Political expedience trumps principle in Uber's latest counterattack against progressive Democrats.
As Crain's New York Business reports, Uber is courting the support of racial shakedown artist Al Sharpton in its fight to defeat a recent bill in the New York City Council that would effectively halt the company's growth in the Big Apple for a period of one year.
Uber's David Plouffe, the former Democratic Party operative and chief strategist behind Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, met with Rev. Al on Monday, and though Plouffe didn't walk away with a clear commitment of support, he told reporters they had a "good discussion."
The following day, Uber held a press conference at the legendary Harlem soul restaurant Sylvia's to present its case that limiting the company's growth in New York would hurt minorities. If Uber can't grow, Plouffe told reporters, it would kill "over 10,000 jobs." Brooklyn Bishop Gerald Seabrooks went so far as to imply that stopping Uber could lead more men to die like Eric Garner
"If [Eric] Garner had a job, today he would be alive…We're talking economics here. We're talking jobs."
It's as if Uber "is trying to out-progressive New York City's progressive leadership," as Capital New York reporter Kelly Weill aptly put it.
It's hard to come down too hard on Uber for doing whatever's necessary to protect itself from the dirty tactics of its enemies, but it is worth noting that the company is hardly the embodiment of some Objectivist ideal in which The Fountainhead serves as the official corporate playbook.
The whole episode highlights the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of progressive political rhetoric. The case for Uber isn't about creating jobs—if that were the goal, we'd be better off outlawing vehicles altogether and hiring an army of unemployed men to give piggyback rides. Uber's value is that it allows drivers and customers to engage in mutually beneficial trade, which make society freer and more prosperous.
And where's the evidence that minorities would be disproportionately hurt by restricting Uber's growth? The company makes life more convenient for customers of all races and ethnicities, and there are plenty of immigrant cabbies losing market share and seeing their medallions devalued by Uber's expansion.
Finally, by treating Rev. Al as some sort of a moral arbiter, despite decades of mounting evidence of his moral depravity, the company is bolstering the reputation of a charlatan. If Uber were to sign on as a sponsor of the next annual convention held by Sharpton's National Action Network, I bet that would help get the Reverend to the next press conference to decry the racism of its enemies.
As Brian Doherty noted earlier this week, national Democrats are indicating a willingness to scuttle Uber's expansion as well. In a speech at the New School in Manhattan this week, Hillary Clinton promised to come down on companies like Uber that hire contract labor.
"This 'on demand' or so-called 'gig economy,'" she said, "is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation but it's also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future."
Perhaps if Uber gave, say, a million bucks to the Clinton Foundation that could smooth things out some?