Mayor Bloomberg has drawn criticism from some conservatives for letting Occupy Wall Street stay indefinitely. In some ways, it is easy to understand why critics are upset with Bloomberg. Garbage is piling up, one person defecated on a police car, and many of the protestors do not even seem to know why they are there.
Even charitable accounts note that, after three weeks of protests, organization “is still lacking and political goals still need unpacking.” This group has protested for three weeks without knowing what its goals are. So it isn’t hard to see what critics are upset about.
But there are four good reasons for conservatives to applaud Bloomberg’s decision. The first is that it favors democracy. Contrast Bloomberg’s decision to Governor Perdue’s recent suggestion that we should suspend congressional elections for two years, so that Congress could concentrate on fixing the country’s financial problems. Or consider the claims by many on the left, including Vice President Joe Biden, that the Republican were akin to terrorists, because they engaged in debate and would not immediately let the Democrats raise the debt ceiling.
Elections and congressional deliberation are two core parts of America’s democratic system and it is worrisome to me that some would suggest bypassing either. In light of these things, Bloomberg’ decision to support free speech seems refreshingly Democratic. This is, I think, the best reason for conservatives to support Bloomberg’s decision. But it is not the only one.
When Fox's Brian Kilmeade asked who he thought Occupy Wall Street benefitted, conservative columnist Mark Steyn replied that it benefitted everyone. Here’s why:
Kilmeade: Mark, who is benefitting from these protests downtown?
Steyn: I think we all are, actually, because, this is a very clarifying moment. I mean, I think it’s the dumbest revolution (so-called), of the last hundred years. It’s basically non-workers of the world united. It’s basically all the economically non-productive elements of society from America’s vast pampered college class, big labor is supporting them, the spend-a-holic Democratic Party is supporting them. And I think it’s symbolically useful in that sense, because it gets to the heart of the biggest problem in the western world today – that too many people lead economically unproductive lives and to have them all down there in lower Manhattan providing a great visual reminder of that actually does us all a service.
Steyn is right. The protestors do a good deal to expose the problems many conservatives have with certain elements of the leftist base. These problems range from the willingness of some do or repeat anything, to the apparent contradictions in their positions.
For instance, Occupy is marching both against high student tuition and against lowering the salaries or lessening the benefits of Dartmouth professors. I suspect that it would be hard to lower tuition without lowering salaries as well.
Furthermore, Occupy is protesting against the rich, while defending some of the richest academics in the country. The average salary for a Darmouth Faculty is $203,140 – higher than the average salary for faculty at Cornell and Brown. The university currently has a budget deficit of $96 million. Yet Occupy is protesting even the most modest cuts in faculty salaries.
Perhaps Occupy would be more supportive if Darmouth administrators could levy a tax on faculty instead. At any rate, both the hypocrisy and the unworkability of certain leftist ideas are put into the spotlight by the protests.
But Occupy doesn’t just expose problems with the left’s base. It also exposes the hypocrisy of some of the most prominent political figures on the left. Perhaps the most vocal congressional critic of the tea parties has been Nancy Pelosi. She first dismissed Tea Party protests as “astroturf”, then went on to treat the Tea Party as an uncontrollable and fearsome group. She urged Republicans to take back control of their party. She hinted that Tea Party protestors were creating a culture of violence. Contrast this to the way she reacts to Occupy. Does she say that Occupy is promoting a culture of violence? Is she scared of Occupy? Does she dismiss it as astoturf? Of course not.
Here’s Pelosi on Occupy (transcribed from a broadcast on C-Span):
The message of the protestors is a message for establishment every place. The focus is on Wall Street and justifiably so. God bless them for their spontaneity! It’s independent people coming. It’s young, it’s spontaneous, it’s focused and it’s going to be effective.
There are only a couple problems with this. One is Pelosi’s blatant hypocrisy. If people who are politically opposed to the policies she supports, they are dangerous and worrisome. If people more in line with her political ideologies protest against something, well, God bless them.
The other is that Pelosi is obviously wrong. She calls Occupy, which is largely financed by unions “independent”, while dismissing the largely grass roots tea parties as “astroturf.” She praises Occupy for its “focus”, even when even many of its participants admit that it has none. Occupy Wall Street puts the hypocrisy of figures like Pelosi in full view of the American people. The right ought to be happy about this.
Finally, when Occupy does express itself clearly, it is sometimes right. The group is right, for instance, about the wrongness of the bail-outs. It is right about the failure of the Obama administration to fix America’s economic woes. Occupy and the Tea Party would make unlikely allies, but I suspect that they do agree on some thing.
So, I say, let occupy occupy. Well done, Mayor Bloomberg.