At his recent news conference, President Obama praised Occupy Wall Street, saying, "It expresses the frustrations that the American people feel." Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the protesters, saying, "God bless them for their spontaneity." Vice President Joe Biden claimed the protesters had "a lot in common with the Tea Party." And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is circulating a petition seeking 100,000 signers to declare, "I stand with the Occupy Wall Street protests."
The political calculation behind all this is obvious: Democrats hope Occupy Wall Street will boost their party's chances in next year's election as the tea party did for the GOP in 2010. But Democratic leaders are wrong in believing that Occupy Wall Street is the liberal alternative to the Tea Party.
The Tea Party is a middle-class movement of people who want limited government, less spending, less debt, low taxes, and the repeal of ObamaCare. Occupy Wall Street isn't a movement. It's a series of events populated by a weird cast of disaffected characters, ranging from anarchists and anti-Semites to socialists and LaRouchies. What they have in common is an amorphous anger aimed at banks, investors, rich people and bourgeois values.
The Tea Party reveres the Constitution and wants to change laws to restore the country to prosperity. Occupy Wall Street started by occupying a New York City park and then blocked the Brooklyn Bridge, sparking the arrest of hundreds.
The Tea Party files for permits for its rallies and picks up its trash afterwards. Occupy Wall Street tolerates protesters who defecate on police cars, allows the open sale of drugs at protests, and features women walking around rallies topless.
The Tea Party has settled down to democracy's patient, responsible work, either by exerting influence on the Republican Party nomination process or educating Americans on the issues in order to hold politicians in both parties to account.
By comparison, Occupy Wall Street seems alienated by the American political system. It has no concrete agenda and no plan to become a political institution. Yet it needs both things to have an impact on politics or policy. Without them, Americans will be interested in Occupy Wall Street's weird and off-putting side show for only so long.
Karl Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor and author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010). To continue reading his column in The Wall Street Journal, click here.