A Tea Party Activist Responds to Occupy Wall Street

Monday, October 10, 2011

Protesters gather and hold signs during the Tea Party Express rally on September 12, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

As the Occupy Wall Street protests enter their fourth week, a number of media commentators have made the inevitable comparison to the Tea Party movement that has galvanized conservative politics for the last two years. But are the two movements really that similar, or is the comparison simply a convenient media narrative? Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer has been quoted dismissing the movement as "a kid having a temper tantrum because their parents won't buy them the whole ice-cream store." (Read a transcript of the interview after the jump.)

JH: Anything reminiscent or familiar to you about the tactics and participatory style of what's going on in Occupy Wall Street and what you experienced in the Tea Party Express? 

AK: Well, when the Tea Party movement started back in February 2009, it was born out of Twitter, I mean that's where it all started. There were 22 people that came together, and the purpose of us coming together was to plan for Tea Parties, one week after Rick Santelli had his rant about the mortgage meltdown. And so we used social media to plan that and to do everything that we did. When we first came together on Twitter, we had a conference call. 

You know, I understand why they're out there. I understand why they're mad at Wall Street — that the banks were bailed out. But you know, we were mad that the banks were bailed out too, that's one of the reasons we got started. But we certainly weren't out in the street for four weeks. At some point you have to turn. Having a protest attracts people to the movement, but at some point if you want to be effective, you have to do something to effect change. And being in the streets for a month isn't going to effect change. So, you know everybody wants to compare them to the Tea Party movement and I don’t know — maybe they will be a movement 2 1/2 years from now — but I don't really see a lot of comparison there.

JH: Amy, there was a lot of concern about, "What do you folks want?" When there were all those pictures at the various meetings on the health care overhaul, when members of Congress went to their meetings and were confronted by a lot of really angry and outraged people, in the beginning there was a sense of, "What do these folks want? What are they doing?" And then that began to condense into a set of candidates, a set of programs, specific outcomes, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Sarah Palin and some others. What's the tipping point do you think for a movement like this?

AK: Well, see, that's the thing — we didn't start over health care, we started because Washington spending was out of control and over. I mean, like I said, the mortgage meltdown and bailouts and whatnot. Health care was the thing that really galvanized the movement, and people engage because they're being affected personally, and that's what happened with health care. There's nothing more personal than health care. Not everyone's a doctor, but everyone's a patient. And now people are extremely engaged because money, because they can't afford to send their kids to school, and they're losing jobs, and so on and so forth. But that's the thing: from the moment we came together ... What concerns me about these people out there — and I absolutely respect their First Amendment rights and their right to be there — but what concerns me is they don't have objective or a goal and half of them can't even tell you why they're there.

JH: Well, maybe that will come. Are you saying there's no common ground between the Tea Party Express and these folks who want to occupy Wall Street? I met a half dozen without even trying who had never been to a demonstration before and were sympathetic just purely with the outrage. They didn't want to do any body piercings or walk around with signs. They were very interested purely because they are fed up with Washington.

AK: Well, you know what, if that's the case I would encourage them to come and join the Tea Party and look at what we do and how we've been effective. I mean, we've not only been effective through legislation but also we've affected legislation. This past summer, what started out as a pledge online turned into legislation that was actually passed in the House of Representatives — cut cap and balance to reign in the spending in Washington and to get a balanced budget. But a lot of these people are against capitalism. They want to spread the wealth. They want to take from the wealthy and do a redistribution of wealth. But I'm sorry we don't support that. That's socialism. The top 1 percent in this country already pay 40 percent of the taxes. Ten percent of the top earners in this country pay 70 percent of the taxes. There's not enough money to take from the wealthy to give to everybody across the country. There's simply not enough money.

JH: Okay, I don’t want to debate capitalism in the moment before we go, but I think you fairly categorized the distinction between some of the ideology in Occupy Wall Street and what the Tea Party talks about. But nevertheless, don't you think there's a danger that both of these movement get marginalized by being shoved into categories — the Tea Party Express is now conservative Republican and Occupy Wall Street is going to be progressive Democrats. And maybe it would be stronger if you were outside the party system.

AK: You know what you bring up a good point. Everyone wants to align us with the Republican party, and yes we do align more with conservative values. But this is not about being Republican or being Democrat, this is about being American. And what we want people to do is to educate themselves on the issues so when they go to the polls, they vote on the issues and not on the letter next to someone's name.

JH: Amy Kramer, ever camped out at a demonstration before? 

AK: No, I cant say I have.

JH: You think you might, even for a Tea Party candidate?

AK: Um, you know, I mean, I would say never say never, but I want us to be as effective as we possibly can be. We had a great rally in Washington, DC in September 2009 and that really put us on the map. But we're just getting started. We've got a long way to go. We certainly have a lot to do to reign in Washington.

JH: Well participatory democracy on both sides of the ideological spectrum. That's Amy Kremer, Chairman of The Tea Party Express, speaking to us from Georgia on common ground and distinctions between the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Amy Kremer, thanks for getting up early for us.

AK: Thanks for having me.

Comments [10]

Angel from Miami, FL

The difference between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Movement? The Tea Party can afford to pay for a protest permit which will keep them from looking like rabble rousers in the eyes of baton-wielding policemen. OWS is made up of folks that are concerned the system is shutting them out and using their resources to help those already fortunate. The Tea Party Movement is made up of baby-boomers entering retirement who have realized that their past expenditures have affected their retirement funds and now they want to freeze out newer generations from benefitting from the system. Tea Party money is already working. Congress is cutting down on entitlements for the post-Boomer generations to come. So what's the objective? To get the New Deal to have helped them and no one else but them.

Oct. 17 2011 10:56 AM
Abbie Hoffman from America

The only fair comparison that OWS should be in is with the demonstrations of the 60s. People are outraged and they don't have a lot to lose. Well, atleast it seems that way and then we are reminded of what life is about.

Materialism and capitalism are going down.

Oct. 10 2011 10:29 PM
Cedric Dennett

It is erroneous and misleading to compare "Occupy Wall Street" with the Tea Party movement which was galvanized into action because of fiscal irresponsibility in both the Bush and Obama administrations followed by the passage of the Obama Health Care Act.

I have a great deal of sympathy and understanding for the folk who are unemployed and then I see the farce that is the Congress of the United States who cannot even agree to disagree, leave alone try and compromise to pass any meaningful legislation to alleviate the situation. Members of both parties are to blame, all they have their sites set on is re-election from the day they are elected. Too bad they cannot experience the trials and tribulations of those demonstrating on Wall Street and elsewhere in the country. The disparity in wealth in this country is unconscionable and getting worse. I am all for capitalism and the entrepreneurial spirit and a big pay off for all the CEO's of successful businesses but certainly not for the obscene payments to so many CEO's that fail to perform and should be fired rather than be rewarded with golden parachutes.

There are too many employed on Wall Street and in the Media who need to find a productive job where they contribute to the GNP of the country rather than spend their time as talking heads and pundits analyzing everything from global warming to the financial health of the country and everything in between.

Oct. 10 2011 12:10 PM
mountain matt

I do think that the ows protest is born from the tea party. However, it is born as a backlash against the elite's command and contol war against the people. The Tea party is the exact same thing as the S.A. thugs which came out of post WW1 germany. If you don't agree just look at the things they do. The attempted assasination of rep. giffords, the beating of anti-tea protesters, xenophobic immegration and blatant racism. I only wish that the ows protests weren't doomed. They will never accomplish their goals because they have none. They must educate and organize themselves, and produce a list of meaningful demands. right now they are pissing in the wind.Also, they must realize that the Elite have never cared about protests, they wont allow any change to occur unless it is to save their own necks, histroy proves this. It might be time to storm the bastille because Amy Kramer is shouting "let them eat cake"

Oct. 10 2011 12:02 PM
Brad Naksuthin

The Tea Party is just a wing of the Republican Party. If it really had IT'S OWN goals and objectives they would have formed their OWN party.
Instead there isn't a single Tea Party candidate anywhere that's running under anything but the Republican party.
So far the group that's occupying wall street hasn't shown an interest in EITHER PARTY.
In fact they are fed up with Both parties.
That is the essential difference.
The Tea Party is definitely a branch of the Republican party and buys into all the Republican talking points. There isn't a single Tea Party Candidate running for President, for example, who has a non-Republican opinion on , say, abortion, gay marriage, illegal immigration or legalization of drugs.

Oct. 10 2011 11:23 AM
frank ingrassia

they should camp outside of white house it was Obama who received the most money ever from wall street he should have fired the CEO, of wall street as he did wagoneer from GM also the biggest receivers of wall wall street are schumer rangle and frank,,in other words its the congress and the president who have hurt us becaue of their greed.....

Oct. 10 2011 11:15 AM
BS from Your A

This guy's full of shiite muslims

Oct. 10 2011 11:11 AM

The issues are easy to understand and simple to fix if politicians have the will to fix it. We as a nation are heading towards becoming an Oligarch; a nation controlled by a handful of corporations that are controlling "our" government leaders to further consolidate the power of the Oligarch.

If the occupation of Wall Street is going to have any impact on bringing about change it needs to promote and take on the challenge of amending our constitution outlawing political contributions from both labor and corporations.

This is the change that is needed. More: http://bit.ly/oOvp7z

Oct. 10 2011 10:45 AM

It is interesting how after three years of unrelenting defamation and extreme jealously of the Tea Party some are attempting a ham handed comparison of the two protests in a crude attempt to dignify the character of Occupy Wall Street in a way it does not deserve.

Would a true comparison of the US Constitution and Das Kapital and the American Revolution and the French Revolution yield similar contrasts?

Since imitation is the highest form of flattery, is this the leftist way of congratulating the Tea Party on its historic success in organizing for political change?

Oct. 10 2011 10:26 AM
phyllis from nyack

Why bother? Why quote this woman? The only similarity is that both are protesting. The tea party is a bunch of conservative meanies. Even the quote is mean as it sounds like it is against youth. A true protest with meaning has to start with the youth as the backbone and go from there. Chairman Kremer needs a wake up call.

Oct. 10 2011 10:04 AM

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