I was reading a recent article by Phil Kerpen entitled ‘Occupy’ Movement Is Not What Democracy Looks Like. In the article Mr. Kerpen makes two major points. One is that democracy means free elections and culminates in representative democracy; the other is that the OWS movement is undemocratic, that it is about “replacing our democratic institutions with naked force, replacing the rule of law with the intimidation of street thugs, and our constitutional republic with the same type of autocratic tyranny that (notwithstanding naive good intentions) always ends up accompanying socialism.”
In two previous articles, Live From a Tea Party — The Atmosphere Is Electric! and Tea Parties’ Tax Day Message, Mr. Kerpen, about a Tea Party rally, praises the “rowdy, raucous crowd of about 3,700 people in a pouring rain,” and the “Hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Americans [who] took to the streets to protest.” He notes that, “This is the beginning of a new populist revolt, and it’s happening all over the country. The top-down, big money, big government forces of Soros, MoveOn.org, and Organizing for America are about to meet a true bottom-up populist steamroller. Elites will ignore this at their own peril.”
George Lakoff, in his book Moral Politics, talks about the strict father model which underlies much of conservative thought and activism. Practitioners of this model believe in hierarchy and authority, that those who are obedient become self-disciplined, which leads to success in a competitive society. Those who are successful have earned it, and deserve society’s rewards. Also, it comes with strict notions of good and evil, right and wrong. Such a system cannot possibly be wrong, or the moral system would no longer be able to function. Opponents of this moral system, and its projection onto politics, are wrong and immoral; those seeking to overthrow it “are engaging in an immoral act.”
I also previously (Nov. 15) commented on Mr. Lakoff’s descriptions of how the two models, the strict father and the nurturant parent, differ in their views of work, showing how conservative objections to trade unionism followed from the strict father moral model projected onto working relations.
I note, then, in Mr. Kerpen’s articles a couple of interesting points in relation to a Lakoffian analysis. One major reason for his dismissal of a recent OWS protest, and by extension of the OWS movement itself, is that it was “union-led” and that the SEIU President Mary Key Henry was arrested. The second is his strong support for deciding things with elections rather than protests. He notes that the “next election … looks increasingly likely to be another landslide in favor of limited government.” As Mr. Lakoff notes, in the strict father model the moral system, and by extension its political analog, must be defended at all costs. As long as the next election will bring support for the cause, elections are to be lauded as critical to maintaining our values; as long as the protesters are protesting the right things, they, too, are to be lauded for their efforts. In other words, it is not elections and protests which matter, but upholding the underlying moral and political system.