The funny thing about the “people’s movements” that have energized both sides of the aisle and challenged their respective parties over the course of the past three years is that they’re not inherently incompatible.
In fact, they largely stem from the same source. The Tea Party was a reaction to the perceived encroaching dominance and enriching of government; Occupy Wall Street was a reaction to the perceived encroaching dominance and enriching of big corporations. Both at least portrayed themselves as movements of the people against those with a lust for power and money, and even to the extent they were single-issue movements – the Tea Party excessive taxation, OWS Wall Street’s role in the economic crisis – it was still possible for someone to sympathize theoretically with both positions. Indeed, part of OWS’ message is precisely that big business has taken over the government.
Although both movements are largely associated with a particular political persuasion, the Tea Party positioned itself as a libertarian movement independent of the two major parties, while even some conservatives felt Occupy Wall Street had a point, even if they disagreed with their methods. It was possible to be a Democratic Tea Partier and a Republican occupier of Wall Street. To be sure, the diehards of each political persuasion could probably never be convinced of that, claiming the former to be fakes or the latter to not be “real conservatives”.
Still, I see in the compatibility of the two movements hope for moving beyond our tense ideological divide. A lot of people across the country saw outrage in their particular economic situation, and a lot of people across the country saw outrage in the general economic situation, enough so that they felt the need to demonstrate their outrage. It’s a shame that OWS seems to have lost a lot of its momentum, unable to seize the momentum of the initial protests into a long-term political movement like the Tea Party, and it’s also a shame that the Tea Party itself may be sputtering out as the Republican Party has settled on its most moderate plausible candidate for President, but in that may be opportunity. Had both movements remained strong they might have become irreconcilably opposed. Now, though, if we can take these two different currents of populist outrage and find a way to articulate a coherent, populist message and platform from the both of them, we can effectively give voice to the broader position of the people, and in so doing, create a better chance to “take back the country” than either movement could have done alone or in opposition.
This unified, populist platform, with the potential to strike fear in the heart of both parties, might have among its guiding principles:
- The liberty of the people shall not be infringed.
- The people will fight for their freedom and their livelihood against all who would take it.
- Government should not take our hard-earned money so they can intrude into every aspect of our lives.
- Wall Street should not be able to make themselves rich at the expense of everyone else.
If I had to distill the message sent by the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street into a single sentence, it might be: We won’t let anyone else screw with us. Whether the enemy is government or Big Business, the people are willing to fight back against the both of them. And considering how huge the people are compared to government or business, that’s a force that will prove impossible to ignore.
Over the next several days and weeks I’m going to look at how this position might play itself out in practice. I’m going to look at various issues and consider what a policy based on the best interests of the people would decide. At no point will I give more power or money to government or big business unless there is no way for that to come at the expense of the people and there is no alternative. As such, I won’t always advocate things either political party is backing right now. In so doing, I hope to give structure to this new populist movement, to recommend concrete strategies for people to advocate and follow and guiding principles for voting and activism.
It’s time to move beyond pointless division and allow all of us to move forward as Americans, truly and passionately, as more than a buzzword for politicians who are about to realize just how much they didn’t actually want it to happen, and if nothing else, set an example for a Congress seemingly unable to do so.