What Occupy Wall Street Can Learn From the Tea Party

The Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS) has generated some headlines, some buzz, some viral videos, and some pepper spray. “The 99 Percent” and “One Percenters” are terms hopefully immortalized in our minds. It’s a rare result of 21st century citizens bravely participating in a democracy.

This launch of an international conversation on income inequality is not just good. It’s overdue. And despite the most popular criticism of OWS — that it lacks coherent goals and only has some vague anti-corporate message — many members of the movement actually have established clear goals. The more apt criticism of Occupiers lies in their failure to reach them. Their inability to enact concrete change suggests they might need some wisdom from the last people in the last place they ever expected: the folks on the other side of the picket fence.

The Tea Party Movement can accurately boast more substantial accomplishments, made some fantasies a reality, and even has an entire political party by the pants. Or panties, to be more politically correct (after all, the name of the 45th prez depends on whether anti-Choice activists or “liberal” ladies vote). The success of the movement has been the fact that, well, it moves. Not merely from campground to campground, but from legislator to legislator. We rarely hear about Tea Partiers invading public parks. Instead, we hear about Tea Partiers getting elected to Congress. For those who are unfamiliar, this “Congress” convenes in a land where somewhat democratically-elected officials pass laws (as Occupiers want) and block laws (as Tea Partiers want). Despite the partisanship, those partisans in the chamber are united. By their unpopularity. And the fact that none of them have ever read a bill.

For OWS, establishing those clear goals is just one vital step. But the Tea Party leaders understand the major step: developing and acting upon a clear strategy to achieve them. How can OWS do it? Ask the Tea Party.

Massive demonstrations have undoubtedly shaped and changed the history of the United States, just as they are currently doing around the globe. It’s terrifying to even imagine what we and the world would look like without their impacts. But when we find ourselves in the most money-driven election in our nation’s history, and if OWS really wishes to make a practical impact — well, they might just have to enter the special interest arena to play the same sickening game of politics that they righteously protest against. Lost in a desperate landscape of SuperPACs and celebrity dinners, the election that was finally supposed to be about giving voice to the middle class has silenced the average American in unprecedented ways.

It’s like how Bill Maher (who unfortunately subscribes to the media’s distorted narrative and portrayal of American activists on the right) hates SuperPACs. But, lucky for Citizens United, he hates Mitt Romney even more. So he reached into his pocket, took out the money he usually spends on his month’s worth of weed, and donated that million dollars to reelect the “Preezy of the United Steezy.”

Like Maher called it on “Real Time” recently, it’s “the boring stuff” that makes the tangible difference(s). Pragmatism and practicality should come in the form of drafting candidates for office, registering voters to vote for those candidates, “canvassing neighborhoods,” “manning phone banks,” and yes, Maher added, “raising money.”

Hosts of anti-bank protests and hosts of tea parties alike represent two opposing but genuine reactions to the same exact catastrophe. They even have the same overall goal: fairness and peace in their lives. Believe it or not.

The media pounces on the juicier fringes of the fringes — the divisive and frankly simplistic issues that can easily fit into one split screen with two screaming heads. But when one strips away the sex-based distractions, like men marrying and women aborting, a deeply complex and legitimate disagreement can be unearthed if we turned down the volume of TV news. In general, one wants more regulation. The other wants less. Both teams are actually against corporatism, and both are usually against Obama.

So what are the pros and cons of Keynesian Economics as opposed to Austrian Economics? The statistics and theories to support each are neither sexy to see on TV nor easy to explain — let alone conclusively solvent. But they are at the crux of this entire election. Perhaps the media can do its job not by broadcasting the worst of the respective movements but by illuminating the issues that each movement cares so deeply about. For as another late night host said at the Washington Monument, “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

So let’s turn down the amplifier. And while we’re at it, to quote an Indian prophet, let’s “chill with accusations, bro!” These generalized judgments that have rendered “pro-Constitution” a synonym for “racist” and “anti-oligarchy” synonymous with “anarchist” might have started with FOX and MSNBC, but we have the moral responsibility to exercise our power to turn off the power.

And once it’s muted, let’s try to hear some substance! Heck, let’s take up Newt Gingrich on his Lincoln-Douglas style debate offer. But instead of letting Newt in on it, networks (C-SPAN 2?) can televise a live conversation between Tea Partier Ron Paul and Wall Street Occupier Cornel West. Wouldn’t we all benefit from a civil discussion between two earnest and educated doctors? After all, Dr. Paul and Dr. West are passionate enough about their respective movements to run for president and to be imprisoned. (Which of those allows the most freedom, by the way?)

Well, I suppose that’s all just a personal fantasy of mine. But, one thing is for sure: no matter how good the Wi-Fi is, I can’t make it a reality from my tent.


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