Stories to Watch: 10/27/11
Finally got around to trying an alternative to kneading bread dough today. It’s pretty easy, kind of like the way you work pizza dough. Takes a while though — more than two hours. Still, most of that time it’s just sitting in a bowl, so — physically speaking — it’s a lot easier. I’ve got the dough in the fridge and I’ll rise it and bake it tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes. Now here’s the news…
Google’s Politics & Elections Blog has a post up comparing searches for the Occupy movement and the Tea Party. Bottom line; search traffic for Occupy Wall Street is 66% higher than the Tea Party’s traffic ever was.
Another interesting trend in search traffic from the Google report: “Despite big leads in polls and search traffic for Occupy Wall Street, it is almost in a dead heat with the Tea Party for the volume of news coverage. Using Advanced Search in Google News we found that between October 7 and last week, Occupy Wall Street only barely bests the Tea Party when we examine the number of news pieces covering each movement: 29,000 to 22,000.” While I don’t have any doubt that the ‘baggers are over-covered, terms like “Tea Party-backed Senator” and “Rep. X, a Tea Party favorite” probably have a lot to do with those numbers. Wait until we have a few “Occupy Wall Street” senators and representatives to talk about and we’ll see if those stats change.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, perhaps realizing that calling a police riot “a generally peaceful resolution” to the Occupy Oakland protest was absurd bullshit, issues a second statement saying she stands with the 99%. Mitt “The Weathervane” Romney would be proud.
Boehner says he has “great concerns” that the president is overstepping his constitutional authority to deal with student loans and mortgages without congress. But those concerns aren’t so great that he’d take Obama to court and risk being proven as wrong as he obviously is.
Mark this as the moment the Rick Perry campaign began to wind down.
Bad news for the GOP; the economy is recovering much faster than expected. Going to have to sabotage that right pronto.
This is censorship taken to a whole other level; North Korea basically exiles citizens working in Libya, so they won’t come home and spread tales of revolution and freedom.
Finally, even millionaires want higher taxes on millionaires. In other words, Republicans are “defending” people who don’t want to be defended.
99-Percenters Winning the War of Popular Opinion
It’s inevitable that comparisons are drawn between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement, as much as people in both groups write off those comparisons. The media, after all, have their narratives and “everyone’s freaked out about spending!” has seemingly changed overnight into “everyone wants to take on the wealthy!” So the media’s natural reaction is to compare the two movements and see what, if anything, has changed.
But the Tea Party was never an actual movement, in the sense that it was the result of people demanding change. In fact, almost the exact opposite was true — the people were the result of the “movement.” The Tea Party was, is, and always will be a corporate PR stunt — a guerilla ad campaign — aimed at getting the rightwing talk radio/Fox News/wingnut blogosphere crowd (i.e., the gullible) out in public demanding that Republicans do what Republicans were already planning on doing.
The Occupy movement, on the other hand, seems to be the result of actual frustration with Washington. Republicans have been blocking everything and talking about “what the American people want,” while totally ignoring polling that shows the American people want what the Republicans are blocking. Meanwhile, conservative and centrist Democrats — including the Obama administration — have often played along, watering down good legislation or compromising it out of existence. Where the Tea Party embodies manufactured outrage, the 99-percenters’ is organic — and justified.
We see this backed up in polling — which should surprise no one. A United Technologies/National Journal poll finds “some 59 percent of adults either completely agree or mostly agree with the protesters, while 31 percent mostly disagree or completely disagree” with them. 68% support a tax on the wealthy to pay for the President’s jobs plan and “nearly one-third of Republicans — 31 percent — completely or mostly agree” with the protesters’ goals. Those are goals, by the way, that the media keeps telling everyone are a complete mystery. Apparently, the average voter finds them much less mysterious than the average TV pundit.
In addition, a recent CNN/ORC International poll found that the 99-percenters’ view of Wall Street was shared by the vast majority of voters; 80% believe Wall Street execs are greedy, 77% believe they’re overpayed, and 65% believe they’re dishonest. When asked, “Overall, how much do you trust Wall Street bankers and brokers to do what is best for the economy — a great deal, somewhat, a little, or not at all?” only 3% answered “a great deal,” while 54% answered “not at all.”
The only recent poll that shows anything but strong backing for the Occupy movement comes from the perfectly respectable Pew Center, which shows the public “divided” in its support for the movement.
About four-in-ten Americans say they support the Occupy Wall Street movement (39%), while nearly as many (35%) say they oppose the movement launched last month in New York’s financial district.
By contrast, more say they oppose the Tea Party movement than support it (44% vs. 32%), according to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, conducted Oct. 20-23 among 1,009 adults. One-in-ten (10%) say they support both, while 14% say they oppose both.
This is actually less of a departure from the other polls than it would seem, since “support for” and “in agreement with” are two very different things. History shows that it’s more important that people agree with a movement than support it or approve of it. And even here, it’s Republicans who throw the curve — both Democrats and Independents support the 99-percenters more than they oppose them. It’s only among GOP voters that opposition outweighs support. And it’s only among GOP voters that most support — rather than oppose — the Tea Party.
And it pays to point out that all of this polling comes after what many — myself included — consider to be biased and unfair coverage of the 99-percenters. Even in the face of media opposition, the Occupy movement comes out on top. Imagine what it would be like if snarky journalists and pundits weren’t out actively looking for uninformed protesters.
It’s true that the Tea Party and the Occupy movement have been pigeonholed into a rivalry both by the media narrative and by the Tea Party’s corporate leadership. But it’s just as true that in this debate — as forced and manufactured as it is — the 99-percenters are winning.
Real Populism vs. Corporate PR
There is one not so obvious or immediately noticeable difference between the Occupy Wall Street protests and your average Tea Party protest. Sure, the crowds seem to be younger, signs featuring Obama as Hitler are entirely absent, and there aren’t many people who are dressed like Uncle Sam sneezed stars and stripes all over them. There are no guns or demands to see the president’s birth certificate. But the less obvious difference is in buses. While the Tea Party protests always feature big buses covered with flags and eagles, buses at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are used to haul the protesters to jail.
I bring this up because teapartiers like to pretend they’re running their own show. That their protests are grassroots and their organizations are of their own construction. But those buses carting them around from protest to protest didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Someone paid for them, someone gave them their ultra-patriotic paint jobs, someone’s buying all the gas. All that takes funding and, as much as the ‘baggers like to pretend they’re an independent movement, they’re all bought and paid for — and then moved from square to square like pawns on a chessboard.
On the other hand, Greg Sargent has this to say about the Wall Street protests:
…If there’s one thing that’s growing clearer by the hour, it’s that this is an entirely organic effort, one that’s about nobody but the protestors themselves. In this sense, we’re seeing a replay of the Wisconsin protests. Those ended up falling just short of what activists had hoped to achieve, but their months-long showing was still important — it demonstrated that left wing populism is still alive and well and sent an important message about the mood of the country. The key was that it grew organically with little to no involvement from Beltway Dems and the White House.
If anything, Occupy Wall Street’s lack of outside encouragement from bigfoot Dems has been a strength, rather than a weakness. As major progressive groups debate how they can contribute to strengthening the movement — and how to give it specific direction and a specific agenda — the need to preserve its grassroots nature will remain paramount. Who knows where this will end up, but for now, this is another reminder that the Tea Party isn’t the only voice of popular discontentment over the economy. We don’t necessarily live in Tea Party Nation, after all.
In fact, Lee Fang at ThinkProgress makes an excellent case that the Occupy Wall Street protesters have more in common with the original Boston Tea Partiers than the Tea Party “movement” ever will. “In the late 18th century, the British government became deeply entwined with the interests of the East India Trading Company, a massive conglomerate that counted British aristocracy as shareholders,” he writes. “Americans, upset with a government that used the colonies to enrich the East India Trading Company, donned Native American costumes and boarded the ships belonging to the company and destroyed the company’s tea. In the last two weeks, as protesters have gathered from New York to Los Angeles to protest corporate domination over American politics, a true Tea Party movement may be brewing.”
And if the Wisconsin protests are any indication, the Democratic Party may wind up being dragged to the left by this. Right now, the party is bogged down in a hopeless quagmire of centrism and compromise — with the left doing all the compromising. If the Tea Party dragged the nation rightward toward craziness, an actual populist movement may drag it leftward back toward sanity.
But what of the supposedly unfocused nature of Occupy Wall Street — the lack of a unifying message? I’ll answer that question with a question; what was the unifying message of the early Tea Party protests? Was it “Show me the birth certificate,” “Don’t take my guns,” “Let’s all hate Muslims/gays/abortion,” “Get your big government hands off my Medicare,” “We’re against communism,” or “Obama is Hitler?” It wasn’t until later that pundits and politicians divined “they’re against government spending” out of all that mishmash — and then because it served their interests. The very absolute core message of the Tea Party was — and remains — “We don’t like Democrats and we’re unhappy Obama won.”
Occupy Wall Street’s core message is “corporations are screwing us and we don’t like it.” No Koch brother’s going to paint up a bunch of buses to help deliver that complaint. Occupy Wall Street is all homegrown and, as we said here in Wisconsin during the labor protests, this is what democracy looks like.
Tea Party events are what corporate sponsorship looks like.