Following the 2008 economic crisis, a wave of anger flushed throughout the U.S. creating to separate groups, both upset and both clamoring for a change. The Tea Party Movement, a movement founded by a large majority of elder conservatives, a conservative middleclass and large amount of upper class Americans disgruntled with government power and taxes, and the Occupy Wall Street movement, founded by a majority of a younger liberal crowd upset at the power of corporations and their control over the government, were born. Both ideologies gained a large following as they gathered in cities all over the U.S. and in the case of OPW (Occupy Wall Street) all over the world. Both demanded change, using social media and modern technology to their advantage. Yet although there may be a few similarities within their frustrations with the government, they are separated by vast differences found in their ideologies, methods, membership, approval rating, and overall impact within the political system.
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The Tea Party at its core claims to protest foremost the size and power of the government. It states that the government is too large and its taxing of the people has become out of control. These taxes, as a lot of the members within the Tea Party would argue, are only used to fund government programs that are really handouts given to those who are merely taking advantage of the system. Yet at the same time, a large amount of the Tea Party’s population are elderly, and thus rely heavily on government programs like social security and Medicare. It’s hard to understand how a group can argue against the government social programs, while taking advantage of such programs themselves. Their justification for what most would call a double standard also gives light into more topics that fit into the Tea Party’s platform. They explain that they earned the usage of such social programs after working in the U.S. and paying taxes for so long. Their issue with the other social programs is that the government is helping people who do not benefit society, making illegal immigrants a large majority of the “people” mentioned. This hostility towards illegal immigration amplifies a distrust against the Obama administration, who they claim to be way too lax on the issue. At this point, the hostility against immigrants attracts a certain kind of intense and overzealous crowd to the movement, one easily described as opinionated and very racist. The far right conservatives joined the movement, those who focused on certain ideas that are extreme to say the least. Such examples are the claims made by the Tea Party that Obama is a terrorist, was not born in the U.S., and is actually Muslim despite his public talks of being a Christian. This blind hatred is unfortunately a common theme, spurred on as government leaders like Sarah Palin speak as leaders for the movement. Including their blind allegations against President Obama, Tea Party politicians have a history of extreme and controversial thoughts that have given the movement a reputation of racist and extremist conservatives and served equally as a publicity stunt used to gain as much attention as possible. Especially concerning women’s rights and rape, Tea Party politicians have been quoted making outrageous statements that cost them seats in government positions. The Tea Party has history of relying on extreme and insensitive statements to gain attention and gain a following of hardcore conservatives who blindly follow anyone that hits a particular point they feel to be underrepresented. Evidence is found in their “15 Non-negotiable Core Beliefs”, which involve “English is our core language,” “Illegal aliens are here illegally,” and “Traditional family values are encouraged.”(2) These traditional family values normally involve stripping women of the right to control their own bodies, even under extreme conditions, and are a large attraction by the extremist, normally sexist conservative. These few examples of core beliefs show a movement that is so focused on gathering followers that it loses track of what the movement actually started as, toning down government spending, taxes and power. This creates a stark difference compared to Occupy who manages to keep a relatively focused mission of a few core beliefs, instead of casting a broad net to get any followers they can.
Such extremism is a huge difference between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street because although Occupy took extreme measures of showing anger, they first off never created a political party, and second of all are not quoted having such extreme view points as those in the Tea Party. Occupy consists of a membership made up mainly of a younger crowd than that of the Tea Party, with three general stereotypes used to define its membership, middle class liberal Americans, hipsters, and unemployed college graduates. These three groups find a common ground speaking out against the relatively light taxing of the rich compared to the middle class, the government’s inability to investigate and punish corporations and their executives that caused the 2008 collapse and speak for a reform of the system of financing in which politicians rely on large corporations in order to gain political power.
Although Occupy is upset with the federal government like the Tea Party, their main enemies are large faceless corporations. These corporations are not being held responsible for their reckless actions that affect the “99 percent.” The movement claims to speak against the one percent of the population that holds a huge majority of the nation’s wealth, and rules unfairly over the rest of the country, coining the term the “99 percent” or the majority of the people. This idea of the majority would likely align the movement with ideals of Mill’s liberalism, although they also share similarities with Marxism in their conflict of the one percent, who could be seen as the bourgeoisie, and the 99 percent or the proletariats’, and the small revolution they committed by publicly organizing and disrupting Wall Street. But ideologically, Liberalism is the best fit for Occupy as both speak for the rule by the majority the 99 percent. Also both see that the government has a role of protecting the majority, something that Occupy argues the government did not do. The Tea Party can also find similarities with Mill’s Liberalism, in that both have government holding very little power. Although the Tea Party is not really considered with the wide majority, they do argue for certain “liberties” like gun control. Marxism however is a hard fit for the Tea Party, as both have very little in common. In regards to Fascism, both Occupy and the Tea Party are on opposite ends of the spectrum, as neither want a complete control by the government, and Fascism is strictly against the rule of the majority.
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Although Occupy Wall Street had an altogether more effective protest force than the Tea Party (Estimates put the largest protest for Occupy Wall Street at over 1.4 million people in 950 cities in 84 countries, and the largest Tea Party protest at 311,460 people in 346 cities.(1)), Occupy didn’t create its own political party like the Tea Party did. This hurt the movement, in that it became mostly focused as a movement and ideology, without much of a political impact. Even though the Democratic Party has shown small influences from Occupy in their speeches, very little can actually be proven to be done by the movement politically, while the Tea Party has had a more impactful political career. The Tea Party is credited to bringing more attention and energy back to the Republican Party after the 2008 presidential elections. Although the Tea Party didn’t gain any real traction in the government, it can be argued that the Republican party has adopted a few of the issues first argued by the movement, although those issues are very watered down, and try to avoid the extremist views of the Tea Party movement. But Occupy still holds a better public opinion, as 54 % of people have shown agreement with Occupy, while 20% of the population has shown agreement with the much more extreme Tea Party(1), a fact that can be explained through the extreme statements that the Tea Party used as a claim to fame. Yet to its benefit, Occupy Wall Street has a message that has reached not only a large population in the U.S. but also in other countries. It can be argued as well that Occupy never meant to gain a true political following, as they kept a relatively vague mission statement, and never had true leadership taking the reins.
The 2008 economic collapse was an event that spurred an angry population into action, action that eventually involved millions of people, all of whom were unified by a common cause. Whether they were following the radical views of the Tea Party, or aiming for a more protected majority like Occupy, both movements have had everlasting effects, not only on the political spectrum but also within the people. Both movements while separate in following, ideology and overall methods both share the common ground of being vehicles to show displeasure against a government that has become distanced from those it is mean to protect. This cause at its core is admirable and American to its foundation as we are a country born of civil disobedience and protest against a government that takes advantage of its people.
- Brownsend, Jeremy. “Occupy Wall Street (OWS) vs The Tea Party: A Brief Comparison.” (n.d.): n. pag. Fact and Myth. 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.
- “About Us – Tea Party.” Tea Party. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
- Skocpol, Theda, and Vanessa Williamson. “Perspectives on Politics.” The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism. 1st ed. Vol. 9. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. N. pag. Mar. 2011. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.
- Ray, Michael. “Tea Party Movement.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 12 June 2014. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.
- Sledge, Matt. “Reawakening The Radical Imagination: The Origins Of Occupy Wall Street.”The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
- Murray, Mark. “The Tea Party, Four Years Later.”NBC News. NBC News, 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.
- Sorkin, Andrew Ross. “Occupy Wall Street: A Frenzy That Fizzled.”Occupy Wall Street A Frenzy That Fizzled. New York Times, 17 Sept. 12. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.
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