Does Occupy Wall Street spell the end of the Tea Party?
Not long ago a handful of Americans went to town hall meetings of their congressional representatives with the sole purpose of disrupting the events. Their message: they opposed reforming America’s health care system and would do anything to stop any proposed reforms.
The meetings were seldom attended by masses but the few who did attend were loud and assertive. Their expression of their free speech rights was often marked by the attempt to deny that same right to others.
The circus comes to town
Yet these meetings got front page and top story national attention. And from it the so-called Tea-Party was born drawing the historical analogy to the most famous act of lawless civil disobedience in American history.
The fact that the rhetoric of the group was often hateful, they showed up wearing guns and threatening to exercise their Second Amendment right as a means of changing government, and rarely asserted points having logical consistency or historical accuracy did not stop the Nation’s media from creating them into a movement.
The fact that this alleged movement was financed by the same backers as the Republican Party and many of that Party’s strategists were involved in Tea-Party “events” did not seem to indicate to the press that there was a direct connection between this so-called “grassroots” movement and one of the two Major Parties and those who controlled (or sought to control) it.
In fact if one looks at the emergence of the Tea-Party it comes at a point in which the more sensible Republican leadership was looking back at the failures of eight years of extremism and pseudo-populism in the White House and sought to regain control of the Party that was taken over by a group of small minority factions. In particular were the so-called “social conservatives” – those who tended to wear their religion on their sleeve and to seek to impose their vision of a religious society upon America.
Sharing the big tent
Shortly thereafter this group of far-right social “conservatives” were joined by another faction that had found its home, albeit reluctantly, in the Republcan Party. This was the Libertarian faction of the Republican Party. Although often in fundamental disagreement over the role of the State in the social sphere – the Libertarian view is to keep government hands out of everything, including your bedroom and your metabolic system, and not to impose one’s personal moral/religious views on others – there was an overlap in the Republican Party’s rhetoric of smaller government that attracted this group to the outspoken Tea-Party entity.
With this an unholy alliance was born. A seemingly unified entity in the political sphere which at its heart was fundamentally divided. Yet with no other means of having their voice heard and a national spotlight being placed by the media attention on them the fiction of a “Tea-Party” began to take root.
Ironically this unholy alliance of two minority factions was not only successful in capturing control of the Republican Party, as it was intended by those stoking its flames, it also seemed to place Obama’s Administration and the Democratic Party into a straightjacket moving them further to the right rather than standing firm on the Progressive wave that drove them into the majority and the White House.
Bringing down the curtain
Today, however, the future of the Tea-Party – and in fact Tea-Party Republicanism – is in doubt. The reason is simple: the Occupy Wall Street message, which to all who are listening is loud and clear despite the deafness of those caught up in the old paradigm of Twentieth Century politics, resonates with the Libertarian faction of the so-called Tea-Party and the Republicans.
So much so that on the ground in New York City and across the nation, from Wall Street to Main Street, Libertarians are fleeing their Tea-Party meetings and joining in the critical mass that has organically developed around the latest challenge to the status quo of wealth and power: the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This dynamic will certainly fragment the Tea-Party and drain it of its most significant resource. That primary asset is not the multi-millions of dollars it has been made available to it through its corporate sponsors. Instead it is the more fundamental and limited resource of bodies … the people that make up a movement.
The result of this shift of the Libertarian element in the Nation from an always already questionable alliance renders the Tea-Party vulnerable to becoming insignificant in the future of American politics.
As libertarians take to the street to protest the fat-cats and the greed of the 1%, finding an identity with the 99% of those negatively impacted by the overlap of wealth and power in American politics, the Tea Party loses its strength. The result will be that the faction currently controlling the Republican Party will be once again seen as simply the far-right social “Conservatives,” the extremist-Christian fundamentalists seeking to impose their will and their personal views on the masses, and will leave the Republican Party left with little real force behind its current agenda.
This does not mean that the Democratic Party wins. Because the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that the status quo, in all its elements, is what has been failing America and Americans. It is not a partisan movement and does not seek to be, like the Tea-Party, merely a tool in the game of strategic electioneering.
This is a movement which has not been seen in America perhaps since the days of the original Tea Party of 1773.
The difference, however, is striking. The original Tea Party was marked with intentional violence against government officials and destruction of property of those deemed to be exploiting the system. Occupy Wall Street has taken the modern lessons of those like Ghandi who have sought to effect change through peaceful demonstration.
First they laugh at you…
This distinction may have been lost on both the mainstream media and the average professional political actor. But it is not being lost on The People themselves.
This is a movement which seeks to put the “us” back in the “U.S.” It is the growing recognition of a nation as a unified self – a “We The People” who are determined to speak, have their voice heard, and see that it is effective in bringing about long overdue changes in our legal, political, and economic systems.
This is a movement which seeks to turn theory into actual practice. To take the promises of a democratic society that have been made since the Eighteenth Century and make them finally a reality as we emerge into the Twenty-first.
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More on Occupy Wall Street:
- Police brutality catapults Occupy Wall Street into the mainstream media
- Police shutting down Occupy Wall Street/ San Francisco
- Cops get violent vs Occupy Wall Street
- Occupy Wall Street’s first official release
- Does Occupy Wall Street spell the end of the Tea Party?
Find your local occupation – now planned for 439 cities!
Watch the livestream from New York.
Read the Occupy Wall Street offical statement.
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(Mad Boston Tea Party image via Brandi Karl)