In the Long Island Newsday, Reason contributing editor Cathy Young says the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street shared some important traits — for better and worse:
Both tea partyers and occupiers see themselves as true representatives of the people—"Middle America" or the "99 percent"—and as defenders of the country's core values: liberty for the tea party; equality for the occupy protests. Both see themselves as anti-establishment rebels. Both direct their ire at a ruling class that has usurped power and corrupted politics: economic and corporate elites for occupy activists, cultural and intellectual elites for tea party supporters.
The truth, too, is that each movement reflects some legitimate concerns that attract the sympathy of many people who aren't activists. Bureaucratic bloat and the fattening of the welfare state do pose a danger not only to individual freedom but to creativity, innovation and wealth creation. Shrinking opportunities for the middle class do threaten the American dream, with upward mobility stalled for too many.
Unfortunately, it's equally true that each movement's dark side is far more than just a radical fringe. The activists' rhetoric and actions, on both the left and the right, give ample ammunition to their enemies.