By Matthew Rothschild on October 14, 2011

The conventional wisdom today is that the Occupy Wall Street movement is the leftwing equivalent of the Tea Party movement.

I don’t buy that. Not for a minute.

The Tea Party was the invention of the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey and Fox News. It was Astroturf, at the outset, and it was continually watered, top down, by corporate money.

By contrast, the Occupy Wall St. movement has been real grassroots from the very start—unfunded, spontaneous, horizontal, organized through social networks, and democratic to its core.

And the strength of the Tea Party’s populist base has been greatly exaggerated, as Paul Street and Anthony DiMaggio persuasively argue in their book, “Crashing the Tea Party.” The mainstream media repeatedly inflated the Tea Party crowds, ignoring or belittling larger crowds on the progressive side. Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street crowds have not gotten the attention they deserve, and the protests I’ve attended have been grossly undercounted by the media. The anti-war and anti-Wall Street protest in Freedom Plaza last Thursday, for instance, drew 3,000 people. The New York Times said “hundreds.” And when 2,000 of the demonstrators blocked traffic outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Post reported that there were “dozens.”

Here’s another difference: The Tea Party movement was largely just a rebranding of the rightwing of the Republican Party in an effort to take down Obama and push the party rightward. At the two Tea Party gatherings I’ve attended and reported on, every one I interviewed had voted Republican in the last election and the anti-Obama rhetoric was extreme. By contrast, the Occupy Wall Street movement can hardly be called a wing of the Democratic Party, as it consists of many people who are thoroughly disenchanted with Barack Obama and his backing of the banks, as well as his war and civil liberties and free trade policies.

Demographically, the Occupy Wall Street movement looks a lot like America, with diversity in age, race, and economic background, whereas the Tea Party is overwhelmingly white, middle-aged, and petit bourgeois.

To turn the Occupy Wall Street movement into the equivalent of the Tea Party is to do a disservice to the great uprising we’re seeing today.

Occupy Wall Street embodies the slogan Obama appropriated from the late great poet June Jordan: “We are the people we’ve been waiting for.”

This is the movement we’ve been waiting for.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "DC Rally Opposes Keystone XL Pipeline, Denounces Last Hearing."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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