whatever reason, aren’t staging protests now.

        For what it’s worth, I hope you’ll spend more time agreeing with this group than asking where the heck they were in April 2014.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


        IIRC, OWS was the brain child of the people behind Ad Busters magazine.

        The guy who owns Ad Busters is a bit of a crank himself.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Saul, Stillwater,
        Recruiting, mainly. Have a bit of fun, a bit of sex, make people remember that there is a liberal group.

        #OWS_Sandy, otoh, seems more like a testrun.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    First of all, @zic ‘s zinger is on point about incoherence and marginalization.

    Secondly, both groups publicly flirt with “Burn it all Down!” as their proposed reform.

    Thirdly, both are populist in the sense that they rally against concentrations of power and aren’t all that concerned with whether that power resides within the White House or Wall Street.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      “burn it all down” is a perfectly acceptable policy position. The problem is that these groups “flirt” with it. You’re either “inside” or “outside”. You can’t be both.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        So you’re pro-Anonymous?

        I totally disagree. You can have ten ways to get to your goals, and if you don’t try at least half of them, you aren’t doing your job. Because often partial solutions become full solutions when you bundle them together.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:


        No, I didn’t say that. There are two large “perspectives”: change from within or change from without. ANY change attempted through democracy, voting, campaign finance reform, etc., are all attempts to change the system from within. That’s “inside”. The “outside” method is to effect change from other ways, i.e. Anonymous, or other means.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      Oh? What has the Tea Party pushed against Wall St?Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      “Thirdly, both are populist in the sense that they rally against concentrations of power and aren’t all that concerned with whether that power resides within the White House or Wall Street.”

      Bullsh*t. First, one was heavily astroturfed; the other was not. One has taken control of several state governments, and is quite happy with crony capitalism and state power – so long as that power is directed against niggers, spic, fags and hippies UnAmericans.Report

  6. It’s a difficult question to answer definitively, Saul, because both groups are pretty diverse (and, especially on the TP side, sometimes full of apparent contradictions).

    It seems pretty much covered here, but from a libertarian-ish perspective, I was sympathetic to Occupy because it identified a lot of the power dynamics that can lead to corporations and government getting into bed together (I disagreed with their solutions, but that’s another question).

    Anyway, as a self-aggrandizing jerk, I’ll just leave this here.Report

    • Oh, there’s something wrong with that site. Try this link, instead.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

        They also said FDR and the New Deal saved Capitalism from itself 🙂Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        They also said FDR and the New Deal saved Capitalism from itself

        My small town Iowa grandfather used to tell me tales about the American Communist Party getting a very respectful hearing on matters of killing the bankers and overthrowing the government from Iowa farmers down at the Grange Hall in the evenings during the Depression. Then the next week, the same farmers would listen very attentively to the fascists’ proposals for killing the bankers and overthrowing the government. So long as you were in favor of killing the bankers and overthrowing the government, the rest was apparently just minor details :^)Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      “It’s a difficult question to answer definitively, Saul, because both groups are pretty diverse (and, especially on the TP side, sometimes full of apparent contradictions).”

      Nope – the TP is heavily right-wing, heavily Republican. There are squabbles, but they are all internal squabbles of the GOP.Report

  7. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    @zic @burt-likko
    I’m going to pushback against the OWS as incoherent collection of people claim. I’m not familiar enough with the Tea Party, firsthand, to give an accounting for them.

    For OWS, I’m familiar with the the NYC General Assembly to this extent: I went to Zuccotti Park once for several hours with a friend, we attended a General Assembly meeting, milled around and such. A few months later I went with a friend to a Union Square Park for an Occupy University lecture/discussion group. My friend is far more engaged with (and sympathetic to) OWS and we had extensive discussions about OWS methods, goals, and organizing strategy.

    Basically, I’d say OWS has a lefty, social democratic, solidarity-based streak that US politics features about as prominently as libertarianism features – it is present as an outlook, kind of off to the side compared to the more powerful mainstream coalitions, and oftentimes lacking the critical mass to vault it’s priorities or solutions into the upper echelons of politics.

    Looking over the General Assembly consensus generated documents, you can see a particular coherent outlook:

    – Principles of Solidarity – overview of outlook, “daring to imagine a new socio-political and economic alternative that offers greater possibility of equality”
    – Declaration of the Occupation of NYC – grievances, answering what’s so wrong with the present socio-political and economic order
    – OWS Community Agreement – methods of the group, very much bylaws, standards of behavior, how one participates
    – People Before Parties – a program of electoral reform
    (Here, )

    I think OWS emphasizing its egalitarian, horizontal structure meant both the methodology and the message mattered. That isn’t incoherent, it is just more complicated than having a spokesperson, or designated surrogates on cable TV to push an already well developed platform. The radically egalitarian method was a big part of the message.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      @creon-critic I basically agree with this; though I think it’s more complicated. A lot has to do with branding, and in social movements, that takes time. OWS, with a very successful slogan of the 1% has us discussing income inequality in a way we were not previously. That in itself is a huge accomplishment; Piketty’s out selling romances on Amazon.

      Momentum as something recognizable as OWS is really the inchoate part; but I’m happy to find a new name and a new brand in egalitarian fashion.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        In addition, OWS has a problem in that they’re swimming upstream and against the wind. They threaten the 1% (and more importantly, the 0.01%).

        The Tea Party doesn’t; they’re useful fools and liars for the 0.01%.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        The Tea Party doesn’t; they’re useful fools and liars for the 0.01%.

        A part of the Tea Party — small business owners — harbor the belief that some day they will be part of the 0.01%, or at least the 1%. One of the things general polling of the American public has consistently found over the years is that most Americans have no idea of just how wealthy the people at the top of the income/wealth ladder actually are.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        The temporarily embarrassed millionaire small business owners.

        “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” — attributed to SteinbeckReport

  8. Avatar Barry says:


    “Barry, I can easily see people starting to be worried about the NSA one of the fine mornings of 2016… people who, for whatever reason, aren’t staging protests now.

    For what it’s worth, I hope you’ll spend more time agreeing with this group than asking where the heck they were in April 2014.”

    I’m sorry, but please read what I wrote. What I wrote was that a whole bunch of these people ***suddenly*** developed a case of anger at what they were formerly not angry at, just at the time that their party lost power.

    If a large movement on the left, who had formerly had no problem with the NSA, suddenly developed a problem in late 2016, right after President (insert GOP name here) was elected, then that movement would be rather suspicious. And if their members in Congress didn’t seem to actually do anything about the NSA, that would be doubly suspicious.

    And if that movement took control of several state governments, and set up NSA-linked surveillance networks, then only rather foolish or dishonest people would believe that this movement was honest.Report

  9. Avatar Michael M. says:

    While the subject is somewhat broader than just OWS & TP, Ralph Nader’s new book is about a Left-Right alliance to “dismantle the corporate state.”Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      Yes, by getting some billionaires to somehow solve the countries problems, through some sort of ‘third way’ stuff.

      Sheesh. I’m amazed that people still think of Nader as anything but a thoroughly discredited hack.Report

  10. Avatar j r says:

    The cartoon at this link ( is a pretty good summation of how I feel.Report