Tell most socialists – actual socialists — that they seem a lot like Tea Partiers and the reaction is a visceral denial. Say the same thing about socialists to most Tea Partiers and, sure enough, the reaction is identical.
The ideological differences between the two groups are as wide as their loathing for the other is strong. Yet, at the core are two movements striving for mainstream acceptance – one past its prime and one at its zenith — that share much of the same rhetoric and appeal to the masses, if not mass appeal.
And maybe there’s a reason for that.
“We have studied their movement and what they have done and how they have influenced the political process,” said Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks.
“So absolutely, their tactics are things that, as small-government conservatives, we need to learn so we can expand our power in the political process,” he continued. “So that’s, some of those tactics you’re going to notice… but our outcomes are completely different.“
FreedomWorks has unabashedly admitted its debt to Saul Alinsky, who is often called the “father of community organizing.” So while it seems “community organizer” is no longer a dirty word for conservatives, socialists still don’t take kindly to the cribbing of their favorite rushing plays.
To socialists like David May and Jen Roesch of the International Socialists Organization, it’s nothing more than “astroturfing.” What’s more, May thinks the Tea Partiers are a bunch of weirdos.
“The Tea Party is a right-wing fringe group that is getting way too much press and in fact their right wing message is not shared by a majority of Americans,” said May at the One Nation rally in Washington D.C. on Oct. 2.
A fringe group? The socialists were one of the smallest contingents at the One Nation rally, not counting the one La Rouche cultist and a communist banner strung across a grass knoll.
Perhaps “contingent” is too strong a word, though. A quick search of socialists groups will bring up the Democratic Socialists of America, the International Socialist Organization, the Socialist Party USA and the Workers International League, to name just a few.
Meanwhile, the Tea Party movement has the Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Nation and [Your-State-County-or-City-Here] Tea Party.
Both groups speak of “members” and volunteers and are almost equally dogmatic in their instance that there is no leader – that everyone contributes equally.
Still, the groups can only seem to agree to disagree.
“There may be some similar sounding words and phrases coming from the two groups, but they have completely different meanings,” said Judson Phillips of the Tea Party Nation.
He’s right. For instance:
“If you read the polls … you’ll see people are actually shifting leftward on a whole host of issues and are wanting the government to do more.” – David May, ISO.
“Well, what does the latest Rasmussen poll show? 71 percent of Republicans support Tea Party goals and a significant plurality of Americans support the Tea Party.” – Judson Phillips, Tea Party Nation
“In our opinion, we’d say that Obama and Nancy Pelosi are totally tied hand-and-foot to big business. I think, both who funded their campaigns and who they ended up serving once they got in, reflects that.” – Mark Rahman, Workers International League
“I think that most of the big businesses where you’re creating a monopoly is a problem … We have an oligarchy where a few chosen people that represent [Obama] will benefit from the policies he generates.” – Dale Peterson, Tea Party Patriots.
Then there’s the whole debate about whether Tea Partiers are racists for objecting to Obama’s policies and some socialists’ strange, racial contention that The Capitalists picked Obama because he was black.
So can’t we all just get along? No, probably not.
Tea Partiers who spoke to The Daily Caller said they had nothing in common with socialists but would be glad to sit down and discuss the issues them, despite the occasional signs at rallies that paint Obama as a murdering Stalinist.
“We should avoid radicalization of any topic because what you’ll have is one group trying to marginalize or dehumanize the other side,” said Peterson.
For their part, most socialists said they had never been to a Tea Party rally but if they did go, it wouldn’t be pretty. Asked if perhaps the socialists should talk to the Tea Party and see if they have anything in common, ISO’s Roesch chuckled, “I don’t think you’re going to get that.”
“I think we need to confront the Tea Party, we need to confront racists and we need to offer a different vision,” she said.
Only one person TheDC spoke to seemed to think that there are some unifying factors between the two groups. That’s Kevin Dwire, who is running for Massachusetts governor on the Socialist Workers Party ticket.
“I think … a lot of people are feeling the effects of the economic crisis and are looking for answer,” he said. “I don’t think [Tea Partiers are] racist or a sexist or anything that’s raised. I think people are looking for answers…I think if you write them off you’re going to miss an opportunity. “
There are two things, however, that both groups seem to agree on: The economy is crap and Obama sucks.