Tea Party, Occupy Movements: Birds of a Feather?

I only later fully understood the importance of this event, which was not about a specific policy agenda or a pressure group’s negotiating position. It was about rage. As we have learned the hard way, events anywhere now reverberate everywhere instantly. And, unsurprisingly, large numbers of people find the pace of change frightening and confusing. Some grasp at bizarre conspiracy theories. Others gravitate to extremist groups or politics, unfortunately a still-rising trend. Populist movements like Occupy and the Tea Party are bubbling up around the world, even in normally quiet Scandinavia—where the anti-EU True Finns party has taken a key role in the Finnish parliament. A common thread binding these groups is the gut feeling that political institutions have been corrupted or co-opted, and that, short of a significant intervention, they are simply no longer responsive to the needs of ordinary citizens. These groups vary in the level of detachment felt from their governments: the True Finns use the institutions of their national government to protest a supranational structure (the EU), the Tea Party wishes to project change through government but has side-stepped the traditional party structures, and the Occupy movement exists outside of any recognizable organizational shape altogether.

None of their ideologies strike me as especially coherent, but it’s difficult to deny the level of popular appeal they have—and it’s actually easy ...

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