"The Tea Party was once a joke, an aberration, a bunch of funny people in funny hats with neither power nor a coherent message," says Michael Scherer at TIME. Sound familiar? For the last three weeks, a crowd of zombie-costumed, "happily incoherent" anti–Wall Street protesters has amassed in lower Manhattan — and Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities nationwide. Given the leftist bent of the protesters, and the planned meetup Wednesday with labor unions and liberal groups, pundits are scrambling to predict if these self-appointed representatives of America's poorer "99 percent" will become the Left's answer to the Tea Party. Will they?
Occupy Wall Street isn't as strong as the Tea Party — yet: The anti–Wall Street protests and the Tea Party have a lot in common, says Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post. They're both largely leaderless "organic movements" made up of "everyday people who got tired of being pushed around or ignored." But the Tea Party focused its anger on specific policy goals — marshalling protesters, often with great success, to publicly oppose health care reform and raising the debt ceiling. The Occupiers of Wall Street will need to similarly channel their anger into policy pursuits if they want to become a counterweight to the Tea Party.
"What Occupy Wall Street could learn from the Tea Party"
This comparison insults Tea Partiers: The Left has moved from ridiculing the Tea Party to envying it, says Rick Lowry in the New York Post. Well, good luck having the same success with this "toxic and pathetic" band of juvenile anarchists and aging hippies occupying Wall Street. The Tea Party changed America because it galvanized "solid burghers who typically don't have the time or inclination to protest," thus staking "a better claim on Middle America than its adversaries." These "self-involved" T-shirt Marxists, on the other hand, are "the perfect distillation of an American Left in extremis."
"The Left's 'Tea Party'?"
Occupy Wall Street is too young for predictions: The Tea Party has embraced its own share of "ineffectual and indeed offensive, anti-intellectual nuttiness," especially early on, says Matt Steinglass at The Economist. But the movement thrived because lots of people are angry at the government. If Occupy Wall Street can focus attention on banks, a "different entity of tremendous power which the mass of Americans resent and fear" — including many Tea Partiers — then it could have a similar impact. Or it could "flame out." Time will tell.
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