…But We Know We Need Each Other
“All of the Occupy movements start with the premise that we all owe them everything. They take over a public park they didn’t pay for, to go nearby to use bathrooms they didn’t pay for, to beg for food from places they don’t want to pay for, to obstruct those who are going to work to pay the taxes to sustain the bathrooms and sustain the park so they can self-righteously explain that they are the paragons of virtue to which we owe everything. Now that is a pretty good symptom of how much the left has collapsed as a moral system in this country, and why you need to reassert something as simple as saying to them, ‘Go get a job, right after you take a bath!‘”
—Newt Gingrich, Thanksgiving Family Forum (skip to 1:10)
“…[T]he Tea Party Movement leveraged all of middle America’s greatest fears to fuel a movement that whispered a little too loudly about the POTUS’ being a black man for the racists among us; gave rise to ‘birther’ claims for the paranoid conspiracy lovers out there; shouted threats of retribution for immigrants stealing our plush jobs flipping burgers and trimming hedges to satisfy the anti-immigration set; and called for punishment at the alter and in the law for those with alternative lifestyles to the delight of the religiously righteous and homophobes alike. Some sensed that this new movement was less about government spending and frustration with ineffective government, and more about racism and white anger at losing power and preference. Others charged that it was yet another example of rich, educated and powerful forces manipulating populist anger and fears so average Americans would do their dirty work, even if it was contrary to their own self-interests….”
— E Gray, Blogger
Yeah, yeah…and then there are the charts detailing the differences, such as this one lambasting the OWS crowd and this one which is putatively even-handed but subtly leans against the Tea Party (utilizing a color scheme that favors the OWS folks and overstating public support for OWS).
So, yes, there are discernable and material differences between Tea Partiers and the denizens of Zuccotti Park. The “Z Partiers” are younger; the Tea Partiers are richer. The Z Partiers are likely to favor increased taxes on the rich; the Tea Partiers overwhelmingly want to cut taxes. The Z Partiers are more likely to be unemployed…but because so many Tea Partiers are retired, fewer of them actually have a job.
But all these differences pale in comparison to the huge, critical areas of agreement between Tea Partiers and Z Partiers:
- They’ve played the game by the rules
- The deck is stacked against them
- They are motivated to actively work to fix/change things
- The Powers That Be employ undue influence to misappropriate public wealth/resources (e.g., the bailouts)
Consider this tweet of potential interest:
CSFB_elevator Credit Suisse First Boston elevator gossip
#1 Hate the subway; all those rubes reading the Daily News. #2 Yeah? You have more in common with them than the ones not reading ANY paper!
Point being, the Tea Partiers and Z Partiers have both attained a higher level of consciousness than, say, their fellow citizens focused on the antics of Kim Kardashian. They may not be able to explicate the precise whys and wherefores, but they know that somehow, things are not right and they are being ripped off. They both decry the “corporate socialism” that allocates public wealth to benefit private companies (at least in most cases). They both perceive that regulators and elected officials are beholden to special interests to the point that national interests are neglected if not actually violated.
Granted, there is more agreement on the diagnosis of the disease than on what the most efficacious cure should be. Tea Partiers generally believe that there is too much power centralized in Big Government and that weakening the Feds and adopting a more laissez faire approach is the best prescription. Z Partiers are more likely to see government power as critical to leveling the playing field. There is validity to both points of view.
Critics frequently cite the desire to hamstring the Federal government as proof that Tea Partiers are shills or dupes for The Powers That Be, who presumably would benefit from a less effective umpire. But those critics fail to address the insight of the Tea Partiers that the Federal government has essentially been captured by special interests, who invariably twist the rules to come out in their favor. Logically, affording that same government more power and resources—regardless of how many new rules are imposed to mandate “fairness”—is likely to make matters worse.
For their part, the Z Partiers are often castigated for making the central focus of their protest Wall Street instead of Washington. The most vociferous voices tend to belong to apologists for the banks, who blame Federal policies for the financial crisis in general and the housing bubble/mortgage mess in particular, but there are plenty of Big Energy, Big Insurance, and “Defense” associated critics complaining that, for example, our dependence on Middle East oil is purely a function of EPA policy. This criticism ignores the insight of Z Partiers that it is The Powers That Be who spend billions of dollars annually manipulating government to obtain special favors. Protesting against the government in this circumstance is akin to treating the symptoms and ignoring the disease.
You like potato and I like potahto; you like tomato and I like tomahto.
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto—let’s call the whole thing off.
But oh, if we call the whole thing off, then we must part.
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart.
So if you like pyjamas and I like pyjahmas, I’ll wear pyjamas and give up pyajahmas.
For we know we need each other so we better call the whole off off.
Let’s call the whole thing off.
—George & Ira Gershwin
The Tea Partiers and the Z Partiers may not be aware of it, but they are all singing from the same hymnal. They are, however, most definitely not on the same page…and it would help them both if they could get there. How hard this is to accomplish remains to be seen…but if they can, it would likely go a long way towards persuading a majority of their fellow citizens to join the party and sing along.