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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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Editor-in-chief at | + posts

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.



  1. Emerson White

    October 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    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.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut

      October 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      Well, that doesn’t explain the protesters who can’t even read their own signs. That’s because the signs are in English, and a lot of these protesters don’t speak English. What does that tell you?

      Where is your evidence that the Koch Brothers have anything to do with the Tea Party? I’ve been involved with the Tea Party since its inception. I guess my payroll account must have gotten lost in Charlie Koch’s database, because I never once got a check with his, or his brother’s, name on it.

  2. Emerson White

    October 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    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.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut

      October 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      Just a minute, neighbor. I’ve been down to Washington twice. And each time, we raised money for those buses. We paid for them in advance, and sold tickets. No Koch Brothers cash there. We never saw a penny of that. Nor do I know who has.

      Freedom Works did not pay us a thing for the buses to the September rallies. We had to raise the money ourselves.

      Yes, I want you to go to the trouble of providing what you think is proof. You’re darned tooting I do. I don’t accept any such allegation without corroboration. Absolutely anyone’s unsubstantiated word along that line is valueless.

      So you’ve been to “Tea Party” events where food was provided. And you didn’t have to pay admission to go in? You didn’t have to buy it?

      Why do I get the distinct impression that I have just bought every crossing of the Hudson, East, and Delaware Rivers?

      Prove it, buster. Right now.

  3. Emerson White

    October 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    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.

    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 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.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut

      October 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      You certainly spoke too broadly. I have never been to a Tea Party event where I could get free food. Never. Once.

      Nor was I ever paid to be at a Tea Party event. Yet people are getting paid to be at certain OWS events.

      Now then: anyone who thinks that Americans for Prosperity is Tea Party-allied, or even Tea Party-friendly, need only look at the New Jersey Assembly campaign in New Jersey District Twenty-four. The Tea Party-allied candidate in that District, RoseAnn Salanitri, now has to fight against the libels and slanders by Steve Lonegan, head of AFP-NJ, who has been bankrolling a local guy into doing a bunch of things that are legally actionable.

      And you still haven’t shown that the Koch Brothers have anything to do with this—though if they do, they’re wasting their money, and as I said, I personally have never seen a dime, and neither has anyone, and I mean anyone, connected with the Tea Party in New Jersey.

      Freedom Works and the Tea Party are not the same thing. A lot of these organizations might want to give the impression of Tea Party friendliness. But there is no over-arching leadership of the Tea Party, and never has been.

  4. Emerson White

    October 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    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.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut

      October 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm

      And even that is wrong. FreedomWorks is not “the” financial backer for the Tea Party, no matter what it pretends. No Tea Party organization in New Jersey—and I have been up and down the State repeatedly—has any line item of any receivable from FreedomWorks. Or, for that matter, AFP.

  5. Emerson White

    October 10, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    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.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut

      October 10, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      Wrong. Your argument depends on it being the chief, or sole, financial backer. Your argument also requires that absolutely every Tea Party group have comparable financial backing to what you have seen. And may I remind you that I have only your word on that. Because your word is at total variance with my repeated personal experience, and that of every witness whom I have interviewed, I cannot accept it.

      • Emerson White

        October 10, 2011 at 11:22 pm

        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

        • Terry A. Hurlbut

          October 11, 2011 at 7:05 am

          And in case you don’t understand plain English: no Tea Party group, with whom I am familiar, has ever—ever—gotten any of the “stuff” that you, without evidence, say that the Koch Brothers give to Tea Party people everywhere.

          • Emerson White

            October 11, 2011 at 11:53 am

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

          • Terry A. Hurlbut

            October 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm

            It doesn’t work that way. And especially given what the OWS crowd are doing now.

  6. Zeke Rogers

    October 10, 2011 at 8:51 pm

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

    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.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut

      October 10, 2011 at 8:57 pm

      I reject that link as plain old-fashioned fabrication.

      • Zeke Rogers

        October 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm

        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.

        • Terry A. Hurlbut

          October 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm

          That does not say that they organized each and every Tea Party that took place. They had nothing—zero, zip, nada—to do with the Tea Party group that I attended on April 15, 2009. Now what kind of world-of-my-own do you think I live in, to miss the presence of AFP-NJ at that meeting, when I was there for a good two hours?

          • Zeke Rogers

            October 10, 2011 at 9:34 pm

            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.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut

            October 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm

            Yes, I deny it. The AFP are nothing but a bunch of opportunists. My fellow editor and administrator is at open war with them right now. Check it out: New Jersey Assembly District Twenty-four. We’re having an off-year election here. RoseAnn Salanitri has chosen to challenge the Republican incumbent by accepting the banner of a third party. If you are a regular subscriber, then you know this, because you have read her articles announcing exactly that, and defending that position and decision.

            The AFP wanted an association to lend legitimacy to themselves. They’re not going to get it. Neither you nor Mr. White nor any other person can give them what they have not earned, and which is not yours to give.

  7. Igor Balognapants

    October 11, 2011 at 2:29 am

    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?

    • Terry A. Hurlbut

      October 11, 2011 at 7:12 am

      I cite the photographic evidence now available for anyone who has eyes to see. The only reason that I do not use it is that I do not have the rights to it.

      The protester who dropped trou, backed up to a police car, and did what came naturally, is only the most pathetic example. I now learn of other spectacles that go beyond pathetic to just plain bloodthirsty. Like pictures of severed heads on pikes.

      • Igor Balognapants

        October 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

        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.

        • Terry A. Hurlbut

          October 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

          Scroll down to the rest of the pictures in The Daily Mail. The guy doing what came naturally was at the top of the portfolio, but was not the only photo, by any means. Besides, that was just one guy doing a really stupid thing. The other photos, showing the squalor, the litter, et cetera ad nauseau, are far more telling.

          That constitutes the evidence that I have. Of course, now we have the spectacle of those people marching to five private homes to make a veiled threat of violence against those people: Tax them, or we’ll kill them. Is that what you signed on for?

          • Bill

            October 11, 2011 at 3:11 pm

            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.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut

            October 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm

            Hey. I’m just quoting other people who have been on-site, asked some of those people to read the signs they were carrying, and got answers varying from “Duh?” to “No comprendo.”

  8. alexander szatkowski

    October 11, 2011 at 4:59 am

    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

    • Terry A. Hurlbut

      October 11, 2011 at 7:14 am

      Were the Koch Brothers’ control of the movement as great as you pretend, the benefits of that control would of necessity be universal. One counterexample suffices to disprove it. I am that counterexample.

      • Alexander Szatkowski

        October 11, 2011 at 9:36 am

        …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

        • Terry A. Hurlbut

          October 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm

          You have just admitted: there is no universal Tea Party movement. Your entire argument assumes that there is, and that it has two “Brothers Grimm” as financiers. I have provided counterexamples against both propositions.

  9. Dan Holmes

    October 12, 2011 at 3:21 am

    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.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut

      October 12, 2011 at 5:48 am

      Now you’re conflating a lot of things.

      I said that a lot of protesters were there to score some drugs. I never said that the drugs were free, or that SEIU/ACORN (whatever they call themselves these days) furnished them. Because some protesters were there to score drugs, others were probably there to deal drugs, even if such “dealing” were nothing more than one user giving or selling an extra joint or two to another.

      Now the “stipends” are real. Today I now learn of an ad running in Craigslist from an outfit calling itself the Working Families Party, offering people a stipend of $650 a week to attend. That’s well in excess of $30,000 a year. In my day, chief residents in postgraduate medical training programs in New Jersey might make more, but not that much more. I know, because I once served as one.

      That many protesters can’t even read the pre-printed signs that the union hand out to them, others have repeated over and over in the past thirty-six hours. I don’t pretend that that’s original with me. (Nor did I ever say that they’re all pre-printed.)

      If you don’t realize that the Tea Party folks use hand-made signs, you’ve never been to any of their rallies. I have. This also goes to the canard about the Koch Brothers being the Big Sugar Daddies of the Tea Party. The pre-printed signs that they are supposed to have provided, have been nowhere in evidence at any rally that I ever attended. Nowhere. Nor did I or anyone else get any stipend; each group had to raise its own money through merchandising.

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