In yesterday’s post, Politics of the Next 4 Years – Part 1 (Rise of the ‘Dirtbag Left’), I discussed the fact that a very potent grassroots movement has emerged to the left of corporate, neoliberal Democrats. This self-described “Dirtbag Left” and its allies have the potential to not just drive the Democratic Party into extinction, but also ultimately challenge Trump on the national stage. Although I’m not a Democrat or a leftist (I’m not a Republican or conservative either), I welcome this development for a number of reasons.
First, if economic populism becomes aggressively embraced by those who lean left, it will force Trump to become genuinely populist on at least some issues in order to compete in 2020, as opposed to the fake populism he has enthusiastically embraced since the election.
Second, it will present corporate Democrats with a choice, either “bend the knee” as the folks at Chapo suggested, or die. Nobody believes in neoliberal ideology other than donors and their corporate media spokespeople. The entire thing is a discredited failure and isn’t coming back. As such, today’s post will explain why this is the last chance for the Democratic Party.
The political world was abuzz yesterday with chatter related to Charles “Chucky” Schumer’s op-ed in The New York Times in which he suddenly proclaims himself an economic populist, and disingenuously claims the Democratic Party has somehow changed. It consisted of many comforting phrases, but I wouldn’t believe a single line of it until I see actual action on the ground. It’s easy to talk a big game when you have zero power, but talk is cheap, as we all should have learned from both Barrack Obama and Donald Trump.
Before I get into some specifics about what I think all of this means, let’s take a look at some excerpts.
Americans are clamoring for bold changes to our politics and our economy. They feel, rightfully, that both systems are rigged against them, and they made that clear in last year’s election. American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people.
What took you so long? Serious question, considering this deplorable situation has been obvious for a very long time, and was already entrenched when Obama was President and Democrats controlled Congress.
Today’s working Americans and the young are justified in having greater doubts about the future than any generation since the Depression. Americans believe they’re getting a raw deal from both the economic and political systems in our country. And they are right. The wealthiest special interests can spend an unlimited, undisclosed amount of money to influence elections and protect their special deals in Washington. As a result, our system favors short-term gains for shareholders instead of long-term benefits for workers.
And for far too long, government has gone along, tilting the economic playing field in favor of the wealthy and powerful while putting new burdens on the backs of hard-working Americans.
Democrats have too often hesitated from taking on those misguided policies directly and unflinchingly — so much so that many Americans don’t know what we stand for. Not after today. Democrats will show the country that we’re the party on the side of working people — and that we stand for three simple things.
First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.
We are in the minority in both houses of Congress; we cannot promise anyone that this Congress will begin passing our priorities tomorrow. But we have to start raising our voices to present our vision for the country’s future. We will seek the support of any Republicans willing to work with us, but more important, we must start rallying the American people to support our ideas.
This is key. It’s easy to make Santa Claus level promises when you have no power and can’t actually deliver. He’s basically using the same old tired language of Obama and saying “it’ll be different this time.” Why should anyone believe him?
In the last two elections, Democrats, including in the Senate, failed to articulate a strong, bold economic program for the middle class and those working hard to get there. We also failed to communicate our values to show that we were on the side of working people, not the special interests. We will not repeat the same mistake. This is the start of a new vision for the party, one strongly supported by House and Senate Democrats.
It’s not so much that Democrats have “failed to articulate” stuff. It’s that Democrats constantly fail to take action on what they articulate. David Sirota put it perfectly yesterday:
Obama campaigned for president promising to "bring a new era of responsibility & accountability to Wall Street.” Then he prosecuted nobody.— David Sirota (@davidsirota) July 24, 2017
It takes quite a bit of nerve for Chucky Schumer, the consummate corporate Democrat to pivot toward populism. While he mentions various industries in his piece, he fails to mention financial institutions or Wall Street even once. This is extremely telling considering the grave danger this industry presents to the wellbeing of the nation.
To see why Schumer doesn’t dare mention “too big to fail or jail banks,” let’s take a look at excerpts from a piece published back in 2015 titled, Four “Too Big to Fail/Jail” Banks Threaten to Hold Back Funds to Democrats Over Elizabeth Warren:
WASHINGTON — As the financial crisis jolted the nation in September, Senator Charles E. Schumer was consumed. He traded telephone calls with bankers, then became one of the first officials to promote a Wall Street bailout. He spent hours in closed-door briefings and a weekend helping Congressional leaders nail down details of the $700 billion rescue package.
The next day, Mr. Schumer appeared at a breakfast fund-raiser in Midtown Manhattan for Senate Democrats. Addressing Henry R. Kravis, the buyout billionaire, and about 20 other finance industry executives, he warned that a bailout would be a hard sell on Capitol Hill. Then he offered some reassurance: The businessmen could count on the Democrats to help steer the nation through the financial turmoil.
“We are not going to be a bunch of crazy, anti-business liberals,” one executive said, summarizing Mr. Schumer’s remarks. “We are going to be effective, moderate advocates for sound economic policies, good responsible stewards you can trust.”
The message clearly resonated. The next week, executives at firms represented at the breakfast sent in more than $135,000 in campaign donations.
But Mr. Schumer, a member of the Banking and Finance Committees, repeatedly took other steps to protect industry players from government oversight and tougher rules, a review of his record shows. Over the years, he has also helped save financial institutions billions of dollars in higher taxes or fees.
He succeeded in limiting efforts to regulate credit-rating agencies, for example, sponsored legislation that cut fees paid by Wall Street firms to finance government oversight, pushed to allow banks to have lower capital reserves and called for the revision of regulations to make corporations’ balance sheets more transparent.
At times in Congress, Mr. Schumer has teamed up with Republicans, like former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who aggressively promoted a free-market agenda. Mr. Schumer pushed for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley law, passed in November 1999, which knocked down the walls between investment banks and commercial banks and allowed financial supermarkets to flourish. The law also weakened regulatory oversight by fracturing it among different agencies.
In 2001, Mr. Schumer and Mr. Gramm jointly proposed legislation that would cut fees paid by Wall Street firms and others to the S.E.C. in half, or by $14 billion, over the coming decade. Their proposal included some extra money for salaries of commission employees.
Mr. Schumer’s argument prevailed, and the fee cut passed overwhelmingly.
“He built his career in large part based on his ties to Wall Street,” said Christopher Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, which advises investors on the regulatory system. “And he has given the Street what it wanted.”
And he is seeking some regulatory concessions for some Wall Street supporters. He has proposed, for example, that the government lift a cap on how big the giant banks can get, an issue important to institutions like JPMorgan Chase. Lifting the cap would allow the biggest banks to absorb weaker ones, but it would also limit competition and increase the risks to the financial system posed by failure of one of the giants.
In recent weeks, Mr. Schumer has listened to Wall Street leaders for advice on what should come next. At a dinner at Morgan Stanley’s headquarters the night before the presidential election, John Mack, the chief executive, and a dozen top hedge fund officials talked with Mr. Schumer about possible changes affecting their industry.
The idea that this guy could somehow be a champion of “the people” is not merely laughable, it’s insulting and dangerous.
Fine, so what are you supposed to do if you’re a left-leaning American who doesn’t want to be played for a fool for the thousandth time? I have some simple advice, and it consists of focusing on the donors. Any politician who claims to be for the people yet takes massive amounts of money from Wall Street, assorted billionaires and other special interests is entirely full of shit and should not receive a vote or any support whatsoever.
If Bernie Sanders can fund his campaign with small donations, others can do it too. There’s enough demand from the public for politicians to stick it to corrupt oligarchs, and if a politician isn’t funded by the people, he or she will not work for the people. It’s that simple.
Going forward, we need to focus much more attention on donors rather than politicians.— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) July 25, 2017
The donor-puppet relationship must be severed.
That being said, there’s one small positive about Schumer’s op-ed and the overall attempt to rebrand the Democratic Party, irrespective of how dishonest and superficial all of it is. Democratic leadership is on the ropes and they know it. If you let them off the hook because of a few soothing paragraphs in the New York Times, you know what’s going to happen. The same thing that’s happened every other time.
Just take a look at how aggressively Hillary donors are rallying around Kamala Harris for 2020. This is no accident. They’re already mobilizing their media mouthpieces to propagandize this puppet all the way to winning the Democratic nomination. This merely proves the point I made earlier. Unless you deal with the donor problem, you will never, ever take control of this party.
To conclude, the Democratic Party as we know it is finished. The only question is whether or not grassroots Americans can take over the party from the donors and run an economic populist in 2020. If not, and donors once again force a terrible candidate like Kamala Harris, the party will cease to exist as a political force from that moment, transitioning into a fascinating subject for historians to ponder.
Finally, considering I do not identify with any political ideology, tomorrow’s post will discuss how I see myself participating in the political landscape going forward.