The media has from the start of the now-month-long Occupy Wall Street protests openly analogized them to the Tea Party – but, so far, hasn’t publicly talked about the issue that could decide everything for both movements: will they merge? With the Occupy Wall Street movement now having spread to over 200 cities – and planning a protest here this Saturday – the two movements now are working each other’s “turf,” and the “Occupy” protests have shown an extreme growth rate in their short life. But will they merge into one giant movement of the angry America?
Superficially, the possibility of the two movements merging seems absurd – until you look at what they share. Over a year before Occupy Wall Street began its protest encampment against Wall Street and banks – and Washington’s policies favoring both during this depression – Tea Party rallies here had homemade signs showing the Tea Party’s anger over bailouts (photo) at last spring’s rallies downtown and in neighboring Alamance County.
Both movements also are fueled by economic depression. It’s a sure bet that Occupy Wall Street’s protesters wouldn’t be protesting Wall Street had their college degrees found them jobs on Wall Street the way it found entry-level jobs there for many of their fathers – and it’s been obvious since the Tea Party here got its start with June 2007’s protests against illegal aliens by building tradesmen that the Tea Party originated long before Obamacare became an issue for it. That pattern of this area’s Tea Party being primarily fueled by economic rage also was obvious at last October’s rally downtown when a proposed local tax hike was the leading issue – again, long before Occupy Wall Street began.
But what would the two movements gain from merging? The answer is obvious. The “Occupy” movement has been able – in its first month – to do well what the Tea Party has done poorly at for over two years now: recruit young people. The “Occupy” movement also in its first month became a de facto permanent street presence, as authorities in New York City decided to let it protest “indefinitely” and the U.S. Park Police in Washington extended its protest permit for its encampment there for four more months – undoubtably in order to avoid much-worse public-relations and political damage from the inevitable mass casualties and media images if police tried ending the encampments by force. Finally, the growth rate of the “Occupy” movement has been astronomical – with it already spread to 200 cities.
But the Tea Party has critical skills that the “Occupy” movement obviously lacks – and sorely so. News photos and videos have shown the “Occupy” movement creating terrible public-image problems for itself – with a video of an Occupy Wall Street activist berating an old Jewish man and a widely-printed news photo of another activist going to the bathroom on a patrol car. So far, the “Occupy” activists don’t have a clue that the battle for the hearts and minds of those not at the protests is the big battle for any such movement – and that public image is critical, with sympathetic press the most valuable image any movement can have; a crowd of their people berating Geraldo Rivera when he tried interviewing them for Fox showed that. The Tea Party – from the start – has demonstrated that it has the public-relations and media-relations skills and self-discipline that, so far, the “Occupy” protesters lack totally.
The Tea Party has other skills that the “Occupy” people obviously totally lack. When New York City authorities told the Occupy Wall Street people that they could continue their protest indefinitely, it was obvious from Mayor Bloomberg’s own remarks that the authorities were betting on cold weather to end the protest nonviolently for them – as news photos make obvious that virtually none of those in the protest were prepared to live outdoors in cold weather, at least in terms of clothing. Also obvious from those news photos is that almost none of the Occupy Wall Street people have backgrounds that would suit them to eight hours – much less eight days – in bitter cold. By contrast, the Tea Party is full of construction people and hunters used to working in bitter cold all day – and aware of how to dress for it and stay warm in it.
But will the two movements merge? The key question is whether the “Occupy” people can avoid self-destructing imagewise long enough.