Yesterday marked the one month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City. Since then more than 950 protests have been held in more than 80 countries – including many in places where there are no financial centers.
Many have compared the Occupy movement to last year’s Tea Party movement, as both were formed to show one’s disapproval of the status quo. The Occupy movement began as a way for individuals to express their frustration at those in the financial sector who they believed helped the economy descend into a freefall over the past few years, while the Tea Party movement began as a reaction to the policies and legislation of the Democratic-led Congress and White House in Washington. But that is where the similarities end.
The Tea Party movement included rallies of various shapes and sizes, but they did not make up the core of the operation. When they did rally, the Tea Party members would usually coalesce for a few hours to make their point, usually on a day of significance, such as 9/12, outside of a legislative office. Instead, the focus of the Tea Party movement revolved around the good old ballot box. The Tea Party drafted candidates for Congress that eschewed their principles and worked hard to elect them to office, and which resulted in the Republican party flipping the House and nearly taking back the Senate last November. They were participating in the Democratic process much in the same way that the Athenians did over 2,000 years ago.
Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots, however, highlight the dirty side of peacefully assembling – literally! Participants are sleeping in city parks and sidewalks picketing and creating public havoc. By camping out the protestors are costing these already financially-strapped cities thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, in policing fees and clean up (that is, when the city is able to clean up from the protests). Many of them are recent college grads who have not had much luck in finding a job and find themselves laden in debt, and rather than spending their time churning out job applications – like the rest of us did – they are blaming others for their problems and doing little to try to fix them. And now that the Democratic party and major unions such as the AFL-CIO are fully supporting the movement has shifted from a wakeup call to Wall Street to a cry for Marxism with no end in sight.
I am not endorsing the principles of one movement over the other, and I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment and the right to peaceably assemble. But if I had to judge the movements on their overall tactics and effectiveness, I would wholeheartedly crown the Tea Party the victor. It pains me to give props to my former Governor (and more unfortunately, former Mayor) for things that do not involve Philadelphia sports teams, but Ed Rendell deserves them for his reaction to the Occupy Wall Street movement:
“Look, you’ve made your point, you don’t think by sitting here you’re going to bring about change in law just by sitting here. No legislative body is going to be blackmailed.
“I mean the guys in Philadelphia said they’re going to be here all winter. Well that’s silly. You’ve made your point, you’ve gotten about all the publicity you’re going to get. Now get on with your lives and if you really care about this stuff, organize at the ballot box.”
And so my final thoughts for the members of the Occupy movement: If you really want to make a difference, register to vote. And then, go to your local polling place on November 8th and cast your ballot. Then, keep returning to your polling place every November and vote until your point is made. That, my friends, is democracy in action, and that is America is the longest-standing democracy in the world today.