Last Saturday’s post addressed ways to disrupt commercial the forces undermining our democracy. Ways to restore balance to the Force, if you will. Today, please look at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s speech to New America’s Open Markets meeting. Warren attacks consolidation itself, not just in finance but across industries including the tech sector, as an anti-competitive trend that must be stopped by more hard-headed regulation.
Earlier this week I mentioned Warren’s roll as principled antagonist for all the right corporate lapdogs in Congress. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism echoes those thoughts in response to Warren’s Open Markets speech:
Warren is continuing to be a thorn in the side of powerful interests. And even though bona fide progressives are disappointed on her support of our misadventures in the Middle East, and her general fealty to feckless Team Dem positions outside her particularly interests, the concentration of economic power and the resulting high corporate profit share of GDP is a big part of why capitalists are partying while workers struggle. Warren is taking on a central topic that is starting to mainstream traction. Even if Warren falls well short of being the Great Progressive Hope, it’s a mistake to disregard how she uses her bully pulpit to undermine a key justification for the rise of inequality in our society: that the operation of markets is always and ever virtuous and therefore outsized pay and profits are justly earned. The more monopolist wannabes are seen as parasites, the better off we will be.
“Out of touch” is a perennial criticism of candidates from both major parties. The Brexit vote in the UK was an exercise in politicians misreading their voters. This year, however, the presence of Donald Trump and His Amazing War Chest leaves Democrats at risk of developing a false sense of security. It doesn’t help that FiveThirtyEight predictions favoring Democrats just get rosier. But as I said last September, so long as the T-party controls state legislatures and the Congress, who Democrats elect as president won’t much matter.
From where many of us sit, the presidential race is a distraction unless the Democratic candidate sends sends us lawyers, guns and money, and provides coattails for our state-level candidates. Talk of landslides just worries me that Democrats will stay home and our local candidates will suffer. If voters are going to come out in November for a contest between two candidates with high disapproval ratings, they will need a reason, something to vote for.
That’s why op-eds like Sarah Eberspacher’s in the Guardian give me pause. She cautions against the tendency on the left to write off white, male, blue collar voters like those from her rural Illinois hometown (or here on the edge of Appalachia) as racist, sexist, and uneducated:
The Democratic party – and by that, I mean the party gatekeepers with power to wield media influence, which worked out great for the Brexit vote – are writing off those hardcore racists as an overblown minority that is making more noise than they can translate into votes. But overlooking “regular Joe” moderate voters like the ones who filled my childhood could be our undoing.
Reducing human decision-making to a binary this or that choice turns humans into Flatlanders with no other dimensions to their thinking. So the rush to explain last week’s Brexit vote as simple xenophobia or stupidity is rankling. (Don’t get me started on the complaint that people voted against their best interests.) A flush of articles examines the human psychology that led to it.
Time magazine quotes Drew Westen (“The Political Brain”):
“There’s a very legitimate reason to be concerned about immigration,” says psychologist Drew Westen of Emory University. “Unfortunately ISIS has given would-be fence-sitters the permission to vote out of some combination of conscious or unconscious prejudice or bias.” That hardly means that pro-Brexit Britons acted out of racism; it does mean that people who do traffic in racism had more power to influence voters than they would have had in more peaceable times.
COLUMBIA — Voters fired a backlash against Statehouse incumbents in runoff elections Tuesday as a string of veteran lawmakers were tossed out of office, including controversial Spartanburg County Republican Sen. Lee Bright, who made gender bathrooms and defense of gun rights a cornerstone of his last months in office.
Bright, who is also known for his failed bills to track refugees resettling in South Carolina and to limit which bathrooms transgender individuals can use, lost to former state Rep. Scott Talley, a favorite of both Gov. Nikki Haley and the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. Both had been critical of Bright’s over-the-top stances.
The idea of Sen. Elizabeth Warren joining Hillary Clinton on the Democratic presidential ticket leaves me uneasy, as much as I would enjoy the show. Warren brings real progressive chops to a presidential campaign that could use it with the electorate in an anti-establishment mood. Plus, she brings a lot of her own star power. Warren proved yesterday in Ohio she can sure wow a crowd as Clinton cannot. And brother, can she get under Donald Trump’s skin. From the Guardian:
Warren laid into the presumptive GOP nominee, characterizing him with a now familiar line as a “small, insecure money-grubber who fights for no one but himself”.
“I’m here today because I’m with her,” she said, as Clinton stood by her side. “She doesn’t whine. She doesn’t run to Twitter to call her opponents fat pigs or dummies.
“Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States because she knows what it takes to beat a thin-skinned bully who is driven by greed and hate.”
And the crowd goes wild.
On Friday, global markets had their biggest daily loss ever. Larger than the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the Black Monday Crash of 1987. There have since been lots of stories of regret among Brexit ‘Leave’ voters, many of whom seem not to have understood what they were voting for.
This is why the thinking within the Democratic Party has gotten so flabby over the years. It increasingly seems to rejoice in its voters’ lack of real choices, and relies on a political formula that requires little input from anyone outside the Beltway.
It’s heavily financed by corporate money, and the overwhelming majority of its voters would never cast a vote for the nut-bar God-and-guns version of Republicanism that’s been their sole opposition for decades.
So the party gets most of its funding without having to beg for it door to door, and it gets many of its votes by default. Except for campaign-trail photo ops, mainstream Democrats barely need to leave Washington to stay in business.
Still, the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the Democrats have come to believe they’ve earned their status, by being the only plausible bulwark against the Republican menace.
As Roy Cooper said this week, “Hold on. I’m coming.”
The 2014 midterm elections were a disaster for Democrats across the country. Appearing on Meet the Press afterwards, former DNC chair Gov. Howard Dean complained about their lack of message, “Where the hell is the Democratic party? You’ve got to stand for something if you want to win.”
It takes more than that. You’ve got to demonstrate you are willing to fight for it too.
Georgia congressman John Lewis deployed a strategy from his days as a civil rights activist and coupled it with social media to stage a dramatic sit-in Wednesday on the House floor with his fellow Democrats to force a vote on gun control — and disrupt political business as normal well into the night.
“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary, sometimes you have to make a way out of no way,” said Lewis, one of the last living icons of the civil rights movement. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”
“Your honor, I hope that I can persuade you that it was not a nefarious thing,” replied Thomas A. Farr, an attorney for the state of North Carolina. He was arguing yesterday to uphold the state’s sweeping 2013 voting changes before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. One of the judges seemed skeptical:
Judge Henry F. Floyd questioned the timing of the changes — done after Republicans took control of state government for the first time in a century and after the U.S. Supreme Court undid key provisions of the Voting Rights Act — and whether they weren’t done to suppress minority votes for political gain.
“It looks pretty bad to me,” Floyd said.
Floyd was not the only judge on the panel who appeared skeptical. Talking Points Memo:
The U.S. Justice Department, state NAACP, League of Women Voters and others sued the state, saying the restrictions violated the remaining provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals fast-tracked the review in an expected presidential battleground state, with competitive races for governor and U.S. Senate.
Voters must now show one of six qualifying IDs, although those with “reasonable impediments” can fill out a form and cast a provisional ballot. The voter ID mandate began with this year’s March primary.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. asked pointed questions about why public assistance IDs, used disproportionally by minorities, were not acceptable in the final version of the law.
“Why did they take it out?” asked Wynn, a former North Carolina state appeals judge.