Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party followed similar trajectories. Both grew, seemingly as grassroots movements, enjoyed brief popularity and are now widely disliked by the electorate. But the two movements bequeath different legacies.
While Tea Party power may have ebbed somewhat, there is no doubt the movement achieved real power and exerted (for the worse, in my view) real influence on national policy. Occupy Wall Street left us with little more than a piece of an idea — the 1 percent — and many Democratic politicians would rightly argue they had been using that language long before Occupy made it famous.
Why the divergent legacies? Politics matters.
Of course, the Tea Party had its own TV network, as well as national funding and some centralized institutional control. Fox News helped build the Tea Party, covering rallies of 20 and 30 people while almost ignoring gatherings of hundreds of thousands for progressive causes. Moreover, Fox provided its viewers with information on upcoming Tea Party events and urged viewers to participate. Financial support came from the Koch brothers, while FreedomWorks, Russo Marsh and Rogers and the Tea Party Express provided organizational muscle.