John Hood's Syndicated Weekly Column
RALEIGH – If you are a current or prospective Democratic politician in North Carolina, I would expect that right about now you are either congratulating yourself for staying away from the Occupy This or That movement – or nervously trying to figure out how to distance yourself from the movement after the fact.
That suddenly inconvenient fact, you see, is that the Occupy movement was largely a creation of freaks, socialists, and left-wing kooks. It was not a creation of small-d democrats. Some of us recognized that fact from the beginning. We’d seen it reflected in the anti-republican rhetoric of “occupation” and the anti-libertarian tactics employed by those who sought not simply to argue their point of view but to shut up those who disagree.
To recognize the Occupy movement for what it really is, we didn’t need to wait to watch the Carnival of Souls now playing across the country – the filth, the intimidation, the violence, the weapons, the drug overdoses, the killings, and the Penn State-like conspiracy of silence about sexual assaults. Based on the movement’s illiberal ideological assumptions and the foolishness of camping out in pubic parks as a strategy for political change, we knew that the protests would become increasingly desperate and shrill, revealing the true colors of their instigators.
I mean, come on. The Occupiers said they were inspired by the Arab Spring. But the leaders of the Arab Spring had the sense to challenge actual tyrants, rather than elected representatives, and to do so in the, you know, springtime. Apparently it never occurred to the leftist geniuses who cooked up the American Autumn that they were starting an outdoor protest movement just as the weather was getting colder and most people would be turning their attention to the holidays.
There is no doubt that when it debuted, the Occupy movement drew the attention and support of large numbers of Americans who, whatever you may think of the wisdom of their political or economic ideas, have legitimate concerns and intentions. Most of the people who turned out to march or witness the early Occupy rallies likely had no idea that they were lending support to anarcho-socialists and other revolutionaries. They thought they were simply helping to make a point about corporate greed or economic stagnation.
But, of course, most of them went home at the end of those early protests. They had everyday lives to lead, children to rear, and jobs to perform or at least to seek. They were not the ones who stayed behind to “camp.” The ones who remained fit one of these categories: hard-core radicals, professional agitators, amateur anarchists, addicts, vagrants, or deeply confused.
Whatever they may have thought about the substance of the Occupy message, most Democratic politicians and leaders had the good sense to stay away from these “campers.” They knew better than to be captured on camera speaking to or endorsing the Occupiers. But a few found their way to the campsites, anyway, and will now live to regret it.
You don’t have to agree with every decision made by every mayor, councilmember, or law enforcement officer across the country to understand and welcome the inevitable end of the Occupation’s campsite phase.
Public parks, streets, sidewalks, gardens, and other gathering places are appropriate sites for duly permitted and time-limited political protests. Social movements of all stripes have made use of public spaces for generations to assemble peaceably and express their views. But perpetual occupation of public spaces is not an exercise of free speech or assembly. It constitutes a demand that trespassing protestors enjoy more rights than other citizens enjoy to make use of public property. As for the occupation of private property, it is a crime, not a political argument.
In the Internet age, there is no escape for unwary, unwise politicians. Those who stumbled their way into the Occupy movement’s makeshift communes in search of a fleeting media moment may now find it difficult to stumble their way out into political respectability again.
They should have known better.
Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of CarolinaJournal.com.