Newswise — Professor Tom Sutton, Chair of the Department of Political Science at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio points out clear parallels between the emergence of Occupy Wall Street on the left and the Tea Party on the right. Both started as grassroots movements that gave voice to mainstream frustrations with the economy and government. But that’s where the similarities seem to end.
“Eventually, the Tea Party’s very simple and clear message – less government, spending and taxes; more jobs – was co-opted by political funders and Republican political strategists and used to mobilize voters and donors in the 2010 Congressional election,” Sutton says. “The Tea Party movement worked within the current political system and within an existing political party and altered the dialogue in Washington.”
“Unlike the Tea Party movement, Occupy Wall Street has a more diffused focus and like other inclusive movements that emanate from the left, it is leaderless and without clear goals. Protestors are calling attention to the disparate wealth between Wall Street and Main Street, but the movement also has welcomed environmentalists, fair trade proponents and many others, muddying the message. Without leadership or a precise framework, it’s not clear what impact this movement will have long term.”
“Occupy Wall Street is tapping into levels of frustration and getting attention, but at what point does this become something that you can latch onto? What is the group’s call to action? Should followers speak out at a shareholder meeting, donate to or support certain political candidates? As long as there is no structure or clear goals, it remains difficult to translate the sentiments into anything that can be acted upon. At the end of the day, it’s nice to vent but what have you accomplished?”
“At some point, the talking has to stop and the action has to start.”
Thomas Sutton, Chair of the Department of Political Science and Associate Professor of Political Science at Baldwin-Wallace College
Ph.D., Kent State University
Areas of Expertise: American Politics, Political Parties and Interest Groups, Public Administration, Public Policy