In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) founder and Service Employees International Union organizer Wade Rathke acknowledged that the tea party movement has been more effective than Occupy Wall Street in influencing American politics.
Rathke was unequivocal about the Occupy movement, telling TheDC that “in no way has it had the political impact that the tea party movement has.” Yet because Occupy organizing is “still in its embryonic stages” while tea partiers have been organizing for more than two years, he cautions that “comparing the tea party movement to OWS is apples and oranges.”
While watching ACORN implode in the United States, Rathke has thrived in his new role as community organizer to the world by remaking ACORN International, known as Community Organization International in the U.S., into a worldwide community organization with near-global reach and power. And former ACORN board members say Rathke’s remarkable global turnaround is proof that most observers completely missed ACORN’s bigger picture and its broader goals.
Rathke generally had positive things to say about both the tea party and Occupy movements. “They are substantially mobilizing individuals around a set of principles,” he added. “It’s fascinating that they’re both appealing to many of the same people.”
That’s a point on which Matthew Vadum, a conservative investigative reporter whose book-length deconstruction of ACORN hit stores in May, disagrees. His book, Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers, opens with the provocative question, “How many dead Republicans does it take to satisfy the bloodlust of ACORN founder Wade Rathke?” referring to his contention that Rathke’s “progressive comrades-in arms” planned “to kill delegates and police” at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minnesota, before a turncoat helped law-enforcement dismantle the plot.*
Vadum sees a world of difference between right-wing tea partiers and left-wing occupiers. “The only point upon which both agree is their hate of bailouts,” he told TheDC. “But that’s it. Zuccotti Park is a small park … The tea party attracted thousands and tens of thousands to their rallies; OWS attracts tens and maybe hundreds. When the tea party rally was over, the tea party left. OWS refuses to leave.”
Rathke said scenes of tea party activists shouting down politicians at town hall events reflected poorly on their movement. But he also acknowledged that scenes of public defecation, drug use, fighting and other violence also left an indelible impression.
“You never let anger get in the way of your tactical position. Anger is a tactic. When you don’t control the anger, you don’t control the tactic … Out of control anger leads to some of the things you mentioned.”
Rathke offered this piece of advice to occupiers and tea partiers alike: “Make sure that the issues you represent are laid out clearly to the public.”
That’s advice the Occupy powers-that-be may want to take to heart. A Gallup poll released Tuesday morning showed that 56 percent of Americans are generally indifferent to OWS protesters and their activities.
T.V. Reed, a Washington State University professor and author of a book on the culture of progressive social movements, told USA Today that Americans find it difficult to understand the Occupy movement since it lacks a cadre of leaders who can consistently articulate their objectives.