On the first night of Occupy Boston, when protesters flooded Dewey Square and set up a makeshift tent village, I overheard a conversation. It was spoken between a young kid watching the action unfold and an older guy, who identified himself as a former Democratic activist.
The gist of the conversation was that these protests were the left’s response to the Tea Party and, any day now, the democrats would cling on and make this all about Obama’s reelection.
Even then, I felt that this guy was completely off the mark. At least I’d hoped he was.
Because on that first night, there was no shortage of folks with Ron Paul shirts, libertarians who were just as sick as the rest of the 99% at seeing the rotten political machine carrying on as usual. I figured, rather than make this the antithesis of the Tea Party protests, the Occupy movement should invite the Tea Party into the fold. I know it sounds crazy, especially with the images of ignorant and sometimes racist views of Tea Partiers that we’ve seen on TV.
But we all need to remember that the media helps shape how we view specific groups and those people had nothing to do with the original Tea Party. Rather, the group was eventually co-opted by the hard-line Republican Party and steered away from their original goals, which had more to do with fighting the Fed and government corruption than it did with reducing corporate regulations, as it is now.
So here we find the Occupy movement at a crossroads. Do they accept people who may not share all of their views in order create an overwhelming response to the abuses that both group’s oppose?
I feel that it would be unwise not to. While we’re seeing the media portray both movements as enemies of each other, it’s interesting to notice that, at heart, both Occupy and the Tea Party were spurred to action by the same event: the bank bailouts.
In essence, both groups are incensed at the level of corruption that exists between big corporations and the government. While they disagree on the minutiae, the underlying goal is common. Besides, do you ever expect a mass of people to agree on everything?
Here’s a venn diagram that was drawn up by Slate’s Jacob Weisberg.
So you see, not so different after all.
Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig also weighed in on the subject, speaking to the crowd at Occupy Wall Street. He said that, no matter what you might think of them, the Tea Party is part of the 99% and, as a result, should be included.
Even more convincing is the seeming endorsement from Tea Party co-founder Karl Denninger, who said:
”Back in 2008, I wrote that we will actually see change is when the people come, they set up camp, and they refuse to go home. That appears to be happening now.”
The mainstream media continues to pedal the Tea Party versus Occupy narrative, even though it never would have existed were it not for the media to fan its flames. But remember, conflict sells. Good guys versus bad guys, Republicans versus Democrats. It sells papers to start a fight by fitting us all into categories and setting us loose on each other. What we often forget, as humans, is that we often want the same things. Justice and peace come to mind.
Strength comes in numbers. If the Occupy movement really wants to make a lasting statement, they need to recruit a more diverse crowd. What would be more diverse, and powerful, than two supposed enemies joining together? Rather than focus on the divisive issues, they should stick to the underlying message: namely, that government and corporations have been in bed for too long and it is time to wake up.
JOEL FOSTER is a freelance writer and founder of www.mindwafers.com