As city after city confronts Occupy protestors, conservatives are trying to make civil unrest into an anti-Obama campaign issue
As Occupiers from Oakland and Atlanta to New York City and Washington, D.C., have proven themselves both too powerless to prevent the encroachment of crime in their encampments and powerful enough to repeatedly confront police, the president's fiercest critics on the right are uniting around a potentially powerful new election-year theme: Barack Obama can't preserve law and order.
Critics of the conservative media have long complained of a perpetual outrage machine that says anything to see Democrats suffer at the polls. But today, they should take a careful look at the way the Occupy movement is helping to pipe the law-and-order message of the conservative counter-establishment back into the heart of the mainstream GOP.
Rather than the triumph of the lunatic fringe or a regression to some paranoid mean, the move marks a return of a core issue for the modern Republican Party. Republicans are justified in expecting electoral success when Americans worry about the government's ability (and willingness) to prevent, control, and punish social unrest.
Amid a growing chorus of conservative criticism, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose on November 15th to demonstrate that ability. At one o'clock in the morning, the NYPD told the Occupiers at Zuccotti Park to immediately remove all tents, sleeping bags, and belongings from the campsite -- that is, to turn Zuccotti from a campsite back into a park. "Many protesters," Bloomberg explained in the press conference that followed, "peacefully complied and left." With sanitation crews in tow, police "assisted in removing any remaining tents and sleeping bags," arresting dozens in the process. Urging his audience to "make no mistake -- the final decision was mine," Bloomberg justified the crackdown explicitly in terms of law and order: "We must never be afraid to insist on compliance with our laws," he said. "The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out -- but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others -- nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law."