Towards a Tea Party-OWS Rapprochement?
I saw this post today and decided to write a short reply.
I think that a strategically sound thing for Progressives to do right now is, rather than ridicule Righties confused/embarrassed by what a disaster their party has become, to point out to them that Progressive populism is actually better aligned with their interests than Tea Party folks.
People were so pissed off after the horror of the Bush administration that they needed to lash out. (Fear, job loss, economic devastation, and decline of democracy will do that to ya!) However, Obama wanted to revisit his Harvard Law Review “I can bring everybody together” days, so he deliberately neglected to channel that angst towards good long-term ends, like reforming the financial systems. He (yes, arrogantly, I suppose) thought that his “leadership” would be enough to change things. Wrong. Changing things changes things! Changing laws that exacerbate economic injustice, tax codes that favor the uber-wealthy, changing the Wall-Street-can-do-no-wrong culture…you’re all aware of the change opportunities he missed.
Having some pro-OWS outlets that make the case that Tea Partiers should naturally be supportive of OWS would “bring together conservatives and liberals” in a way that even Obama would have to respect. (Given their persisting incompetence at taking advantage of this type of opportunity, I’d like to leave the Democratic Party out of this post.) The media naturally has a Right v. Left bias, and this bias helps both parties while it harms the average American. If the 99% v. 1% narrative is ever to become the frame by which the media approach stories (and it would serve Progressives well if that happened) then we need to avoid Left v. Right framing as much as possible, even in our own minds.
Elizabeth Warren really impressed me when, in the meeting where she was called a “socialist whore”, her first response to the man who insulted her was to give a heartfelt message that she was sorry about his unemployment situation, and equally sorry that Congress was unwilling to help. She took his outburst as a chance to say that “We still have a lot of work to do.” That was a wonderful way to handle the situation: don’t let the Right v. Left (or, Capitalist v.s Socialist) frame get imposed, but use some ju jitsu to turn the situation into a 99% v. 1%. Coming at Tea Partiers head on is enormously counter-productive. It revigorates them and hardens their resolve that “socialists” need to be weeded out of public life.
I can hear you now: “The racist, sexist, morally bankrupt elements of the Tea Party are too ignorant/racist/sexist to ever join the OWS movement.” True enough. But, a substantial portion of the TP movement was simply citizens freaked out by shit in 2009, people who did not have the opportunity to understand the root causes of the problems. I think time, and OWS, have contributed to a better understanding that the Dems/government/deficit/President are not the core problem. Remember, the media does have a bias towards sensationalist images from Tea Party rallies. I went to a number of town halls during the Tea Party summer, and most of the TP types were simply confused and angry. Are 25% simply morally bankrupt idiots and bigots? Sure, maybe. So, ignore them. Even getting 25% of the Tea Party types to be sympathetic to the OWS types would have huge consequences in how powerful the OWS movement could become. After, Congress’s 9% approval rating suggests lots of room for a strong Progressive voice…if we think clearly about communication strategies.
So, I understand the inclination to gloat a little, and to lord over Righties just how screwed up and destructively cartoonish their “movement” has made them and the GOP. However, I think that we have to consider long term goals and plans— God knows the Right does!— and be aware of openings like this one. We shouldn’t be laughing at basically decent, but horribly mis-informed, Tea Partiers. We should be educating, recruiting, and eventually, welcoming to the right side of history.