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The Short Life Expectancy Of Radicalism In The U.S.

Radical popular movements tend to fizzle out fairly quickly, it's the damage or repair that they do during their short lives that is what lasts.

The Tea Party Era may be coming to a close. Riding a wave of public discontent and economic fervor, the Tea Party was able to sweep a number of Republican candidates into office in 2010, even taking the House of Representatives in the process. However, as the Tea Party’s message, and more importantly their reactionary tactics both in congress and outside, have slowly been ostracizing even many of their own public supporters. A Quinnipiac Polling Institute survey shows that just 28% of voters approve of the Tea Party brand of Republicanism, while  57% disapprove. In Ohio, which has famously attempted to follow Scott Walker’s lead in Wisconsin by attempting to pass an anti-union collective bargaining bill, voters overwhelming down-voted the measure (63% against, 37% for, in early voting outcomes). Even the Republican establishment in Washington is starting to separate itself from the Tea Party, with many Republican leaders saying they will go after Democratic votes to pass a 2012 Federal budget bill rather than risk the brinksmanship of this summer by pandering to Tea Party freshmen.

Radicalism in the United States does not work for long. Ask the socialists of the early 20th century, the Black Panthers and the Klu Klux Klan, the McCarthy-ites of the Cold War or the terror-hawks of Bush Jr.’s administration, the American people simply do not have much of a stomach for broad-reaching radicalism. Tea Party truly sealed its fate when it allowed the Republican establishment to co-opt their movement, using the reactionary public upheaval to to ride them into the House and Senate during the midterm elections. Now, when voter fatigue and public disgust with Washington is at an all-time high, Republicans are slowly, quietly, and very clearly cutting ties; like the high school quarterback that picked up the popular girl to maintain his image, and then dumped her when her popularity waned.

What about Occupy Wall Street? They’re radical. They’re reactionary. True, and they’re not yet a political force, although leaders within the movement and on the outside are attempting to make it one. The worst thing the OWS movement could do is follow in the Tea Party’s footsteps. A) Don’t pick a loudmouth (piece) that will put a face to your movement, because once it has a face it has a personality and a personality can be as likeable as it can be “hateable”. B) Don’t allow the establishment to adopt you, because once they do that, they own you. That might play nice and pretend your priorities are their priorities, but as soon as it’s no longer convenient, you will get dumped and much of the popular steam will have gone out.

OWS has been gathering some force behind a political platform that advocates campaign finance reform. They’ve been careful not to allow any single person or entity to become the focus of the movement, which is most likely why they’ve received such criticism for being unorganized and directionless. However, there are a number of structures in place to organize and focus action at each of the Occupy locations, leadership groups and committees that debate on various issues and establish, very democratically, how to proceed. Given the organizing and unifying potential of social media, it’s very possible that this may be the first “augmented” revolution, one kept alive and vital for a long period of time, through the use of internet media, as a very vocal and influential section of the public. However, eventually the radicalism will fade. Of course, it’s what OWS can accomplish while they are relevant that will have a more lasting impact.