The Occupy Wall Street protests are picking up steam and President Obama is attempting to align himself with the protesters'
dissatisfaction. But could this tacit backfire? Many are trying to compare this movement to the Tea Party. But are these movements really that similar? I caught up with Tim Chapman, chief executive officer of the conservative group Heritage Action for America, and asked him whether the "99 percent" really is the next Tea Party.
LL: Many people compare the Occupy Wall Street protesters to the Tea Party? Could this movement turn into something like the Tea Party?
TCl Their future remains to be seen. To be sure, whether the protesters realize it or not, they do share one common grievance with the Tea Party. Namely, the Wall Street Bailouts. But the similarities stop there. The Tea Party opposes the corrupt nexus between Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor and Big WallStreet that have the shifted the playing field away from the little guy, the entrepreneur, the struggling family business, etc. In other words, the Tea Party's remedy to the problems that plague us is to decentralize federal power and give it back to the people. While the remedies that the OWS movement put forward are myriad, they all share the common characteristic of centralizing power in Washington, DC.
LL: The Tea Party has a central message to their cause. The Occupy Wall Street crowd, depending on who you talk to have different reasons why they are mad. Will this impact their influence or just because of the sheer number sit will succeed?
TC: The Tea Party was able to focus their passion because they understood Big Government was responsible for empowering Big Business, Big Labor and Big Wall Street. If the protesters are to follow a similar track and inject themselves into the political process, they will have to find a similar focus. That process is not easy though, as established organizations and interest groups will do everything in their power to co-opt the protesters and redirect their focus. It’ll be fun to watch.
LL: The President has offered more support for his protesters against the global financial system. Isn't this ironic since the majority of his money for his 2012 campaign is coming from the "big bad banks" Do you think if the President was so anti-bank should he give back their money?
TC: Look, no one should be fooled. President Obama is part of the Washington Establishment. If you’re Big – Big Business or Big Wall Street – and politically connected you can adapt and survive Obama care, financial reform and the plethora of rules coming out of agencies like the EPA. If you’re small – an entrepreneur trying to achieve the American Dream – you will be crushed. Remember, we saw it with Obama care too, which carved out a generous loophole for Big Labor.
LL: The White House and the President are using the anti-Wall Street protests against Republicans. Many on Wall Street are Democrats.
Shouldn't the Republican Party be using this information?
TC: The reason the Tea Party has inserted itself so forcefully into our political system is because many in the Republican Party are also part of the Washington Establishment. Americans understand our problems are the result of bipartisan failure. If the Republican Party wants to seize the anti-Establishment mantle, they have to be willing to shun the Establishment in much the same way the Tea Party has over the past several years. They cannot turn the tables on the President while pledging allegiance to the status quo.
LL: Joblessness is becoming a political pawn. Isn't this "crisis" a creation of the fact that DC can not function. That both parties are at fault?
TC: For decades, the Washington Establishment – Republicans and Democrats alike – believed they can use the levers of power in Washington to shape the economy. The cumulative impact of those policies and the associated growth in government is squashing America’s entrepreneurial spirit. And while both parties are at fault, Republicans are uniquely positioned to change the dynamic. But for that to happen, the Tea Party, with all its iconoclastic energy and goals, must succeed in defeating the Establishment.
LL: What is interesting in this political cycle is the President has all but abandoned health care reform. Why isn't this "historical legislation" being touted by the President?
TC: President Obama understands his record is unpopular among likely voters, especially Obama care. If he tried to run on his so-called achievements, he would undoubtedly lose. His only hope is to run against Congressional Republicans and tarnish the eventual Republican nominee. This is why it is so important for Republicans to paint in bold, bright colors, highlighting the serious policy differences between President Obama and conservatives.
LL: One of my contacts told me one of the biggest hurdles for the President in his bid for reelection is turning the protester's anger into voting strength and enthusiasm for him. Do you think he can?
TC: Democrats will do everything in their power to co-opt the protester's and translate their anger into boots on the ground and votes at the polls. President Obama’s rhetoric may play well, but it seems the protesters recognize that neither party is without blame.
Indeed, their anger is directed at an Establishment that is far too cozy with the Bigs – Big Business, Big Wall Street, Big Labor and Big Government.
LL: Do you believe the President is fueling class-warfare as a distraction to running on the real issues?
TC: President Obama’s only path to a second term is to distract voters from his record by driving a wedge between different elements of our society. Could it work? Absolutely, especially if Republicans refuse to take the President head on by offering the sort of bold solutions our country needs.
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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."