President Obama Tuesday characterized the Occupy Wall Street crowd and the Tea Party as sort of two sides of the same coin, suggesting they were both just venting frustration that the system isn’t working for them.
Obama spoke during an interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper:
You asked earlier about “Occupy Wall Street” and what I’ve said is that I understand the frustrations that are being expressed in those protests. In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party, both on the left and the right.
I think people feel separated from their government, that the institutions aren’t looking out for them and that the most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership, letting people know that we understand their struggles, we are on their side and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you’re supposed to do, is rewarded, and that people who are irresponsible, who are reckless, who don’t feel a sense of obligation to their communities and to their companies and to their workers, that those folks aren’t rewarded.
The president either misunderstands the Occupy Wall Street protests or he is purposely minimizing their extremism.
There is a fundamental difference between the two groups which allows no comparison.
The members of the Tea Party want to work within the system to change policies they find repugnant and think are ruining the country. The Occupy Wall Street protestors think the system itself – political and economic – is repugnant and want to overturn it. Fully a third told a Democratic pollster they would use violence to achieve their ends.
Many of those protesting are veteran malcontents who are outraged in general, not in response to the current misery of their fellow citizens.
The Tea Party is made up of people unhappy with specific policies. The OWS protestors are using people outraged by specific policies to advance long-held beliefs.
The Tea Party and the OWS extremists have absolutely nothing it common. It is remarkable, and it is deeply insulting to those who comprise the Tea Party, that the president would compare the two.