Remember former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty? He briefly ran for president in the last cycle, before bowing out, moving to D.C., and becoming the head of the Financial Services Roundtable, an advocacy group for the banking industry.
Pawlenty sat down with Jake Tapper last week, just a couple of days after his party ended its government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis, and tried to make the case that his party’s radical wing isn’t too big a deal – because there’s a Democratic analog (via John Aravosis).
“[A]s to the Tea Party, keep in mind, you know, it’s one slice of a broader coalition. They overplayed their hand here…. But, you know, there’s an analog in the Democratic Party to the Tea Party, when you look at groups like Occupy, when you look at groups that want to just recklessly defund the Department of Defense.“They don’t represent the whole Democratic Party and the Tea Party represents only one slice of the Republican Party.”
This is certainly the kind of argument that resonates for much of the Beltway. Both sides have fringes, both sides have extremists, both sides have radicals who try to pull their ostensible allies further from the center. Therefore, when the political process appears broken, the establishment feels comfortable blaming … both sides.
But here’s my follow-up question for Pawlenty: name all the Occupy activists in Congress.
Indeed, I think it’s probably fair to say the state of the larger Occupy movement is nowhere close to where it once was, and comparing it to the Tea Party is itself hard to take seriously, but even looking past that, the effort at bipartisan criticism here is just silly.
Democrats did not create an Occupy Congressional Caucus. We don’t see large numbers of Democratic lawmakers identifying themselves as Occupy adherents. There is literally nothing to suggest Occupy, which was nearly always non-partisan anyway, is driving the Democratic agenda at any level.
And on the flip side, we see Tea Party Republicans pushing around the Speaker of the House and shutting down the government. Pawlenty sees Tea Partiers as a mere “slice” of the GOP coalition, but if recent events are any indication, it’s a pretty powerful slice with enormous influence – something Occupy wouldn’t even pretend to claim.
Clearly, both Democrats and Republicans have fringe voices, with views far from the American mainstream. The difference is, Democrats keep liberals extremists at arm’s length, while Republicans embrace conservative extremists with both arms.