Even as analysts note similarities between the two populist
uprisings, many tea party activists say a merger could never happen.
Many are put off by Occupy Wall Street's civil disobedience and
When Joanne Wilder's compatriots from Central New York Patriots
wanted to decamp for New York City to help "educate" Occupy Wall
Street protesters, the local tea party organizer balked.
"We stay away from this," she told her friends.
That sentiment illustrates the arm's length approach that many
tea partyers are taking toward a new social movement that is
starting to threaten the tea party's preeminence on the political
Some commentators are drawing parallels between the two populist
uprisings - opposition to government bailouts of corporations is one
prominent example - and some have even suggested a big-tent merger
that could yield policy to alleviate the economic dissatisfaction,
political powerlessness, and middle-class angst that drives both
"We've ... got a conservative populist movement and a progressive
populist movement happening at the same time," Rory McVeigh,
director of the Center for the Study of Social Movements at the
University of Notre Dame, tells San Jose Mercury News columnist
Chris O'Brien. "There's a sense on both sides that it's us against
that unnamed force out there running the world."
But some local tea party activists say in interviews that the
small-government tea party and the anticapitalist Occupy movements
have irreconcilable differences. While the root causes of the
protests may be similar, many in the tea party view as unacceptable
both the tactics of the Occupy protests - challenging law
enforcement, among them - and most of its prescriptions.
"I'll never be against people being able to organize and protest,
but I can't say I agree with most of their reasoning," says Brandon
Welborn, a tea party member in Georgia. "It's almost like they want
their debts completely erased. I understand the government made bad
decisions, both Bush and Obama, but at some point you have to take
responsibility for your actions and quit waiting for handouts."
Though both movements express disdain for a perceived elite
plutocracy in Washington and New York, most tea partyers are not
inclined to forge a bond over that. Rather, they see an opportunity
for political haymaking, to try to tie Democrats to radical visions
espoused by some Occupy protesters (such as the 62 Zucotti Park
protesters, out of the 200 surveyed by Democratic pollster Douglas
Schoen, who said they support using violence to achieve their ends).
That may be one reason most Democratic leaders have been careful
about embracing the Occupy movement too tightly. President Obama's
statements about it, for instance, have been measured, acknowledging
people's frustrations but not endorsing their proposals. …