Recently there’s been a lot saying of things like “Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party have a lot in common because they’re both angry at how society has been declining and they are both frustrated by their increased inability to effect real change, so they should get together and talk stuff over.” I consider this to be an excellent example of how people can, from facts which are quite true, arrive at a premise which is utterly wrong.
The true part is that both movements are angry at their perception of society’s decline and that both are frustrated by their perceived inability to effect change. Of course, perception is not equal in all cases. Both sides accurately see that American society is entering a decline; how they perceive that decline, though, is what creates their personal narrative. Occupy Wall Street sees the decline as something happening to them. The Tea Party mostly sees the decline as something happening to other people. This is part of the reason OWS’s narrative is aggressive and the Tea Party’s is defensive. (Some might say that the Tea Party is aggressive, but that’s more about tone than goals. Their goals are defensive: stop the illegal immigrants from coming in, stop spending my tax money on other people, stop expanding healthcare because it ruins my Medicare, et cetera.)
This is the core reason why OWS and the Tea Party can’t band together. The Tea Party looks at OWS and sees them as either a symptom of what’s wrong with the country (“elites working to give those hippies my stuff”) or actually what’s wrong with the country (“those hippies tell the elites what to do!”). OWS looks at the Tea Party as either running an unknowing defensive action for corporate America (“why are they arguing we shouldn’t do things which should benefit everybody?”) or actively being willing tools of the regime (“the Koch brothers pay their salaries to protest”).
In other words, these are people who can never be allies, and it’s not just because of media narratives. It’s because, not saying whether one side is right or wrong, each side believes the other side is to blame for all of this.
(oh, who are we kidding: the Tea Partiers are wrong.)