Will Tea Partiers join the Occcupy movement?
Not likely. In “Tea Partiers: the Self-Hating 99%” posted yesterday on the Al Jazeera website, Heather Digby Parton writes, though there are “surface similarities between the two uprisings, they actually represent two opposing populist worldviews, whose only philosophical resemblance to one another is their belief that they speak for ‘the people’ against the elites. While both movements are mainly concerned with economic issues, their beliefs about the causes and solutions they propose couldn’t be more different.
One of the central myths about the Tea Party is that it came about as a reaction against the Wall Street bailouts. It’s true that there were some scattered ‘Tea Parties’ around the Ron Paul campaign in 2008, but virtually everyone agrees that the movement was really galvanized by a rant from CNBC anchor Rick Santelli one month into the Obama administration calling for a ‘new Tea Party’ that became an instant YouTube sensation and rallying cry for the right wing.” The bailouts Santelli was mad about weren’t the ones on Wall Street, but a proposed plan to help homeowners in trouble with their mortgages. “‘Do we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages?’ he raved. ‘This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage? How about we all stop paying our mortgages! It’s a moral hazard.’ Santelli called for a new Tea Party in support of capitalism, and support for capitalism – and antipathy toward government interference in it – is the very essence of Tea Party populism, which complains about government interference in ‘the market,’ the stimulus plan, and a ‘government takeover’ of the healthcare system rather than ‘too big to fail’ banks. So, Tea Partiers aren’t about corporate greed, just the usual right-wing resentment at the government spending their tax money on people they don’t think have earned it. This attitude turned out to be useful to corporate interests looking to allay real populist impulses among the citizenry, and they soon moved in through various means to help the “movement” organize itself. As historian Michael Kazin, author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History, says: ‘Right-wing populists typically drum up resentment based on differences of race, religion, and cultural style. Their progressive counterparts focus on economic grievances.'”
In recent days, Tea Partiers have issued statements denying similarities between their movement and Occupy Wall Street. “Judson Phillips, spokesman for the Tea Party Nation, responded to the claim with this: ‘The clueless revolt continues and it’s painfully obvious those who are showing up to “protest” don’t have a job. In most cases, it’s painfully obvious why they don’t have a job.’ Independence Tea Party President Teri Adams was equally unequivocal in her rejection of Occupy Wall Street: ‘The idea that Wall Street is the root of all evil is an anathema to us.’
It’s hard to imagine that these movements will find common cause. They may both believe that ‘virtue resides in ordinary people’ and that they have the skills and platform to ‘bring their would-be superiors down to earth,’ but their definition of who’s ordinary and who’s superior is radically different. The United States has always featured these two sides of the populism coin and it’s tempting to see the two movements arising in virtually the same political moment as representative of a vast uprising of common people in common purpose. But while it is vast, and masses of common people are rising up, they are two separate movements with very different worldviews. If the Occupiers are lucky, some of the formerly hostile salt-of-the-earth working folk who might have opposed them on cultural grounds in the past have been radicalized by Wall Street’s greed and will join the occupation. But I wouldn’t count on too many of them. This is a political and cultural fault line that runs deep. But then again, in this polarized country, all it takes is a few to cross over and make a majority.”