The New York-based panel of Morning Joe came almost uniformly down on the side of Uber Monday in a discussion of the war between the ride-sharing company and far-left New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio is going to place a cap on the number of drivers in the wildly popular ride-sharing service for one year under the guise of addressing congestion concerns. Uber, led by Barack Obama's former campaign manager David Plouffe, has hit back with a multi-million advertising campaign urging voters to not left de Blasio "strand New York," and the MSNBC hosts criticized de Blasio for clearly kowtowing to the taxi industry that has donated to his coffers.
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"This is all about politics," host Joe Scarborough said. "You've got an innovation that works, and I just don't think this is a battle that Bill de Blasio can win, even though he wants to win it for his unions or wants to win it for his big political donors."
"This one is pretty transparent politics. When you look at who supports de Blasio, it's the taxi industry and he's protecting them in this case," co-host Willie Geist said. "But for a guy who's progressive by any definition of what's progressive, this is a pretty tough stance against progress. This is a good thing. This makes it easier, it makes it safer for people in outer boroughs to get around where they can't find cabs a lot of the time. Uber is progress, and it's a fool's errand to stand in the way at this point."
BuzzFeed reported the taxi industry donated $350,000 to de Blasio's successful run for office in 2013, and the New York Post noted that the industry has "pumped more than $600,000 into de Blasio-controlled committees since January 2013, and Uber’s ads accuse the mayor of ‘pushing the agenda of big taxi donors.'"
"Bill de Blasio's attack on Uber is stunning," Scarborough said. "I was a very vocal Uber critic six months ago, and then I did something. I downloaded the app and tried it, and I use it everywhere … This is why Americans hate politics, because you finally have something that works and you've got a politician who's more interested in his big donors and his big support than actually keeping people safe."
Panelist John Heilemann said this would continue to be a political wedge issue.
"Entrenched political interests who take money from unions and take money from large industries are going to fight against these elements of disruptive innovation, and I do think Uber and other things like this are going to become wedge issues in this campaign, where you are going to have to decide are you on the side of disruptive technology and innovation, or are you on the side of incumbent industries and organized labor?" Heilemann asked. "It's going to be a big choice for all politicians who are going to have to decide where they want to be on this."
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has criticized Uber and the s0-called "sharing economy" for not giving its employees proper workplace protections, while Republicans like Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) have praised it for disrupting entrenched interests and being innovative.
Co-host Mika Brzezinski defended the one-year time frame for de Blasio's study, but former Democratic congressman Harold Ford said this was about economics, not about traffic.
"Even before Uber came, I can tell you traffic is pretty stiff from 2:00 to 6:00 anywhere in the city," Ford said.