Published on: May 16, 2012
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  • I find myself agreeing at every turn. In the course of my lifetime the left has become a characterture of itself. The Tea Party was and is a genuine grass roots response to dysfunctional national institutions.The left’s response has been a middle school level make believe starring the ghost of Che. Which, it occurs to me, also pretty well characterizes those purveyors of delusional drama we call the MSM.

  • Jon Burack

    Fascinating analysis. The point about the May Day fizzle was especially dramatized in Madison, Wisconsin. Somewhat inadvertantly, May 1 was also the day the former student radical and off and on mayor, Paul Soglin, older and wiser now, led the Common Council in sticking to their plan to oust the stragglers from the Occupy parking lot they had seized. It had degenerated into a dangerous and unhealthy homeless site. True to Madison, the Common Council thanked the protesters! But they said leave anyway. On May 1, despite contnued complaining, the authorities carried through and closed the Occupiers down. That land, apparently, was not their land.

  • “Russian television propagandist Julian Assange”?! I hate to claim him, but he is Australian and he is a computer programmer turned Internet activist. Wikipedia calls him a journalist, which is a bit of a stretch even for that scurrilous profession.

  • Glen

    In other news, National Journal reports that the Tea Party has already won. And Arnold Kling repeats his call to break-up America’s huge banks.

  • bandit

    OWS = losers who don’t want to work to pay off their college loans.

  • Desiderius

    The Tea Party is the Left.

    The fake Left that currently occupies our commanding cultural heights labors mightily to obscure this truth.

  • TomsRight

    There are so many things wrong here that it beggers the imagination. I’ll cite but one, the last mentioned:
    “…and especially if the GOP wins in November and a Romney administration governs from the right so that right-wing rather than left-wing policies get the blame for economic failure…”

    Would you care to address the fact that “right-wing policies” are–and have consistently been–blamed for every problem since at least the 1930’s…despite the fact that “right-wing policies” have been all but off the table in that time?
    Ronald Reagan did his best to reclaim America from the pit into which “progressives” have been relentlessly driving it, but his gains have all been negated. Even then, he was playing defense.
    This post is another example of how “The Left” has controlled “the conversation” for decades.

  • Their main problem was the incoherence produced when you open up the big tent to any and all just to swell your ranks.

    Had they left the dope and the Marxist rhetoric behind, and marched on DC instead of Wall Street, they probably would have been joined by tea partiers.

  • Steve

    I believe the Left provides a very valuable service to humanity…..Don’t Let This Happen To You.

  • Bohemond

    ” Since the 1970s real wages have scarcely budged”

    Ooooh, Prof, Mead: you’ve fallen for a lefty fiction which has bamboozled even some who ought to know better. In actual fact real wages have increased 16% overall since 1980, and for the middle three quintiles by nearly 30%. They have only remained stagnant (~5% growth) for the bottom quintile, the poor and bottom edge of the working class: a tribute to the welfare state and uncontrolled immigration.

  • Jim.

    A couple of points:

    – George W’s GOP was basically left for dead by voters in 2008. Far from being “mostly negative” to the GOP, the TEA Party energy and message helped the GOP sweep into power in 2010. In the process, the TEA Party gave a voice to what is a growing yet had been a voiceless political movement in this country — people concerned about free-spending government.

    Until the 2010 election demonstrated that democracy actually works to give political power to a movement like that, the “polarization” in America was a far more dangerous thing. The possibility of “second amendment remedies” was rising to a dangerous level. Fortunately, before things could get out of hand, Democracy has done what it does best — defusing potential social unrest by providing an mechanism to co-opt passionate and talented individuals into the state’s governing structure, and force peaceful change upon the existing members of government.

    I have never been as struck by the wisdom of Democracy than I was at the 2010 election. The fact that the 2012 election is so likely to continue this trend fills me with pride that my country has such a superior political system.

    – Don’t expect the economy to continue this poorly until 2016 if Romney wins. He is likely to benefit not only from the continued natural improvement of our economy (everyone else’s efforts to find a new job or business plan that works in this day and age) he is also more likely to support laws that make that process more effective, as well as laws that will rein in the regulation and over-promising redistribution of the Blue Social Model. Obama on the other hand, as you pointed out, has nailed the colors of the failing Blue model to his mast. What possible future is there in that?

    Walt, you say you would have joined the OWS movement when you were younger. (Heck, I’d have looked into it too, just to shake things up in stodgy Irvine.) In just about all your essays, there is a note of nostalgia for a time when Leftism seemed to work…. in a sea of criticism outlining how today, it doesn’t.

    Why are you a Democrat anymore? Seriously. Why do you pretend that traditional Leftism has a positive effect on this country — or a future? All the evidence points to “No”, and you’ve written up some of it with great elan yourself.

    You’re living proof of the old aphorism, “If you’re not a Leftist at 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a Conservative by 30, you have no brain.”

    Follow your head, Walter. There are times when your heart will lead you and those around you to destruction. This is one of them.

  • Anthony

    “The ideas behind OWS are more important than the movement; questions about the legitamacy and the consequences of liberal capitalism are going to be part of the political dicourse ad long as markets produce socially disturbing and morally questionable results.”

    To that end (above) WRM, OWS has made a contibution to democratic discourse and I am certain some of its supporters would debate assertion that movement is secondary to ideas conveyed – especially since some OWS participants maintain that existing politico-economic system reinforce same relative distribution of its rewards. Nevertheless, left and right (and center for that matter) policy prescriptions leave much out of account in their neat formulas.

  • WRM: ‘To the extent that OWS had any influence at all, it was at the level of slogans: “one percenters,” “the 99 percent” and “occupy x” have entered our language.’

    Maybe this was the whole point all along. For remarkably little effort, a left-wing opponent of the hated teabaggers can now pull out a cliche or two and change the subject. Isn’t that worth something?

    All politics may be local, but local activists still think globally, and while there was never a snowball’s chance that another left-wing grassroots movement would begin, people on the fringes of political involvement can still be influenced by memes. Touche, left wing.

  • Richard F. Miller

    You err in even drawing a contrast between the Tea Party and OWS.

    The former was intended to implement unconventional policies using a conventionally American process: rallies, political organization, fielding/endorsing candidates and finally, voter turnout.

    But whatever the scruffy declasses from OWS may have intended, the power and money behind them (PEUs and Democratic politicians) had very different objectives. OWS was never meant to produce an organization or candidates; instead, it was in the meme manufacturing business.

    Given this, OWS succeeded quite well. Using a hyperbolized “grass roots movement” as its shill and allied media as its megaphone, OWS implanted Obama’s re-elect memes into American political discourse: income inequality, the 99% vs. the 1% and so forth.

    The idea was to convert Obama from a politician in the normal, small “d” democratic sense–a party leader, a messy compromiser, a man who makes deals, trims, works with as well as against the opposition–into a tribune of the people.

    The rhetorical trick attempted here was genuinely audacious.

    Here is a president who is one of the largest recipients of Goldman Sachs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac cash, a cronyist whose deals with Big Pharma, Big Insurance and the PEUs have yet to be adequately described, a man of anti-populist sentiment and pro-corporatist statism, who intended to position himself, after three years in the Oval Office, as an outsider, the voice of Everyman (and especially Everywoman), yet whose legitimacy would be seen to derive from Main Street and not Wall Street or Rodeo Drive.

    And the discussion today remains income inequality, courtesy OWS. It won’t work, but it was a heck of a plan!

  • Anthony

    Related matter WRM, commonality among both Tea Party and OWS is the moral sentiment of being politically irked (how each category behaves rationally or otherwise is determined by intellectual analysis) and a reflection of the capacity of people to seek change…

  • Kent harrington

    If OWS had started as an indebted students movement, like Argentina, if they hadn’t camped out and become odd urban obstructions, and if a charismatic leader had surfaced, giving the media something to focus on, I suspect things would have turned out differently. The MSM, with the exception of MSNBC’s gung-ho grad student excitement, was uneasy and ambivalent about OWS. NYT’s first articles, at least the ones I read, were dismissive, frequently focusing on Wall Street condescension and never attempted to grasp the situation. The Daily Show went for easy laughs – each segment highlighted OWS’s freak show contradictions.
    But the true death of OWS, other than inertia: the violent images that came out of Oakland, teargas and surging crowds, bloody faces. I suspect that TV audiences recoiled, dreading the social the chaos of the 60’s.
    Of course, behind the scenes funding, which the Tea Party received and OWS didn’t, is also a big part of the story. Dick Army and the Koch Bros knew how to effectively channel Tea Party energy.

  • Jeffersonian

    To the shock of no sensible person, it turns out that assault, vandalism, arson, rape, trespass and public evacuation of one’s wastse are not sufficient to sustain a political movement.

    The Left used to have some interest in protecting civil rights, but the definition of that term has expanded to the point that civil rights are trampling actual constitutional rights the majority of the time. Add to that the its penchant for engaging in corporate welfare (under the guise of “industrial/energy policy”), its loathing and attempted suppression of speech it does not agree with, its unbridled greed for power and zeal for deathbed demograhics, and you have a movement that is almost entirely destructive to the ends of human happiness.

    Sinistro delenda est. (Pardon the sloppy Latin…it’s been 35 years)

  • @ Lorenz

    Assange is indeed employed by the Kremlin propaganda outfit Russia Today. And this is the guy who wanted transparency…Talk about a fraud!!

    Great post Prof. Mead.

  • Past Master of the Obvious

    Not surprised. This is what happens when those who are ADD or ADHD don’t take their meds. Every new little bauble that the dems hold up to distract us actually distracts them from the last.

  • Mr. G

    I’m not quite getting the point of a leftist mascot that trumpets itself and its causes but is kept at “cute”, “socially beneficial” levels. That is a formulation of a political scientist and something that won’t exist in the real world without consequences.

    The union of poor immigrants and the left gave us machine politics, corrupt unions and professional race hucksters. The house “socialist” became the ideologically driven politically correct and dominant academics of today.

    The mild isn’t he cute and a nice change of pace mentality gave us the Obama administration with massive debt and real crony capitalism. Ideas and parties have merit or they don’t. If they have merit they should grow to be represented in government. If they don’t they should dry up and float away. Ideas cost nothing and people always have new ones.

  • Steve in Colorado

    OWS: The brand of bothers.

  • Brett

    The Tea Partiers by and large (not always or cleanly) escaped the fatal embrace of the nutters and the ranters on their side of the spectrum; OWS was occupied by its own fringe, and so died.

    That’s because the Tea Party Movement quickly turned into just another set of movement conservative groups, drawing from the same pool of conservatives that already existed. It would be like if OWS had, as you said, turned into a movement of labor unions.

    It also helped that old, middle- and upper-middle class folk were and are over-represented in their ranks. These people are already more likely to vote, more likely to contribute (and have some money to contribute), and generally have more time to contribute.

    If times don’t improve — and especially if the GOP wins in November and a Romney administration governs from the right so that right-wing rather than left-wing policies get the blame for economic failure — we may yet see a serious movement of left-populism contending for national power.

    Most likely the pendulum will just swing back and forth between both parties. It always does – remember when the Republicans looked unstoppable in 2002 and 2004? Then 2006 and 2008 came along, and they got crushed in back to back elections. Of course, 2010 wasn’t long in coming, and now the Democrats look vulnerable again.

    OWS also tried to partner with Anonymous, the hacker group that once teamed up with Russian television propagandist Julian Assange to attack Visa and Mastercard when those companies refused to process funding for Wikileaks.

    Assange is Australian, not Russian.

  • The left is comprised of bad people with bad ideas, and foolish people who are easily led.

    OWS has imploded because they were unable to keep their mouths shut about who they really were and what they really believe. Oh they tried, they really did. They tried to prevent their members from talking to the press, but it didn’t work.

    The American people rejected them as soon as it became clear that they were nothing more than whiny communists clamoring as always for the creation of a Marxist dystopia.

    Leftists are able to gain political traction only to the degree to which they can successfully pretend to be something other than leftists. When they can successfully pretend to be post-partisan centrists and pragmatists, they’ll garner enough votes to make it into office. But when they let the mask slip, and people see who and what they really are, they lose any and all credibility almost at once. Normal people violently reject them.

    But in a very real sense OWS is not gone. They’ll shrink back, regroup, and emerge once again under some other name and with some new cover story and smoke screen to hide their evil intentions behind.

    Something like OWS will always be with us because evil never sleeps and stupid never dies. There will always be evil people in this world and stupid people who will follow them.

  • Kirk Parker

    Much of the Tea Party’s influence was negative from a Republican point of view: weak Senate candidates nominated by Tea Party enthusiasm dragged the GOP down to defeat in Delaware and Nevada races

    Unfortunate losses, yes. But still these sent a very important message: your incumbancy, or your party-insider status, is not an entitlement.

  • constitution First

    There are a few issues that the Marching Moochers made that did, in fact, resonate with average folks;
    1) End the Federal Reserve.
    2) Expose the incestuous relationship between big government and industry.
    3) Expose the insanely (& unjustifiably) expensive cost of higher education.
    While I disagreed with everything else they said or did, we should acknowledge that even out of the mouths of babes can come some wisdom.

  • gringojay

    New Occupy slogan: “I regret that I only have 1% to give to my country!”

  • Victor Erimita

    If you think there is still a value to “an effective Left” in this country, you’re ignoring what the Left has become. Genuine, adult concern for improving the economic conditions of the poor and middle class is now solely the concern of what is now called “the Right.” The so-called “left” is now about crony capitalism, unionized public employees, the tort bar and the victim industry. It is the party of takers. It allows no dissent, and has no respect for the rights or potentials of the individual, something that used to be the core of “liberalism.”

    OWS showed itself from its start to be solely about acting out adolescent urges. It was ABOUT breaking the law, vandalism and “transgression.” It never had a cause or a coherent idea. It had merely a different slogan or sound bite every day, with the only consistent theme, the childishly reductive “1%.” Somehow, someone who has spent his life building a small chain of dry cleaning stores and now makes some money is responsible for all the injustice and failure in the country. Childish nonsense, but not an aberrant or marginal fringe of the left wing. No, this is the essence of today’s Left: childish, churlish, mean, unserious, lost in fantasy. All the Left is these days is empty slogans, half learned in school and in the media and worn like jewlry, a fashion stement and an exercise in narcissism, not a set of ideas, let alone coherent ones.

    Rooting for “an effective Left” is like rooting for moral communism. It’s over.

  • John Burke

    “The tiny left wing groups that exist in the country jumped all over the movement.”

    Mead still doesn’t quite get it. There is or was no “movement” outside of those tiny left wing groups — an assortment of communists from the sectarian left, the CP, the SWP, the Workers Party, several “anarchist” groups better described as anarcho-communists or anarcho-syndicalists, even the remnants of the Maoist Progressive Labor Party. OWS IS the sectarian left.

    The failure of the greater part of the mainstream media and a large slice of the Democratic Party leadership to grasp this earlier is, I think, mainly due to decades of assuming that there is no greater sin than McCarthyism or Red-baiting, even when it concerns real, honest to goodness Reds. The amazing thing is not OWS’s demise but the fact that it had an absurd six-month run of wall-to-wall media fauning.

    As for the importance of an American Left, sure, it’s important, and it exists comfortably and successfully within the Democratic Party.

  • Ed Snyder

    “There are some who think the United States is better off without an effective left.”

    If this left were to find its vocabulary, as you say, Mr. Mead, then what would it contribute to America? Where do you articulate this in your article?

    I appreciate your irenecism greatly, but this is one of those occasions where some hard-headed analysis–or at least a plausible case based on generalities–would have made your point better. As it stands, it sounds like you’re begging the question.

  • OWS is dead! Long live OWS!

  • “At the same time, the movement largely failed to connect with the African American and Hispanic churchgoers who would have to be the base for any serious grass roots urban political mobilization.”

    I would have to disagree with you there. Not that they failed to connect with African American and Hispance churchgoers but that they would have to be the base for any serious grass roots political mobilization. It’s the white working class, stupid. (slogan) They are the majority.

    Also, OWS got the 1% wrong. It’s the .01% who are betraying America. This so-called donor class — families with net worth north of $30,000,000 on average — bankrolls BOTH political parties and controls the political agenda.

    The extent of their control was illustrated nicely on Chris Matthew’s Hardball the other night. The issue was tax reform: whether hedge fund billionaires should pay ordinary income tax instead of a flat 15% they do now. Matthews remarked that this was such an obscure issue that he doubted voters would care.

    [memo: even with the 15% rate it’s estimated (by a top NYT financial reporter no less) that the top .01% escape paying in excess of $300 billion a year in taxes THEY LEGALLY OWE. And that was back in the 1990’s; with inflation it’s probably closer to half a trillion dollars a year now, real money in this age of trillion dollar deficits. Take that Mead. Those are the guys who pay your salary — maybe.]

  • Cherry

    Twinkles UP !!!

  • Fred

    What a piece of tripe.

    ‘It’s as if the Tea party had been taken out by the Aryan Brotherhood’……Wow.

    I haven’t come here often. I won’t be back since this ‘article’ was allowed.

  • My favorite Sarah Palin paraphrase:

    “But when her throat was cleared at last, Ms. Palin had something considerably more substantive to say.

    She made three interlocking points. First, that the United States is now governed by a “permanent political class,” drawn from both parties, that is increasingly cut off from the concerns of regular people. Second, that these Republicans and Democrats have allied with big business to mutual advantage to create what she called “corporate crony capitalism.” Third, that the real political divide in the United States may no longer be between friends and foes of Big Government, but between friends and foes of vast, remote, unaccountable institutions (both public and private).”


  • “Historically, the American left has found its base among immigrants who have not yet found a place in American society,”

    That would be Ashkenazi Americans back when they still worked in factories and sweatshops and identified with the working-class in general. Most of them have moved on — but they need to come back. There are worse things than being a working-class hero.

  • J.J. Sefton

    — and especially if the GOP wins in November and a Romney administration governs from the right so that right-wing rather than left-wing policies get the blame for economic failure —

    They should only fail like Ronald Reagan did. 25 years of economic growth and over 6 million jobs created.

  • Howard Zinn by the way is scum. At least in my book.

  • Steve

    Excellent post here! We’ve been all over this topic on Common Cents…


  • Ilpalazzo


  • You wrote, “But on the whole, it is harder than it looks to push the United States to the economic left.”

    Maybe, just maybe that could be because socialism–even ‘soft’ Euro-style, gulag-free socialism–doesn’t work, can’t work, will never work. A top-down command economy overseen by an all-powerful superstate cannot create wealth or bring about prosperity, nor can it ensure equality of outcome for its citizens. What good government can do is protect us from the bad guys of the world and allow the free men and women comprising the polity to succeed or fail on our ingenuity, merit, quality of character, and hard work. Most of us already have or have had a mother, thanks. Leave us alone. Stop meddling in our lives. Let us make our own decisions.

    Far-Left liberal progressivism is a lie derived from Marx and driven and promulgated by authoritarian idealogues, most of whom are safely tenured or esconced in government and know nothing of real-world struggle and risk. The OWS movement was yet another expression of that lie.

  • TargetDestroyed01

    OWS, RIP…Rest in peace? Sorry, Mr. Mead, you are being too kind and while I do appreciate your civility, I for one, knowing who and what OWS really was, a mob of fools and blind socialist, would rather have OWS,BIH…burn in [heck]….OWS,you have earned it. TD01

  • “The Tea Party was and is a genuine grass roots response to dysfunctional national institutions.”

    Depends on which wing of the Tea Party movement IMHO. The Ron Paul wing has many genuine complaints about corruption in the Federal Reserve and excessive government power, even if it was misguided in many ways.

    The “mainstream” Tea Party movement is nothing more than the same old hardcore right-wing of the GOP establishment repackaged as something new and novel. A bunch of baby boomers riled up with misdirected rage against gays, Mexicans Muslims, “welfare queens,” etc. instead of the financial elites who caused the current crisis. It all started when some rich guy in a suit on CNBC started ranting about “deadbeats,” many of whom were actually victims of the foreclosure fraud racket that unlawfully allowed banks to steal people’s homes. If the non-Paul Tea Party cares so much about fighting “dysfunctional national institutions” then why do they fight on behalf of the TBTF banks against any kind of meaningful oversight?

  • The fact remains that the financial crisis was caused by massive fraud within the banking sector, which was subsequently rewarded with bailouts instead of any type of punishment. Whatever OWS’ flaws (and there are many) it pointed out the blatant double-standard that exists in our society where causing a global recession gets you even more power and influence while voicing your opposition in a public park gets your head caved in by the police.

  • JimK

    OWS was the brainchild of Adbusters, the Canadian anti-consumerist organization. Everything follows from that including their eventual downfall.

  • thibaud

    Angry Wacko #1: “Get the government out of my medicare!”

    Angry Wacko #2: “End corporate greed!” – Sent from my Foxconn-made iPhone

    It’s no wonder neither of these crackpot movements is having any real impact on the US banking sector or regulatory reform. The only successful TP candidates since 2008, like Scott Brown, have already moved away from TP insanity. The TP is no more influential than the Bircher or Birther movements.

    It’s pretty ironic that WRM is coming out with this during the same week that the news is dominated by a multi-billion fiasco at the one TBTF bank that, we were told, was competently and honestly managed.

    WRM is ignoring the whole reason behind these two misguided, nutty but righteously angry movements: ordinary Americans’ outrage at the TBTF bankers’ colossal malfeasance and our elites’ continued failure to regulate them appropriately.

    When historians write about our era, they will view OWS and TTP as emanations of the same broad impulse.
    OWS and the TP aren’t much different, really; each lacks anything like a realistic agenda or disciplined leadership, each is full of wacky conspiracy nonsense, and yet each has had an impact in two main areas:

    1) giving a voice to public anger about the crimes and incompetence that perpetuated the most devastating economic collapse that anyone under 80 can remember;

    2) providing a set of rhetorical props that allow people to make sense of the crisis and reference American norms.

    The TP’s preferred norm is the American tradition of limited government.

    OWS’s preferred norm is the American tradition of restraints on concentrations of financial power.

    The TP put the deficit on the agenda – even if they have no clue as to how to reduce it without destroying any shot at recovery or providing for basic and necessary social needs, including a robust national defense.

    OWS put the issue of income equality on the agenda – even if they have no idea of what a well-regulated, healthy and robust capitalism would look like.

    Irony of ironies for a blog that purports to be “Jacksonian” in its leanings, both OWS and TTP are followers of Andrew Jackson.

  • sestamibi

    Do you drink mead?

  • Kris

    [email protected]: “it’s estimated (by a top NYT financial reporter no less) that the top .01% escape paying in excess of $300 billion a year in taxes THEY LEGALLY OWE.”

    Could you elaborate? Because I find it odd that you try to support your claim that people are illegally avoiding taxes by providing a link to the book “Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich”.

    How unfortunate that [email protected] won’t be back. I would have introduced him to t0r67foulvjjcfxte.

  • Anna

    to Andrew (comment 41). Excuse me, but OWS was not the first to point out the double standard. That honor goes to the Tea Party that started in response to TARP.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    #11 Jim well said! I wish I had written that.

    WRM I thank you for some good TEA Party press, but I wish you had said more about the makeup of the TEA Party, and how the vast majority turned out for the initial rally’s as first time protestors, and were shocked to see how many of their fellow citizens believed in fiscal responsibility, limited government, and the US Constitution just like they did.

    The Leftist MSM would have us all believe that the TEA Party is now defunct, but as usual they are utterly wrong, and the 2012 election is going to prove that the TEA Party movement is now the driving force in American culture.

    The TEA Party caucus in congress is going to grow. The TEA Party bench which was so empty in 2010, that weak politicians had to be given the opportunity to gain support because there was no one else, is now filling with better tested candidates in 2012 and this will lead to better results. It’s unfortunate that the TEA Party bench is still too weak to field a Presidential Candidate. But it should be recognized that the TEA Party tail is going to be wagging the US Government Dog, even without a TEA Party President.

  • un

    You say OWS is falling apart. But this sounds simply like an excuse for Democrats to wash their hands of the movement spawned by President Obama’s Leftist cadres.

    In reality, here in the Bay Area, OWS is disrupting traffic, commerce and shareholders meetings, smashing their way into buildings, throwing bricks from rooftops to police, and sending violent raiding parties into the streets in Oakland. We won’t forget that Obama lauded the Tea Party and the “99%”, or that Nancy Pelosi said “Thank God for them”.

  • “Excuse me, but OWS was not the first to point out the double standard. That honor goes to the Tea Party that started in response to TARP.”

    The Tea Party was not a response to TARP, it was started by the “Santelli rant,” which was a vehement reaction to initial proposals for mortgage relief on behalf of distressed homeowners instead of the bankers.

    Most Tea Partiers had no problem with TARP when Bush was in office.

  • Andrew up there wrote, describing Tea Partiers as “A bunch of baby boomers riled up with misdirected rage against gays, Mexicans Muslims, “welfare queens,” etc. instead of the financial elites who caused the current crisis.”

    Direct federal government interference in the housing market caused the bubble that triggered the Great Recession. Rewriting history in order to cover up the consistent and utter failure of Progressive policies and programs that attempt to achieve suitably vague and feel-good ‘social justice’ goals is typical of the Left, as are attempts to portray Tea Partiers as bigoted idiots and Bible-thumping provincials.

    As an aside, do you on the Left ever own any mistakes? Do you ever, even once, freely admit that hey, maybe that whole unsustainable, ridiculously expensive program to (fill in blank) was poorly conceived and badly executed?

    Financial elites didn’t create the crisis. You and your like-minded pals did. You and yours more or less coerced lending institutions of all types to make high-risk home loans they otherwise would never have made. Sure, bankers exploited the situation. Wherever money is concerned, that’s who bankers are, what they do. And sure, liberal politicians are completely clueless about the practicalities of profit and make a mess of things whenever they try their hand at social engineering: that’s who they are, what they do.

  • Danram

    OWS was never a “movement”. You need more than acattered knots of a few dozen unwashed fruitbats sprinkled here & there througout the country to constitute a “movement”.

    OWS is (was) a joke, an annoyance, a collective temper tantrum thrown by a few spoiled brats. That’s it.

    In the final analysis, I don’t know which is more pathetic, the OWS “movement” itself or the way that the left-wing media and the Democratic Party desperately tried to gin it up into something bigger.

    By the way, Troy Riser, you are 100% right. The “financial elites” didn’t cause the credit crisis. They merely stepped in to meet the demand. The greed and bad judgment of millions of ordinary American citizens caused the credit crisis.

  • britman

    I did not realize that W R Mead held such fawning views of the left. How disappointing.

  • amathonn

    “left’s answer to the Tea Party”

    I really don’t think that’s even close to correct.

    I think Occupiers have similar beliefs to many tea partiers. i.e., they’ve gotten screwed while others prospered.

    Difference is, Tea Partiers recognize government policies as the problem. Occupiers haven’t admitted that fact yet.

    And recognizing their lack of focus, Occupiers just don’t see themselves as a viable political force…which is correct.

  • DrC

    I as well as many analysts contend that the TEA party had a net positive effect on the 2010 elections. Many State Houses and Governors turned red. The enthusiasm permeated all the way down to local elections. With these pieces in place it will be interesting to see how this effects the 2012 elections.

  • Captain Kirk

    I don’t believe left vs right is the correct spectrum, mainly because there is a lot of confusion as to what each stands for. While I believe we are currently seeing the ‘last throws of left wing socialism’, I do believe there is something ready and willing to replace it, something needfull. Namely libertariansim. Liberalism has become as much about wealth re-distribution and an extreme form of civil rights (I fail to see where gays for example are a minority, and further fail to see the value in things like afirmative action). Hence, they are more or less the party of Government intervention. On the right we have this odd coalition of libertarians and conservatives, a marriage of economic liberalim, aka free marketers. But they clash on social issues such as the criminalization of drugs. what I believe OWS tells us is we are seeing the last throws of modern liberalism (socialism). the next battleground will be the social values.

  • Captain Kirk

    Forgot to add, the fact that Ron Paul has gained such a large following…AND…that his vote draws equally from both the Dems and Repubs speaks volumns to those listening as to where the true political winds are blowing.

  • Phil B

    I agree with much of what Mead puts forth in this article. However, the assertion that like OWS, “the Tea Party, equally (is) anarchic”, I disagree.
    The Tea Party wants the enforcement of Constitutional Law as outlined by the Founders and a Limited Government (not no rules and destruction of propoerty that was an attribute of OWS).
    The corruption in Washington and its politicians aligned with their cronies in the private sector has put us on an unsustainable path. Debt (generational theft), pork and the enrichment of the ruling class though political abuse and of the “C” class through buddy boards is the result of a bloated government. Failure to control and reign in that government is the result of the moral decay within the citizenry. The Founders had this correct assessment over 200 years ago.

  • Matt R

    More like OWS: BIH (as in Burn In [heck])

  • hamidog

    It’s amazing how little people know or understand “the” Tea Party. First of all, as a Tea Partier, I can tell you that there is no “The” Tea Party. It’s just a mass of Americans spread across this country, from coast to coast. Nevertheless, at the local level, it is a ridiculous mistake to think these people are “anarchic”. We meet. We take local action. We vote. And, little by little, we are organizing and putting our shoulder to the blocks for November. It’s funny, but even our local Republican Town Committees think we’re some strange and separate entity. Do you want to know what Tea Partiers are? I’ll tell you: We are Americans with the least patience for watching our great country perverted into a european socialist state.

  • Jay

    To reply to the folks who’ve commented on this: Assange is an Australian, but he’s presently working for one of the state-owned Russian television networks.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Jay: correct. The description in the post was about his current professional activities, not his birth certificate.

  • Jim

    @ Andrew “The Ron Paul wing has many genuine complaints about corruption in the Federal Reserve and excessive government power, even if it was misguided in many ways,” and @ Capt Kirk, “Forgot to add, the fact that Ron Paul has gained such a large following…AND…that his vote draws equally from both the Dems and Repubs speaks volumns to those listening as to where the true political winds are blowing.” I am not a Ron Paul supporter — in fact, I speak as a Texan from a neighboring district, and he’s always been a bit of a kook — but they are on to something, which you should explore in more depth, WRM.

    There is an overlap between Tea Party and OWS (or “right” and “left” wing activists, if you will) in a populist revulsion against the powers that be (and although it’s not an issue any more, the Iraq war was also a factor in mobilizing young people to Ron Paul). The problem is that so much else gets dragged into it — on the libertarian side, legalization of drugs and retreat on national defense, on the anarchist side, well, anarchy as @Victor Eremita points out (or worse, its Bolshevik variant that results in the dictatorship of the proletariat).

    Romney and Obama are neck and neck, depending on which poll you look at, but Ron Paul runs surprisingly well against Obama, in the low 40’s. He would lose, but he would probably carry some states — particularly if he could mobilize a national media campaign. I’m not sure whether that’s a referendum on Obama or on big institutions (they are not independent, thanks @Richard F. Miller, and there’s probably some of both in the poll numbers), but given that Ron Paul is a fringe nut, it is a stunning indictment of something.

    And of course, the Tea Party/Ron Paul overlap has resulted in the election of one Senator Rand Paul. I suspect there’s more to come there, in about 8 years, and we will likely see the Republican Party continue to realign toward Main Street and away from Wall Street and the big institutions (government, labor, banks, universities, etc.) and the Democratic Party realign toward the party of protection of the “Blue Model” status quo.

  • Stockton Joe

    I think it’s a little bit too soon (and I mean JUST A LITTLE BIT) to pull the sheet up over OWS and call the time. Wait until after the November Election. So far, the biggest difference (other than ideology) between the Tea Party and OWS is that the Tea Party turns out and votes. So far, OWS has done little beyond throwing temper tantrums. But to be fair about it, this is the first real election since OWS was spawned. Let’s give them a chance and see if they actually turn out and VOTE.

  • Kizar Sozay

    Executive Summary:

    The left put its worst on display.
    Despite the best efforts of the main stream media America was not amused.

  • Kris

    [email protected]: “Most Tea Partiers had no problem with TARP when Bush was in office.”

    I’d love to meet you and find out more about that alternate reality you come from.

  • Jim Thompson

    Time for “The 53%” movement! That would be the percent that actually pay net taxes that fund the programs and benefits that the other 47% get most of. They would have much in common with the Tea Party, as they would want to end ALL corporate subsidies, stop the march to an unsustainable welfare state (almost there, just 4% more to go), and want a pro-business agenda to create jobs and wealth opportunities for all.

  • Shoey

    OWS is the hard, loony Left, they won’t quit until there is blood in the streets, in their view, the sky is falling and they MUST save us from ourselves even if they have to destroy us to do it.

    not over by a long shot…

  • Chuck Breeden

    The OWS movement fizzled while the Tea Party sizzled! I am not party to either of these groups. But, as an outsider looking in, I see similar groups protesting the exact same thing: BIG GOVERNMENT spending. The Tea Party stuck by it’s conservative mantra of smaller government by protesting liberal policies, out of control government spending and over regulation. Counter that the Occupy movement, who were protesting Wall Street greed and rising college tuitions. Who is suppossed to regulate Wall St? The SEC (GOVT). The SEC failed. Congress was warned by Republicans that the housing market was unsustainable, guess who ignored them? Barney Frank and his liberal witches. What do they do as a result, approve more government bureaucracies/agencies under the Frank-Dodd act, consumer protestion agency and Obamacare. Guess what people, these cost money and this money is taken away from our essential government programs: Schools, police, Fire, etc. Why have college tuitions risen so dramatically? Big government spending and bloated bureaucracy (GOVT) on both the federal and state levels. Our tax dollars only go so far and cuts have to come from somewhere. So, we see the Tea Party protesting the real culprit of the mess we are in today (GOVT) and we see the OWS protesting against Government, but directing their assault on Wall St and our Universities. Could this be the reason the OWS fad fizzled as the Tea Party sizzled?

  • Porkov

    It is in the best interests of the Republican Party to keep OWS front and center as the best representative of Democratic Party principles for as long as possible – at least until November. A big showing in Charlotte, a la Chicago in 1968, would ice the cake.

  • Lefty

    OWS isn’t gone. They are like sleeper agents waiting for their democrat/union masters to bring out the next wave of “walking around money”. The masters know that they would wear out their welcome if they come back too soon. They will wait until closer to the election so that they can maximize their impact. Their real mission is to make noise to cover other nefarious deeds being planned by the left. America needs to beware of these domestic enemies.

  • “something the Tea Party has never had”

    a myth.

    during the height of TeaTime, there were regularly upwards of a dozen stories per day on sites like MSNBC.com about them (i know, i counted). they were never negative; they were always full of reporting from reporters eager to talk about the shiny new badging the GOP base was sporting: the “energy” and the “change” the TPers were bringing to things. even when they stupid things like bringing guns to town hall meetings, coverage was at least respectful.

  • Bernie

    If the OWS movement disappears it would be a good thing for everyone in New York. The reason is that the government of New York is completely dependent on the taxes paid by Wall Street. So are the entire construction industry, the real estate industry, the welfare industry, the education industry and so on. If those people on Wall Street should decide that the OWS are damaging the way that they can attract business in New York they can and do move to New Jersey or elsewhere. The regulation of Hedge funds has already dropped taxes paid by Wall Street by a significant amount. So libraries will cut back and everything else will shortly be cut.

  • Captain DG

    “Since the 1970s real wages have scarcely budged[.]”

    This statement does not have any real meaning to the average voter. I do not think most voters have experienced a decline or stagnation in their sense of material wealth in the last 40 years.

  • I suppose I could mention the simple fact that loans made under the Community Reinvestment Act performed BETTER and were less likely to default than loans made by banks unregulated by the CRA. But what good would that do?

    People here have made up their minds. Instead of persecuting the good patriotic folks at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, we need to stick it to lower-income folks. The bankers created this mess, but the poor and middle classes should suffer.

  • OPV

    Occupy may be on life support, but if you believe the sentiments behind it have died, you are fools of the highest order.

    These questions will be raised again.

  • We need to start talking about solutions. Protesting all the time does not solve the problem. http://www.briankeithrobertson.com. Read all 4 parts. Please share, tweet.

  • I think the problem with the OWS movement was that they were more interested in chanting slogans and acting up than in coming up with real solutions to problems and trying to get them enacted. To put it another way, the Tea Party is made up of grown ups while the OWS were two year olds throwing a tantrum.

  • Agnes Deigh

    If you search for “Walter Russell Mead” and “death of” you will find anywhere from 8-10 articles and talks he’s written or given with the same theme: death of this, death of that, death of the other thing.

    Dr. Mead, you are obsessed with death. Do the living a favor and move on if you’re so impressed with the natural process of decay.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Agnes Deigh: My apologies if the amount of change in our world disturbs you. But shooting the messenger doesn’t help.

  • Dave in Calif

    I know that Malcolm Gladwell’s Zeitgeistmeter is itself clanking and sputtering of late but I can’t read this post without thinking, “weak-ties activism.” OWS never had a Top 3 or even Top 30 list of goals, and intelligible goals are helpful not just to unite the supporters you want but to shed the ones you don’t. Instead they’ve gone for the modish “wiki” approach in every situation. Socrates, Madison, and Monty Python all could have seen right through this, going back to that ludicrous ballerina-on-the-Charging-Bull poster: 100% style over substance.

  • Kris

    Agnes Deigh @80:

    The nick you have chosen obviously originates from “Agnus Dei”, the Lamb of God, which “refers to Jesus Christ in his role of the perfect sacrificial offering”. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi. I find this obsession of your with death, from your choice of nick to your death-related internet searches to be somewhat odd.

  • Just the facts please, mam.

    RE Bohemond @10:

    Interesting. Where did you get your facts regarding “In actual fact real wages have increased 16% overall since 1980, and for the middle three quintiles by nearly 30%. They have only remained stagnant (~5% growth) for the bottom quintile?” Wasn’t able to verify that. Please post.

  • OWS is not dead yet. They’ve already brought global attention to the problem of the greedy financial sector. It’s time to move to the 2nd phase of the movement, ACTION. You’ve got to get others to feel the pain. Horde you money. If you have savings, take it out or put in checking. Stop buying big and go small business’. The middle class workers/consumers are the backbone. Let us be selfish and stop making big corporations richer. Pay what is needed, and i’m not talking about credit cards. If you still have a house to live in, make that priority and forget giving any money to the credit companies. You’ve paid them back several times over already. Forget FICO scores and credit reports. All propaganda from wall street. Just pay your esencials an buy just what you need. It will have a big impact. And don’t for get to vote. If you have to, write in someone who get the job done for the 99%.

  • Diane Walata

    I totally got the sentiment behind the OWS. However, where I lost it was that it was completely disheveled. I mean, I live in NY, so I was right here but they were originally about the crap that went on in Wall Street and the banking industry in general. I could totally relate to that. But then it became about all these other issues – domestic violence, gay rights, blah blah. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong about those issues but it was just so unfocused. I’m pretty sure that’s where they lost all public interest.

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