Every two years, our country conducts federal elections to determine the course of the country on significant public policy issues. This mechanism – free, fair elections – is the centerpiece of our representative democracy.
In between elections, of course, citizens are free to petition their government for redress of grievances, and they can pass judgment on the extent to which their current representatives respond to those grievances at the next election. This system is now being attacked by radical, undemocratic protesters in the so-called Occupy Movement.
After two months of occupation, culminating in Thursday night’s union-led protests in New York City and the arrest of SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, among many others, it’s a good time to take stock of what Occupy stands for.
“We’re no longer settling for 'we live in a democracy because we voted for a politician,'" left-wing rabble rouser and propaganda moviemaker Michael Moore has explained. “Those days are over,” he said. “Capitalism is an evil system.”
As Moore explained, Occupy is not about organizing for the next election – an election that looks increasingly likely to be another landslide in favor of limited government. Occupy 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 naïve good intentions) always ends up accompanying socialism.
In good Orwellian fashion, the occupiers chant: “this is what democracy looks like,” as if they hadn’t been resoundingly trounced in the last national elections.
In fact, they lost by historic margins in one of the biggest landslides in the country’s history, including 63 House seats, 6 Senate seats (7 if you count Scott Brown’s victory earlier in the year), and over 675 state legislative seats.
The occupiers arrogantly call themselves "the 99 percent,' but well over 50 percent of voters picked Republican candidates campaigning to restrict government power, and we can probably conclude – by virtue of their participation in the elections – that most voters who voted for Democrats also prefer electing their leaders to appointing them via street mob.
Some conservative activists focus a lot of time and effort on the distinction between democracy and republicanism, suggesting that in a democracy there are no constraints on majoritarian tyranny. Some conservatives have even agreed that the Occupy mob is what democracy looks like, going on to indict democracy itself.
This is a dangerous semantic game, because the vast majority of Americans like democracy. They understand democracy as referring to periodic free and fair elections – not to repealing all constitutional constraints on majority rule.
Moreover, in our current political context, our constitutional safeguards have been largely disarmed by an activist judiciary and, like it or not, one of our best bulwarks against tyranny (majoritarian or otherwise) is an informed citizenry actively engaging the democratic process from the perspective of limited government. To cling to the noble notion that a large sphere of human activity should be wholly protected from democratic negotiation is to likely lose elections and any hope of advancing limits on government power.
Which brings us to the incongruous spectacle of the Democratic Party (named to suggest a strong commitment to democracy) heartily embracing the decidedly undemocratic demands and tactics of the occupiers. Obama has endorsed them; Pelosi has endorsed them; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is conducting a petition drive to gather the broadest possible support.
Which then begs the question, if so many Democrats have betrayed their core value to support a movement that rejects democratic elections, why should those Americans who do believe in voting choose to vote for them?
Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity and author of "Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America – and How to Stop Him," available here.