Since its inception, the #Occupy Wall Street movement has garnered incessant comparisons to the Tea Party movement, which sprouted a couple years earlier. Was OWS the left's version of the Tea Party?, the pundits intoned, and was there any common ground?
Put the question to an Occupier (or a Tea Partier, for that matter), however, and you'd be more likely to get scoffed at. Despite some overlap in the most radical elements of each—eliminate the Fed! elect Ron Paul!—the two are, for the most part, diametrically opposed in terms of governing ideologies. The Tea Party thinks the federal government is the root of the nation's woes, Occupy has diagnosed our cancer as stemming from corporations and their corrupting influence on democracy.So when there's an issue that rallies both camps, you can be sure that there's something truly morally repulsive afoot—in this case, it's the Keystone XL pipeline.
Talking Points Memo has the story of how the 1,700 mile tar sands pipeline is attracting opponents from both sides of the aisle:
though the project exists in a state of suspended animation, TransCanada — the company that wants to connect the tar sands in Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico — is preparing to build anyhow. In particular, on the portion of the pipeline that would link Nebraska to Texas, TransCanada has threatened to use disputed eminent domain powers to condemn privately held land, over the owners’ objections. And that’s creating unusual allies — Occupiers, Tea Partiers, environmentalists, individualists — united to stop TransCanada from threatening water supplies, ancient artifacts, and people’s basic property rights.Essentially, TransCanada is trying to finagle land owned by local ranchers, farmers, and homeowners, first by trying to buy them out, then by threatening eminent domain—even though it's not legally allowed to do so until it has secured a permit from the State Dept. It's hard to imagine an issue more neatly designed to raise the ire of both Tea Partiers and Occupiers than a massive, foreign oil company threatening to impose eminent domain to usurp someone's private property.
Or, in other words, the 1% using its influence to coerce the government into stealing a citizen's privately owned land.
It's an interesting case, one that invites you to wonder how many more realistic opportunities there might be for genuine collaboration between the two movements on a grassroots level—few things, after all, would provide more firepower to a social protest than Occupy and the Tea Party joining forces.