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Occupy Wall Street movement intrigues, confounds the tea party

Even as analysts note similarities between the two populist uprisings, many tea party activists say a merger could never happen. Many are put off by Occupy Wall Street's civil disobedience and economic prescriptions.

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That may be one reason most Democratic leaders have been careful about embracing the Occupy movement too tightly. President Obama's statements about it, for instance, have been measured, acknowledging people's frustrations but not endorsing their proposals. “I think people are frustrated, and the protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works," President Obama said Oct. 6.

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A full embrace of the ragged, edgy movement could have negative repercussions for Democrats, warns Mr. Schoen in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Tuesday. Citing his own data, Schoen writes that the Occupy protesters are "an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence," all bound together by a "deep commitment to left-wing policies."

Some tea party activists have waded into the Occupy protests to try to capture outrageous antics on film and audio. They've found some interesting material – anti-American slogans, pictures of litter-covered camping areas, questionable sanitary habits – but the images haven't gotten much play in the mainstream media. Many tea partyers, moreover, complained loudly when liberals infiltrated their public demonstrations to try to smear them, and are reluctant to appear hypocritical by engaging in the same tactics.

Other tea party groups have opted to engage Occupy protesters. According to Politico, Chris Littleton, an Ohio tea party organizer, said some tea party folks were involved in planning the Occupy Cincinnati protests. "I'm quite sensitive to the types of frustrations that they're expressing, though I think that the prescriptions" are different, he told Politico.

Some Occupy protesters' calls for a new French Revolution and the occasional anti-Israel slogan are big turnoffs for tea party activists who might otherwise have considered linking up with the youthful protest movement.

"I think they kind of got it right at the beginning where they saw there was a problem, but I was really hoping the kids would figure out what the real problem was and they didn't," says Ms. Wilder. "Instead, they've gone overboard and completely in the opposite direction."

Some tea party adherents disagree, citing glimpses at the Occupy protests of the Gadsden flag – the "Don't tread on me" flag that is ubiquitous at tea party protests – and of signs calling for abolishing the Federal Reserve, a popular idea among some tea party activists.

"It seems to me what's going on there is excellent," says Jeff Mowry of Westcliffe, Colo., who has been involved with tea party groups. "I really admire what they're doing. Maybe these folks haven't been on the cutting edge of reading about what's going on economically, but I don't know that it matters that much. The important part is they're showing up.

"This is all an educational process for everybody. After all, you're trying to unbend a very crooked system, and that's kind of tough."

IN PICTURES: Best signs of Occupy Wall Street protests

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