Tea Partiers and Occupiers: Little in Common
by Jared Sichel | Tulane University
“Are we far enough away yet?” That should be the slogan of the Democratic Party for the near future. Whereas just a few weeks ago, prominent House Democrats praised not only the Occupy message but also the movement itself, Democrats would be well advised to label the entire movement as an outlier within left-of-center politics.
But it may not be an outlier. If Occupy is to the Left what the Tea Party is to the Right, left-wing intellectuals should be concerned about the crowd that their ideas attract. The core of Occupy is under 35 years of age. The core of the Tea Party is between 30-60 years old.
An Occupier is more likely to vote for a Democrat. A Tea Partier is more likely to vote for a Republican. The two groups somewhat mirror the demographics of nationwide liberals and conservatives: Democrats have broad support amongst youth. Conservatives have (less) broad support amongst middle-aged voters and retirees.
The boogeyman of the average Occupier is the corporation. The boogeyman of the average Tea Partier is the government-bureaucratic behemoth.
These two movements represent the activist wings of the Democratic and Republican parties.
And this is why the Democrats should run.
Although any movement attracts a certain number of nuts, 1) the meat of the Occupy bell curve seems to occupy a large number of them, and 2) the Occupiers on the wrong end of the bell curve commit violent crimes.
Assuming that the Zuccotti Park protesters represent the mainstream rather than an outlying segment of Occupy, the squalid conditions and reports of violence and rape offer a glimpse of the types of communities that Occupy activists create.
A “women only” tent was opened in Zuccotti Park as a refuge for women concerned about the numerous sexual assaults and rapes of women in the tents set up in Zuccotti. In Cleveland, a female college student was raped in a tent at an Occupy protest site.
An instruction pamphlet illustrating how Occupy laughs at the idea of people having ethical obligations reads, “Feel free to refresh yourself in the restrooms of neighboring businesses like Burger King and McDonald’s without feeling obligated to buy anything.”
Bathe in the sink, leave the bathroom a mess…sure. But don’t feel obligated to buy a small coffee. Obligated to give the business something in return? Ha!
Stacey Tzortzatos, owner of a Panini shop near Zuccotti Park, prohibited Occupiers from using her store’s bathroom sink as a bathtub after it broke, leaving her with $3,000 in damages. Result? She has “been terrorized” and had “her well-being threatened”. One protester (prior to her restriction) even “failed to properly use the toilet” (read: used the sink or the floor as the toilet).
In San Diego, Occupiers raided, vandalized, and urinated on the carts of street cart vendors after the owners stopped providing them with free food.
In Oakland, Occupy protestors vandalized a Whole Foods and shattered windows at a Bank of America and a Chase Bank, spraying “Withdraw Only” in graffiti on an ATM. Recently, Oakland Occupiers had a major “success”: they temporarily shut down the Port of Oakland. Rumor has it that that did not help Oakland’s unemployment rate.
Tea Party rallies have attracted some racists, some sexists, and some homophobes. And?
The Civil Rights Movement surely had its own segment of outliers. That speaks nothing of the movement.
That over 3,000 Occupiers have been arrested in just a couple of months while few Tea Party protestors have been arrested since the movement began two years ago speaks to the character of the activists on the Left compared to that of those on the Right.
The Tea Party did not live in Zuccotti Park-like squalor. In fact, Tea Party protests routinely ended with garbage in garbage cans and protestors in their homes.
Why do Occupy protests attract drugs, violence, filth, and vandalism while Tea Party protests do not?
Because the message of the Tea Party is not one of “the world owes me” or “withdraw only.” “Withdraw only” is so telling. It’s selfish. It rejects the idea of responsibility. Selfishness and irresponsibility attract violence, filth, and vandalism.
Although the Democratic Party will likely try to separate itself from the Occupy movement, to run from “withdraw only” would to no longer be on the economic Left.Jared is a NGJ Voices Contributor and a senior at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was born and raised in North Potomac, Maryland, is an avid Yankees fan, a football and tennis enthusiast, and he hopes to one day have enough money to own a large cigar cabinet. Follow him on Twitter @JBSichel (https://twitter.com/#!/JBSichel) and check out his blog at www.jaredsichel.com