Sneer though many of them did, liberals envied the success of the tea party in 2009 and 2010. Eager to embrace an authentic populist movement of their own, they have been buoyed by the results of a Time magazine poll this week, purporting to demonstrate that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, at 54 percent approval, are more popular than the tea party.
However, the numbers produced by the Time survey are quite misleading because of the magazine’s vague but artful wording of questions. For example, Time’s survey described the anti-capitalist protests to respondents as being against the “government’s bank bailout and the influence of money in our political system.” The exact same thing could be said about the tea party. In fact, other polls from reputable firms that used more objective questions have pegged “occupier’s” support in the low 30s and with slightly negative approval ratings.
We bring this up because Democratic officeholders considering encouraging or embracing the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators ought to think very carefully before doing so. They should take a thorough look at who the protesters are and what they stand for. According to a New York magazine survey of the protesters, only 3 percent described themselves as “liberal but fairly mainstream.” By contrast, 34 percent of them agreed with the statement that “the U.S. government is no better than, say, al-Qaida.” Do Democrats really want to march alongside of advocates of the 9/11 truther version of recent American history?
More than half of the occupiers are under 29, and two-thirds of them are male. Compare this to their counterparts in the tea party. Gallup found in April 2010 that tea partiers matched the national population almost precisely in age and income distribution, employment status and educational attainment. In most respects, they looked like America.
Yes, tea partiers were generally more conservative than the population as a whole. But they clearly were representative of one of America’s two competing mainstream ideologies. Occupy Wall Street events, on the other hand, are replete with posters, Web postings and speeches advocating “revolution” and the end of our free-market system. Sadly, when Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. — a respected veteran of the civil rights movement — tried to address the occupiers throng in Atlanta, he was rudely rebuffed.
As the New Republic magazine has pointed out, these are not liberals camping out and making messes in our cities’ public places. These are radicals who reject liberalism. Respected politicians from the left side of the aisle should think twice before they embrace this group. In other words, Occupy Wall Street isn’t the movement for liberals who hope to be seriously heard by mainstream America.