The past few years have witnessed the rise and fall of several left-leaning political fads, each touted as a response to the rise of the Tea Party Movement: the Coffee Party, One Nation, and Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’ s Rally to Restore Sanity. A month after the Wall Street occupation began, the protesters say they are just getting started. But a month is more than enough time to see that Occupy Wall Street is no Tea Party.
For one thing, Wall Street occupiers call themselves the 99 percent. They are united against the 1 percent, defined as the top income earners who don’t pay enough taxes but still get government bailouts for their corporations and banks. As a corrective, the occupiers demand that the 1 percent pay more taxes and the 99 percent receive more benefits in the form of student loan forgiveness, free health care, and jobs through New Deal–esque programs.
Beyond their general demands for redistributive policies, Wall Street occupiers have radically different plans for America’s governmental structure than the Tea Party movement. “Since we can no longer trust our elected representatives to represent us rather than their large donors,” the Zuccotti Park occupiers explain, “we are creating a microcosm of what democracy really looks like.” Zuccotti Park is meant to be a model of the governmental structure that should replace America’s constitutional system. On July 4, 2012, some Wall Street occupiers plan to hold a new Philadelphia convention to recreate American democracy. Their birthday gift to America will be eliminating the constitutional system.
But what about the Tea Party movement?