There’s nothing particularly sexy about what’s happening above the radar in Democratic politics. Primaries for Congress and states don’t start until well after the calendar flips to 2018, so the bitterness and nastiness is only being planned rather than revealed. The campaign professionals remind all candidates of the motto of Emily’s List: Early Money Is Like Yeast.
So, t ’is the season to receive the invitation to all the fund-raisers. Somewhat akin to the way in which Republicans have flag-flation at public events, Democrats have diarrhea of the name-dropping at their semi-secret fund-raisers. I recently received an invitation to a fund-raiser for a state senate candidate which had over one-hundred co-hosts. Even though I ran for Congress twice in a district that includes that state senate district, I was extremely honored to not be on the list of the hosts, and in fact, to never have been asked.
You see, names are the currency that precede the dollars when it comes to fund-raising. Well, more accurately, they are the teasers to get big bucks. For those who are part of the Bernie donor base (average $27 a pop), they really don’t care who else is giving, or what their titles are, or where their kids go to school. They just want to support a candidate who will do their bidding for them and all they expect in return is that the candidate will honor their faith. They don’t care about getting their names or photos splashed all over the place.
Last time I checked, the winners of elections are normally determined by who gets the most votes, not who raises the most money. There are plenty of candidates who were successful in filling the coffers but not pleasing the voters.
I was very disappointed when I saw several months ago that California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, a 2020 presidential hopeful, was making inroads with the Democratic Donor Base. My fear was that she would follow the footsteps of Hillary Clinton and remove herself from her natural base while spending her evenings and nights offering plastic smiles and insincere promises to the folks with big bucks.
While it is essentially true that all big donors come from the wealthy, the reverse is not true. It’s surprising how many wealthy people are not political donors. If a candidate wants to be inclusive and address the interests of the wealthy, he or she can do so without dialing for their dollars. It has been repeatedly shown that moving people out of poverty and improving the living standards of those in the middle class is beneficial to the wealthy – primarily because more money is in circulation.
So even while it is true that to achieve a more just and fair economy and society, the wealthy will have to sacrifice in the short-run, in the long-term it will probably help them.
It is essential to recognize that over 97% of households with income over $200,00 do not make donations of $2,700 or more to political candidates. When we’re talking about donations to Democrats, the number is closer to 99% of wealthy people who do not.
Ninety-four percent of the population of the United States lives in households with incomes less than $200,000. That’s where the votes are. That’s how Bernie Sanders did so well.
There are many wealthy Americans who are not ostentatious. Their political views are largely private, or at least devoid of large donations.
Democratic candidates can be inclusive of the wealthy if they are willing to be honest. It’s much easier to do that with someone from whom you are not asking for money.
Democrats who insist on sucking up to the donor class will always be at risk of the disconnect that befell Hillary Clinton. They can raise money and win if they have compelling arguments for the natural constituencies of the Democratic Party. It is time to diminish the role of the Democratic Donor Base in the groupism fabric of the Democratic Party. Candidates are more likely to win more and feel good about it.