The title of Noam Scheiber’s November cover story in the New Republic is: “Hillary’s Nightmare: A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies with Elizabeth Warren.” The Democratic Party lost its soul a long time ago, but voters may force it to find it . There are growing signs that voters are waking up to what leftist writer Paul Street describes as:
. . . the richly bipartisan nature of the U.S. corporate, neoliberal, state-capitalist, hierarchical, classist, sexist, imperial white supremacist eco-cidal police surveillance and security state, and the total captivity of the dismal Dollar Democrats and their fake-progressive figureheads and office-holders to the nation’s unelected dictatorship of money.
He goes on to warn liberals that they are being manipulated by a ruling elite;
“Blue-state” campus-towns, lakefront liberals and upper west side Dems need to think harder about how they are being played by the ruling class and its two party game, which is all about making sure that, at the end of the day, people don’t really focus on Goldman Sachs and the rest of the corporate and financial plutocracy.
Paul Street never minces his words. If you think his negative assessment of our political process too extreme, consider that the most recent Gallup poll put Congressional approval at an all-time low of 9%. The reasons for that disapproval may not be as specific or ideological as Street’s, but the electorate is clear about two things—their elected officials are not serving them well, and, the 1% is sucking the life out of the country.
Scheiber says the debate in 2016 will focus on the power of America’s wealthiest and how they are systematically destroying the economy, the environment, and our democracy. Younger voters, who are suffering most at the hands of the elite, are going to demand more than vague promises of hope and change. According to Scheiber, Democratic voters are more angry, disaffected and populist than they have been in decades. This emerging political consciousness will present serious difficulties for Clinton who has deep ties to Wall Street. Wall Street, on the other hand, hates and fears Warren, which will make her more attractive to a young generation. They get the connection between corporate friendly legislation and the fact that they can’t find a decent job. Simply put, Democratic voters, weary of a drawn out, lack luster recovery, are less naïve than they were in 2008.
They are more attuned to income inequality than before the Obama presidency and more supportive of Social Security and Medicare.1 They’ve grown fonder of regulation and more skeptical of big business.2 A recent Pew poll showed that voters under 30—who skew overwhelmingly Democratic—view socialism more favorably than capitalism. Above all, Democrats are increasingly hostile to Wall Street and believe the government should rein it in.
On the other side is a group of Democratic elites associated with the Clinton era who, though they may have moved somewhat leftward in response to the recession—happily supporting economic stimulus and generous unemployment benefits—still fundamentally believe the economy functions best with a large, powerful, highly complex financial sector. Many members of this group have either made or raised enormous amounts of cash on Wall Street. They were deeply influential in limiting the reach of Dodd-Frank, the financial reform measure Obama signed in July of 2010.
I would add that on top of a watered down Dodd-Frank, corporate Democrats gave us the deeply flawed, health insurance industry giveaway known as the Affordable Care Act.
The media has already anointed Hillary as the inevitable Democratic candidate, but if Warren decides to run, she will present a formidable challenge. For decades, Warren has been driven by her deep concern over the shrinking middle class. Her authenticity and clear talk about the source of our economic problems, and her common sense solutions, may be a better match for the mood of the country.
In 2016, Scheiber says, voters will be looking for a candidate who understands their struggles and will reject anyone who has deep ties to banks and finance. He points to a leftward trend in the country and cites several examples starting with Bill de Blasio who won the New York mayoral election on a platform of addressing inequality. De Basio beat Christine Quinn, who had close ties to Bloomberg and the financial sector, in the Democratic primary. He went on to win against a Republican opponent by a landslide. He held his victory party at a YMCA rather than a fancy downtown hotel.
More progressive Senate Democrats, angry about Summer’s role in deregulating the banks, forced Larry Summers, Obama’s his pick for Federal Reserve chairman, to withdraw his name. Bill Daley, former Obama chief of staff and JP Morgan executive, recently withdrew from the Democratic primary for governor of Illinois after polls showed him trailing current governor Pat Quinn. His decision to drop came on the heels of repeated populist attacks from Quinn, who portrayed him as a member of the same wealthy banker class that had caused the recession.
I’m sure Hillary, a brilliant politician, sees the writing on the wall. The country, feeling burned by both parties, including the so-called Tea Party, is moving left. Unfortunately, like Bill Clinton and current president Obama, Hillary’s economic advisors are the same Wall Street crowd that caused the Great Recession. She’s great on women’s issues, and gay issues, and can talk convincingly about the struggles of working families, but her financial and political ties to banks and corporations represent a conflict of interest, and could make her less attractive and trustworthy in the eyes of the electorate.
Scheiber describes the ideal candidate to take on Hillary Clinton:
Which brings us to the probable face of the insurgency. In addition to being strongly identified with the party’s populist wing, any candidate who challenged Clinton would need several key assets. The candidate would almost certainly have to be a woman, given Democrats’ desire to make history again. She would have to amass huge piles of money with relatively little effort. Above all, she would have to awaken in Democratic voters an almost evangelical passion. As it happens, there is precisely such a person. Her name is Elizabeth Warren.
Contrary to popular opinion, Scheiber thinks Warren has a chance to defeat Clinton in the primary. And, as we all know, it won’t be the first time a younger, political newbie has won the nomination from an older, seasoned member of a political dynasty. If she chooses to run, Warren will be running, not for her own ambition, not because “it’s her turn,” but on behalf of a battered middle class and for the restoration of the soul of the Democratic Party.