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Occupy Wall Street v. Tea Party



PGA and politicians take note! And everyone else, consider taking out some insurance.

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is nothing like the Tea Party. Democrats ignore the differences at their peril.

Is Occupy Wall Street similar?

The only similarity between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party is that each has its sideline cheerleaders. Even that is a stretch. The Republican Party has never once aided the Tea Party in any way. But some Republican Party officeholders have allied themselves with the Tea Party since Rick Santelli’s famous rant two and a half years ago.

Over the weekend, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) openly declared her support for Occupy Wall Street. Christiane Amanpour held a mostly sympathetic interview with Pelosi. But even she had to ask Pelosi whether she risked “pitting Americans against Americans.” Pelosi’s reply:

Well, that’s the American system. It’s the democratic system. We don’t all agree. We’d have a king if we were all of one mind. We don’t. We have different views. And the part of the democracy of our country is the expression that people give, and the Constitution guarantees that.

That’s not what she said of the Tea Party two years ago.

This morning, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent an e-mail to its mailing list, asking readers to support Occupy Wall Street. The Daily Caller and Fox News Channel both reported on this. Here is an excerpt:

Protestors (sic) are assembling in New York and around the country to let billionaires, big oil and big bankers know that we’re not going to let the richest 1% force draconian economic policies and massive cuts to crucial programs on Main Street Americans.

To summarize: both groups have their sideline cheerleaders, and each group has its own “big” thing to protest. (In the Tea Party’s case, the “big” thing is big government.) There the similarity ends.

The differences

The Gadsden flag: symbol of the Tea Party

Christopher Gadsden’s “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, the unofficial symbol of the Tea Party movement. Photo: User VIkrum/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License

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The differences between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party go much further than ideology:

  • Occupy Wall Street participants often receive a stipend, usually from a labor union, to appear. No one has ever shown that a Tea Party attendee received a stipend to show up.
  • Occupy Wall Street features pre-printed signs. Some of those carrying the signs cannot even read them. Tea Party folks, in contrast, make their own signs.
  • Occupy Wall Street has many people showing up to “score” free stuff—free food, or even free drugs. Tea Party folks bring their own food, or come prepared to buy food and/or merchandise.
  • Aside from this, Occupy Wall Street protesters often don’t know why they’re part of the movement or any given event. Tea Party people know what they fight for. They often hand out pocket Constitutions, read the Declaration of Independence aloud, and set up historical-education displays.
  • Occupy Wall Street protests can get messy—often disgustingly so, according to The Daily Mail. (This article contains a now-iconic picture of a protester “mooning” a police cruiser—and worse. But that is far from the only photograph to show the filthy conditions that protesters create for themselves.) Tea Party people pick up their own litter, and often leave their venue cleaner than they found it.

Let no one say—and say it to your shame—that all was beauty here until you came.

  • Occupy Wall Street protests have often resulted in arrests. Not so Tea Party and related events. The most strenuous part of Tea Party duty is keeping counter-demonstrators away from the main event.
  • Occupy Wall Street now has high-powered funding from unions, existing leftist fund-raisers, and (ironically) at least one billionaire, George Soros. The Tea Party’s detractors have repeatedly insisted that the business empire of Charles and David Koch does this honor for the Tea Party. And they adduce not one scintilla of evidence to support that charge.

The consequences

The Tea Party movement has moved away from regular rallies. Activists prefer conventional campaigns—or perhaps not-so-conventional.

If Occupy Wall Street continues much longer, more people will see the differences between these two movements. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is correct: these are mobs, and often violent ones. This might explain why Brit Hume, managing editor at Fox News Channel, said flatly this morning that Democrats “are playing with fire” if they support this movement.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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Emerson White

Believe it or not (probably not because I only post when I disagree) I’m a conservative, well a moderate conservative. I don’t like #OWS. Had you accepted my facebook friend request you would see me getting into arguments over it. However most of the differences you list can be explained by age and income. The #OWS crowd is younger, and more Tech Savvy, which means more printed signs, still lots of handpainted ones though. The #OWS crowd is largely unemployed or underemployed and doesn’t have a whole lot of money, so they are pooling resources. The free scratch is pretty meager, working a minimum wage job in a farm field would get them more stuff than protesting, but it wouldn’t have the effect that protesting has. The Tea Party may not hold occupations that last for weeks, so they may not have physical support given to them, but they have their big money backers, like the Koch brothers.

Emerson White

It tells me that non-english speakers are protesting. Occupy L.A. ? Occupy Wallstreet is overwhelmingly English speaking people between the ages of 18 and 30.

You aren’t getting paid, but you also aren’t paying for TV ads, heavy campaign contributions as PACs, or buses and the like. Ever hear of Freedom Works or Americans for Prosperity? Those huge PAC’s that funnel so much money into Tea party events and candidates? Do you still want me to go to the trouble of providing proof that these are Koch family productions or do you accept the point?

I’ve been to Tea Party events where food was provided, hotdogs, hamburgers, softdrinks. Advertised as provided too. If you use the same standard for both groups, but accept that the two groups are demographically distinct, they mirror each other much more closely than this piece seems to indicate.

Emerson White

Perhaps I spoke too broadly. There are big money sources that are paying for some TEA party activities. Buses are one example of one such expenditure. Not all Tea Party activities are paid for by big money.

On the same token not all #OWS costs are paid for by labor unions.

link to

I really can’t believe how ignorant of the issue you are that you need me to prove that Freedom Works is backing the TEA party. I was worried that I’d have to crawl through their financial documents to find something that you would recognize, then I went to their site and saw the words “TEA PARTY DEBT COMMISSION” right across the top link to

link to AfP

Normal people tend to have pause at least when someone says “Are you sure you need me to prove this”, normal people do at least a little quick google search before they call what they at first assume to be a bluff. I don’t know what to make of your considerable deviation from normal behavior.

I went to a TEA party (I forget which one) campaign event for Joe Miller. Joe Miller was the 2010 Tea Party senate candidate (who started his campaign with tens of thousands of dollars of advertising support from the TEA party express) for Alaska, he won the Republican primary but lost to the write-in incumbent.

There is a difference between going and protesting all day and getting a bowl of soup and a crust of bread and getting paid to protest.

I’ve also been to democratic party rallies (well, invariably they were “supposed” to be bipartisan but I was the only Republican to show up where food was provided, those food not bombs people really know how to cook.

Emerson White

I never said that freedom works was the whole tea party, or the leadership of the tea party, only that it was a financial backer for the tea party. That’s the thing about not having a hierarchy, freedom works is legitimately a part of the tea party as you are, since no one can take away their legitimacy. #OWS doesn’t have any kind of hierarchy or leadership either. Yes some folks who cannot speak english are behind part of it, and some unions are providing some food to part of it, but just like the tea party they aren’t official backers because there is no one to officiate. As I said, mirrors very closely.

Emerson White

My argument only depends on it being “a” financial backer, not “the” financial backer. That is all that it needed to draw the parallel to the unions and bring parity to the example you cited as a disparity.

Emerson White

A rehash in case you miss understood plain english.

TH:#OWS is different because people give them stuff, Unlike the TP who has stuff bought for them.

EW: No, people buy stuff for the TP too

TH: Nuh uh, prove it

EW: Proof

TH: yeah people buy the TP stuff but not all their stuff

EW: All I had to do was show that they did, Both groups have some people buy some of them some things.

TH: No you have to prove that all of everything used by TP was purchased for them

EW: Rehash showing that TH wasn’t paying attention

Emerson White

You focus on the splinter in your neighbors eye while ignoring the plank of wood in your own.

Zeke Rogers

How about we let Charles Koch speak for himself as to his involvement with the Tea Party: link to

Also, while the Occupy Wall Street protests are being backed by the unions and Soros now, they weren’t backed by them before. Occupy Wall Street is well into the third week of protests, and they only started getting backers in the past couple days.

Zeke Rogers

The video was taken during an Americans for Prosperity meeting, when Charles Koch was making a big speech. Let me quote some of what members of AFP had to say, in case you don’t want to watch the whole thing: “We helped organize huge Tea Parties across the state, and on April 15th, tax day, over 10,000 Californians joined us on the steps of the state capitol, and we held one of the largest Tea Parties in the country.” That seems pretty clear right there, I don’t see any fabrication in what that woman said. How about “We have led the largest Tea Party in the state?” Whatever you may think about the Young Turks, they had nothing to do with that clip of the AFP members claiming to be the biggest supporters of the Tea Party. I fail to see any fabrication in what those AFP members were saying.

Zeke Rogers

I agree entirely that AFP did not organize each and every Tea Party that took place. However, you cannot deny that AFP did have some role withing the Tea Party. Moreover, you don’t hear George Soros or any of the unions claiming to have set up and created the Occupy Wall Street protests. It’s the same situation as the Koch brothers; the protest was started by ordinary citizens at the grassroots level to protest an aspect of the government that they find objectionable. Big-money backers did latch on, but they did not set up the initial protests. The last point on this article is not a difference between the Tea Party and OWS at all.

Igor Balognapants

May I point out that you repeatedly demand evidence from those who criticize the tea party, yet you do not provide one scrap of evidence for any of your claims about occupy wall street. You, sir, are a hypocrite. Where’s YOUR proof?

Igor Balognapants

OK, I amend my previous statement… you have provided one scrap of proof for one of your many claims, the link to the guy defecating on the police car. And I thank you for it. I would love to see the rest.

I’m not sure I understand what kind of evidence you have that you can’t even point us in the right direction. You must have seen it somewhere. I do have eyes to see, but I’m not going to spend time looking up evidence for your claims if I don’t even know where to begin.


So those photos show that people at OWS can’t read English or are paid to be there, when you have no proof of either contention?

Come on Terry, there are valid criticisms of OWS, but you completely jump the shark and hurt those valid criticisms with fact-less assertions that paint the entire group with a broad brush.

alexander szatkowski

just denying something doesnt make you right. i was going to debate this subject with you but your debate style closely resembles that of my 10 year old cousin. you refuse to see the big picture (some TEA part events being organized by the koch brothers and so on and so forth) purely because you have never experienced it. god. if youre going to debate your points at least debate them for real. And I agree, beyond a very specific anger at the US government, there is little in common between the OWS and the TEA party. The TEA party has morphed into some kind of weird pseudo christian political sub group, while the OWS is series of protests and rallies and whatnot

Alexander Szatkowski

…how? why would it be universal? there is no universal TEA party movement, nothing about it is universal. People in the TEA party dont even have universal views, so no, it would not be universal. Just as labor union support/funding of OWS is not universal

Dan Holmes

Great work once again making wild assertions without any supporting citations, Terry.

Where is your proof that free drugs are being handed out to protesters?

Where is your evidence of these alleged “stipends” paid to protesters?

What is your source substantiating your claim that the protesters “often don’t know why they’re part of the movement or any given event?”

What evidence can you use to prove your assertion that Occupy Wall Street uses pre-printed signs and the Tea Party all use personally made signs?

If you actually look at one of the few links you do provide, you’d see in your Daily Mail link that almost every single poster or sign carried at Occupy Wall Street events are obviously hand-made with Sharpies or other markers on plain posterboard and other materials.

Nice job with confirmation bias Terry, because as we all know, the only grassroots movement is the one that YOU agree with.


[…] What is the difference between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street? The differences between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party go much further than ideology: […]


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