First things first; there seems to be some debate over whether Obama's assessment is accurate. But that debate seems to be over the headline ABC News chose to give its post on the web -- "Obama: Occupy Wall Street 'Not That Different' From Tea Party Protests." Left and right seem to bristle at the comparison, but if you bother to look at what the President actually said, it's hard to see any way to call him wrong.
"I understand the frustrations being expressed in those protests," Obama told ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper in the interview to air this evening on ABC News "Nightline" from Jamestown, N.C.
"In some ways, they're not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren't looking out for them," he said.
The second item (and I'll tie these together in a bit, so bear with me) comes from the Wall Street Journal and Tea Party-friendly pollster Douglas Schoen. Schoen's reporting on his polling is hopelessly biased, so just go ahead and disregard that. Just go straight to the numbers themselves.
For the most part, the demographics are unsurprising; young to youngish, mostly Democrat or unaffiliated, mostly Obama voters (although most now disapprove). Some surprises are that about half have never participated in any political action before and that the majority (53%) are employed. Schoen puts them this way:
Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.
The part about being "an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth" is some of the purest BS you'll ever see in your life. "[W]hen he asked the protesters what they'd like the Occupy Wall Street movement to achieve, just 4 percent said 'radical redistribution of wealth,' which tied for last on the list of answers given," writes Judd Legum. "There is no mention of 'radical redistribution of wealth' anywhere else in the poll."
That 98% of people occupying a park the city keeps trying to kick them out of "would support civil disobedience to achieve their goal" elicits my second "duh" of this post.
And a significant minority "would support violence to advance their agenda?" Yeah, that's got Tea Party written all over it.
[Greg Sargent, June 2010:]
Here's another one that could be tough for Sharron Angle to explain away: In an interview in January, Angle appeared to float the possibility of armed insurrection if "this Congress keeps going the way it is."
I'm not kidding. In an interview she gave to a right-wing talk show host, Angle approvingly quoted Thomas Jefferson saying it's good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years -- and said that if Congress keeps it up, people may find themselves resorting to "Second Amendment remedies."
For the record, the definition of armed insurrection would be the use of violence to advance an agenda. Not enough? Here's a paragraph from Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, written in August of 2009:
[O]n August 7, an anti-health care reform protester in New Mexico named Scott Oskay Tweeted to his hundreds of followers to bring their licensed concealed handguns to town hall meetings, adding, "If ACORN/SEIU attends these townhalls for disruption, stop being peaceful, and hurt them. Badly." The following day, it was reported that several Tea Partiers brought handguns into a town hall organized by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) in Memphis, Tennessee. Additionally, an attendee at a meet and greet with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in a supermarket dropped a handgun, leading her staff to call the police. Most recently, a man was filmed openly carrying a handgun outside of President Obama's town hall meeting in New Hampshire. He held a sign that read, "IT IS TIME TO WATER THE TREE OF LIBERTY!" a reference to the following Thomas Jefferson quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
My point here isn't that violence is the way to go or that the minority of OWS protesters who say they'd be OK with it are somehow justified by the Tea Party's embrace of violent rhetoric. What I'm saying is that the oh-so shocked tones taken by people like Schoen ring as hollow as they do hypocritical. When you've got Senate candidates talking about armed revolution, you've got problems of your own.
And it's here that the Tea Party and the 99-percenters are similar, outside the broad comparison the President made. We've both got our would-be violent nutjobs. Let's handle it better than the Tea Party has and not embrace them in a big bear hug.