10:44 am Sep. 14, 20121
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been complaining a lot lately about the generally inefficacy of Washington, but today he said he sees reason for hope in both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements.
"I probably don't agree with a lot of the things that both of those groups promote and believe in, but I do think that you can change democracy, and you do it from the grassroots," he said today, during his regular Friday morning appearance on the John Gambling radio show.
The topic arose because Bloomberg was grousing, yet again, about all of the ways in which Washington was failing Americans on issues like immigration reform and gun control.
"How do you change the physical hearts and minds of the people that sit in Washington?" Gambling asked the mayor.
"They care about getting elected and re-elected, so you have to go and say, 'If you don't do something that's good for this country, or good for this city, or this state, we're gonna elect somebody else,'" responded Bloomberg. "And that's a hard thing to do … But, John, you can see it working. In some senses, the Tea Party is exactly that."
"The Tea Party, I've always thought, is very much like Occupy Wall Street," said the mayor, who famously cleared Occupy Wall Street protestors out of Zucotti Park, but only after two months of equivocation. "They say, 'We don't want it anymore. We want to stop it. And you say, 'Oh good, what do you want to stop?' And they can't answer it. Both are groups of people who think that we're going in the wrong direction. They may not have answers as to where to go, or their answers may be not too smart and not work and not be practical, or whatever, but they are people who are not happy, and they want to protest. Which is the American way. There's nothing wrong with that."
At least two listeners took issue with his comparison of the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street, and toward the end of the radio hour, they called in to complain about it.
A New Jersey woman named Robin, who described herself as a "Tea Party founder," said she was "disappointed" that Bloomberg put the two movements "in the same bucket."
"While we both started as protest movements, clearly the Tea Party has evolved to …"
"I think that's fair, that's fair, I don't disagree with that," said the mayor, cutting her off.
"O.K., O.K. good," said Robin.
"I don't disagree with that, but I think both were evidences of people being upset," Bloomberg continued. "John and I were talking about, is there anything you can do to influence government to go in the direction that you want? And the answer is yes. And the Tea Party is an example of that. And Occupy Wall Street, to some extent, did. They're not as organized, and maybe not as broad. But they were both started, I would argue, by groups of people that said, 'You know, I may not have great solutions'—and sometimes you think you do, and maybe you do—'but I certainly am not happy with the direction, and I'm gonna try to change it. And I think that's democracy."
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