What the tea party movement has that the Occupy movement lacks

Jack Hunter Contributing Editor, Rare
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The Occupy Wall Street protest — which has now become a nationwide occupy-any-street movement — has reminded me of two things: 1) How much I hate partisanship; and 2) How silly liberalism really is.

For all the left’s talk about how tea partiers are racists, extremists, terrorists, vulgar and all the rest, liberals have either been giving a wink and a nod to the Occupy protesters or openly praising them. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the protesters “spontaneous,” said that they “had her heart” and told ABC News: “I support the message to the establishment, whether it’s Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen.”

A message to the establishment that change has to happen? What, exactly, does Ms. Pelosi think the tea party has been screaming about for two years?

My fellow conservatives have been having a field day portraying the Occupy protesters as a bunch of unkempt, lawless hippies. This may be accurate in some cases, but the left’s portrayal of tea partiers as crazy right-wingers who shout at town halls, hold wacky signs and exhibit other crude behavior is also accurate in some cases.

That populist movements are often messy has never been in dispute. That those in power will often use this characteristic messiness to discredit movements they don’t like is also not in dispute.

But there is a question, and it’s an important one: Is either the tea party or the Occupy movement ideologically valid? Does either movement have a message worth hearing? Does either have a point?

The degree to which the tea party and Occupy movements have been good or bad is also the degree to which they have espoused coherent messages. The relatively simple idea of cutting government spending and reducing the debt was what created the tea party — and so long as that has remained its message, the movement has enjoyed widespread support. Some polls from a year ago showed a majority of Americans agreeing with the tea party and even relating to the movement more than to either major party. No matter how much leaders like Pelosi and her liberal friends tried to dismiss the tea party as a bunch of crazy right-wingers lacking all sense and sanity, most Americans still feared a $15 trillion national debt and endless government spending. They still do.

But later, when some in the tea party began to veer off into birtherism, religiosity, paranoia about Sharia law and other diversions, the movement’s popular small-government message became obscured. Liberal enemies of the tea party like to talk about these nasty aspects of the conservative grassroots because they know it makes the movement look bad. And it does.

If the tea party stays focused on the goal of limiting government, it can succeed. If it veers off into other areas, it will become yet another ideological comfort zone for right-wingers. To remain effective, the movement cannot just become the grassroots outpost for the same mindless partisanship that defines Washington, D.C. The earlier tea party was bipartisan in its scorn, and for the movement to remain dominant, it must stick to its roots.

The Occupy movement, on the other hand, does not have a path to choose, because it has never had a coherent message.

The Occupy protesters are mad at Wall Street. So am I. That’s why I opposed the bank bailouts, which were nothing more than our federal government allowing corporations to privatize their profits but socialize their losses, which everyone from liberal Congressman Dennis Kucinich to conservative Senator Jim DeMint pointed out. Americans from across the political spectrum agreed that the bank bailouts were immoral.

But what do the Occupy protesters suggest we do about such governmental thievery? They want even more government. Here are some of the demands listed at the website OccupyWallSt.org: “Raise the Minimum Wage to $20; Free College Education; Guaranteed living-wage income, regardless of employment; Immediate across-the-board debt forgiveness for all; Outlaw all credit-reporting agencies; One trillion dollars in infrastructure spending.”

Granted, one post on one website does not necessarily speak for the entire Occupy movement. But there’s a reason this post is cited so often: It’s one of the only examples of a coherent message that members of the Occupy movement have produced. And that message is socialism.

The protesters seem to think that our current government isn’t socialist enough. Not only is this beyond absurd, it’s antithetical to the current anti-government mood held by much of the public. Still, many of the Occupy protesters reject the idea that they’re socialists. What are they, then? I’m not sure. Neither are they.

The tea party is ideologically valid to the extent that it remains focused on attacking big government. We cannot be sure if the Occupy movement is valid because we cannot be sure of its ideology. And to the extent that the Occupy protesters’ ideology really is just a desire for bigger government, Americans can be doubly sure of the movement’s almost comical invalidity.

Jack Hunter writes at the “Paulitical Ticker,” where he is the official Ron Paul 2012 campaign blogger.