What Occupy Wall Street Can Learn From the Tea Party

From what I have been able to learn about the Occupy Wall Street protesters, they are a far cry from the Tea Party, but as a firm defender of the First Amendment and a believer in honest debate, I do have some suggestions for how the OWS folks could be more effective.

1) Know what you stand for before you protest.
2) Know as much about your subject matter as those you want to influence.
3) Know who your adversaries are.

When the Tea Party took to the streets in 2009, it was to protest excessive spending, a bloated federal government, and one-size-fits-all solutions being driven from Washington. Five weeks into the Occupy Wall Street protests, according to the New York Times, protesters “formed the Demands Working Group about a week and a half ago, hoping to identify specific actions they  would formally ask local and federal governments to adopt.”

When the mainstream media came out to cover the Tea Party, what they found was nearly everybody they talked to knew why they were there, could express it in their own words, and could back it up with references to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers. When Fox News libertarian John Stossel came out to talk to the Occupy Wall Street folks, he was greeted by some bearded guy screaming, “You lie, Stossel, you lie! I’ve watched your show! You lie!” And then the guy turned away.

New York Magazine went out and asked some questions of the OWS protestors with the following results:

- What is the Dodd-Frank Act? 84% didn’t know.
- What is the SEC? 68% didn’t know.
- Does the government spend more on health care and pensions, education, or the military? 94% said the military. Actually, the military is 20% of the budget, while Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and education account for 44%.

Know who your adversaries are. When the OWS protestors went uptown to protest outside of the houses of some wealthy businessmen, they walked right past George Soros' home (Wall Street) and went to protest in front of Rupert Murdoch's (media) and David Koch's (fertilizer) home. If they wanted to protest against those who really had a role in this mess, why aren’t they protesting in Lafayette Park, across from the White House? After all, President Barack Obama raked in more money from Wall Street than any candidate in history, and he was the one who actually bailed out the Wall Street guys. Credibility matters. But don’t worry too much. The mainstream media will be providing you air cover, while they continue to strafe the Tea Party.

If you want to have some political pull, know what you want, know more about the subject matter than just slogans, and go after the right people. And don’t forget, public spaces belong to all of us, leave them cleaner than when you found them.

Photo CreditWikimedia Commons

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Bill O'Connell

Bill O’Connell received a bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College in 1976, his Master of Business Administration from Fordham University in 1979, and a Master of Science in computer science from Pace University in 1987. He runs the popular political blog LibertysLifeline.com, and he's the author of Liberty’s Lifeline: Engaging the Grassroots Movement to Stop the Erosion of American Freedoms (Bridgeway Books, April 2011). A native New Yorker, he and his wife, Julie, have four children and live in Long Island, N.Y. For more information about Liberty’s Lifeline and to find out more about the blog that inspired the book, visit www.libertyslifeline.com.

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