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Saturday, October 22, 2016

For those pining for a Democratic Party that tries to represent more than the whims of the rich and powerful, these are, to say the least, confusing times.

On the presidential campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has been promoting standard pro-middle class rhetoric, yet also has been raking in speaking fees from financial firms. One of her potential primary challengers, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, has been sounding anti-Wall Street themes, but only after finishing up two terms in office that saw his state plow more public pension money into Wall Street firms, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in financial fees.

Similarly, in Washington, the anti-Wall Street fervor of those such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren sometimes seems as if it is on the ascent — that is, until big money comes calling.

Indeed, on the very same day Reuters reported on big banks threatening to withhold campaign contributions from Democratic coffers, Democratic lawmakers abruptly coalesced around Charles Schumer as their next U.S. Senate leader. CNN captured in a blaring headline how unflinching an ally the New York senator has been to the financial elite: “Wall Street welcomes expected Chuck Schumer promotion.” Notably, Democrats appeared ready to promote Schumer over Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, who once dared to publicly complain that “banks frankly own” Capitol Hill.

It would be easy to conclude that the status quo is winning Democratic politics — but a series of high-profile elections shows the trends are markedly different outside the national political arena.

Two years ago, the era of billionaire Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Wall Street-worshiping city politics ended when populist Democrat Bill de Blasio and a slate of progressive city councilors backed by New York’s Working Families Party were swept into office promising to increase taxes on millionaires and fund universal pre-kindergarten. A year later, New York’s conservative Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his $40 million campaign war chest couldn’t muster two-thirds of the Democratic primary vote against an unknown progressive opponent named Zephyr Teachout. Though Cuomo was ultimately reelected, he was humiliated, and his future prospects have been significantly diminished.

Now comes Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has shuttered schools, handed out big corporate subsidies, blocked a financial transaction tax and pushed for cuts to city workers’ retirement benefits. He made the old corporate Democratic assumption, betting that he could easily win reelection by simply spending opponents into the ground.

No doubt, Emanuel succeeded in the latter part of that equation. With six-figure checks from financial executives, he amassed $15 million and outspent his top challenger, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, by a 12-to-1 margin. But because of a massive grassroots organizing campaign, Garcia got enough votes to force the first mayoral runoff in the city’s history. At the same time, voters added more progressive voices to the city council.

Lambasted as “Mayor 1 Percent,” Emanuel has been forced to champion more progressive policies to try to appease the Democratic base — he suddenly backed a $13 minimum wage and signed an ordinance compelling developers to pony up more cash for affordable housing. His underfinanced opponent Garcia still may lose the April 7th election, but in a city that has for decades been under the thumb of corporate Democrats’ political machine, a deeper victory for progressives has already happened.

“We’ve put every Democrat in America on notice that there’s a political price to pay for putting the demands of hedge-fund billionaires ahead of the needs of working families,” said Kristen Crowell, executive director of the grassroots Chicago group United Working Families, a sister organization of New York’s progressive Working Families Party.

As perplexing as the Democratic Party’s divide is, Crowell’s straightforward statement rings true. National Democratic politicians may not yet be hearing the message, but if they hope to hang onto power, they probably should start listening.

David Sirota is a senior writer at the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover,” “The Uprising” and “Back to Our Future.” E-mail him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at


Photo: PBS News Hour via Flickr

  • Dominick Vila

    The best thing Democrats, and Republicans, could do is to focus on what is best for the country, rather than what is best for the ideology and narrow goals of both parties.
    The fact that Hillary Clinton accepts Wall Street campaign donations, and is likely to support policies designed to protect and advance the interests of Wall Street is consistent with what most Americans expect from a politician running for the presidency. We are a ,capitalist nation, and ensuring capitalism continues to be the engine that drives our economy, and helps us achieve our national and international goals, most of us support it. We should not confuse the need for effective regulation to limit the probability of fraud and abuse, such as what happened in the ENRON, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Bernie Maddof days, with a rejection of capitalism.
    The same can be said for recent Republican actions or policies, such as the letter sent to the Ayatollahs by 47 U.S. Senators, or State laws passed in Republican states that discriminate against segments of our population.
    There is nothing wrong with political debate and having opposing views on certain subjects, but when it comes to supporting the institutions and values that helped us become who we are today, we must be united and unambiguous on our stand. Hillary has weaknesses, like everyone else, this is not one of them.

    • Capitalism has gotten a bad name partly because too many people equate Wall Street with Capitalism. Let’s be clear: Capitalism involves the production and sale of goods, like food, clothing, cars, houses, etc. Wall Street produces things like derivatives. Banksters are not capitalists.

      • Elliot J. Stamler

        Wall St. produces much much more than derivatives or other crooked financial instruments dangerous to the economy. Greed can be found in the financial industry as well as mfg. and service industries. You paint a far too wide brush. My investments have made me secure for the rest of my life; it is wrong to vilify the whole industry and the reforms mandated in recent years do go along way to rectifying abuses.

        • hicusdicus

          Greed is what makes the world turn.You learned how to work the corruption of wall street to your benefit, so of course it should not be vilified. You got what you wanted so screw everybody else. How are you going to explain this to Jesus? Happy over cooked chicken embryo day that are hiding among the chocolate bunny rabbits

          • Elliot J. Stamler

            Thank you for telling me I am greedy and know how to work corruption for my own selfishness and am ok with screwing everyone else …seeing as how you do not know me at all. And further explaining that Jesus was a socialist. It is extremism like yours that discounts all you write…and I don’t know what on earth your last sentence pertains to.

          • hicusdicus

            What do you mean I don’t know you. You bragged about taking someones money in the stock market and your proud of it. Whenever someone makes money in the market someone loses money. Settle down I was just jerking your chain. 911 got us out of the market forever. $600000,00 evaporated and we decided that was enough loss for one lifetime. I could not figure out what I said either. I think I fell asleep. try reading it again. Jesus is not a socialist he is a figment of mass hysteria.

          • Elliot J. Stamler

            I am very sorry 9/11 hurt you that badly; it hurt me and everyone else badly. I stayed in the market because I knew from extensive study that the market would inevitably return–I emphasize this wasn’t a wild guess on my part but the consequence of scores or hundreds of hours of reading about investing before I ever started. You write whenever someone makes money in the market someone loses..I am sorry but you just do not understand how the capital markets work. This statement is just factually wrong and I seriously think you should read a lot of good books on fundamentals..start with Andrew Tobias and Burton Malkiel’s classic. Example: let us say A buys XYZ CO. $ goes to $42..A decides for whatever reason to get out and takes his 40% profit. B decides to buy in at $42 believing the stock will appreciate it further–it does. Neither has lost money. My friend, you must study how capital markets work.

          • hicusdicus

            That amount of money being lost can cause a lot of rain on the parade but it was only 35% of our capital base. We no longer trust anything we read about the markets. When Jimminy cricket was president we bought 1000 Krugerrands. The aversge cost was about 225.00. We sold out at around 550.00. We made so much money off the Exon Valdez incident it was shame full. There were other things like bank stocks. My wife handled all the investments. I had to get a cashiers check for 125000.00 to pay the IRS just for the bank stock affair. Since I don’t trust giving my money to strangers I decided to put it in a retail business. We averaged 4100.00 a day 6 days a week for 3 years. That was her and I and one employee. It was so busy we sold out. I don’t know about you but I am concerned about the dollar going south. I guess I should mention my wife was the VP of a major oil co for a number of years. She was also a licensed financial adviser graduated from a major university in the top 5 percent with multiple degrees. She is now a multi licensed real estate broker. She can’t sit still. We would not risk any of our capital in this bubble market you can’t trust anything they tell you. We now live on 50 acres with a 5 acre lake in Arkansas. This is going to be it until its time to find out if there is really a Jesus.

      • Linda Turner

        But once capitalism became monopoly capitalism, it has paved the way to plutocracy. Once you to there, you can’t go back. Capitalism today has “infected” our entire culture, and has resulted in a very sick society. Every preceding “system” has given way to a new form; it’s time to advance.

        • midway54

          I think that we are deep into a Gilded Age II plutocracy as understood historically. Reagan started the downslide into the place in which we find ourselves. The plutocrats’ war against the seriously disappearing middle class, against the all but powerless labor unions, and most importantly against dissent,has been and continues to be highly successful in the way it is being waged by the political and media shills dedicated to serving the plutocracy. Now as a result, we have the Plutocratic Party in the majority in each chamber of Congress. The past election increased the number of the most deplorable, demagogic crowd of lunatics ever assembled in decades thanks to the lowest turnout in 70 years. All were bought and paid for by the donating corporations and fatcats, and have already begun serving their donors enthusiastically and obediently. The worst of the lot is Cruz, pride of the Loon Star State; however there now has arrived one who is in strong competition with him for that distinction: Cotton of Arkansas, the author of the letter to Iran which betrayed his staggering lack of judgment and pure common sense exacerbated by his ignorance of protocol, not to mention a lack plain decency. Harvard Law must be so very proud of the two of them.

        • Elliot J. Stamler

          Of course you have every right to believe this but your view is pure dialectical materialism right out of Marxism.

      • ps0rjl

        Maybe we have entered a new type of capitalism but somehow I don’t think it is going to help us have a strong middle class. Where capitalism consists of just changing money around there will never be strong middle class led by union workers. The middle class depends on jobs to create a prosperous economy. Those jobs need to produce goods and services we all need. If everything we need is imported then we will forever have greater and greater income inequality. I personally weep for this country if we have entered a new type of capitalism as it will surely be the end of our great country.

    • Elliot J. Stamler

      Dominick, I thoroughly agree with what you have written as you may know from reading previous posts of mine. Hillary Clinton is in the best sense, a Kennedy-Bill Clinton-Truman-Johnson-Roosevelt Democrat and we here in NY who twice elected her to the Senate know this. Her heart and mind are in the right place. There is nothing wrong with wealth, ambition and capitalism..there is much wrong with greed, ruthlessness and atavistic disinterest in everything except personal gain. It is on that point the two parties divide. If one truly opposes capitalism, there are many parties they can join..the Greens, Socialists, Communists, etc–they do not belong in the Democratic Party. There are plenty of very very rich Wall St. financiers who are Democrats whose contributions to the Democratic Party are INDISPENSABLE to our victories. Thank you for writing political sense.

      • dtgraham

        Who said the Greens or the Social Democrats of the European countries or Canada are opposed to capitalism? They just approach it from a different standpoint, much of which you’ve already articulated as something you believe in.

        • Elliot J. Stamler

          A cogent comment, Mr./Ms. Graham. No, the Greens are thoroughgoing Marxists with an intense enmity toward capitalism and especially in America’s Green Party. But yes, the social democrats, except for their now minority left-left wing, do embrace a regulated capitalism. I know our American economy has about 20% socialism integrated into it already..and it is a good thing it does. I am a moderate and centrist and staunch Democrat and I always cite Abraham Lincoln, who would undoubtedly be a Democrat in today’s time’s that it is the duty of government to provide for the people that which they in their private endeavors cannot provide or provide as well as the public welfare requires. Which is precisely why I am a Roosevelt-Truman-Clinton-Johnson-Kennedy Democrat.

          • dtgraham

            A Roosevelt-Johnson-Kennedy-Warren-Sanders Democrat. Among liberal/progressives world-wide, those are among the very best of us.

    • charleo1

      I don’t see any chance of people in this Country rejecting Capitalism. It’s drilled into our heads practically from birth. But the truth is, since Capitalists now rule every person on the planet, in one way or another. It would actually make very little difference to Capitalism, or the ruling Capitalists, if we did reject it, and did so on a grand scale. Look! Even the Communists are Capitalists now. And, as it turns out, they literally adore each other. A relatively small powerful central government can nimbly target investment dollars, and help the smart, informed Capitalists undercut, and starve out international competition. As well as be the perfect partner in eliminating profit reducing environmental regulations. And with no Civil Liberties, Bill of Rights, or independent labor unions to fuss with. The Capitalists can pay, treat, and force the voiceless employees, to work as long, and as cheaply as is necessary to produce a bottom line to kill for. Which, with the locks on the outside of the factory doors, to reduce theft. And in the event of a fire, chemical leak, or toxic explosion, they also do that too. With nary a court in the land to answer to, their Communist partners in crime, and exploitation, don’t control with an iron fist. So before we get too high extolling the virtues of Capitalism. Let’s be sure we still remember what in fact, Capitalism was in this country, once upon a time. And still remains, when allowed to return to it’s roots.

    • Bill Thompson

      The goal of the moneyed elite is a return to the misery that was the 19th century. Greed and power have no limits nor do they have a Conscience, the return of the robber barons. Ethnic, racial, religious ,and social prejudices are the tools they use to manipulate the populace. Issues like guns, women’s right to choose, gay rights are push button topics that work very well to distract the average American from their own financial and long term interest. SLEEP TIGHT.

      • Dominick Vila

        I share your opinion, although I don’t think all wealthy people, and all businesses, are as greedy as some people think.

  • bobnstuff

    For good or bad Wall St. is part of a lot of our lives. Anyone with a 401k is invested in Wall St.. In fact
    it’s very hard to live in America without them touching your life. As long as we fund our elections with privet money they can and will be
    involved in politics, it’s in their best interests. As long as we elect millionaires to government they will be involved with Wall St.
    It’s just like John Dillinger said when asked why he robbed banks,”Because that’s where the money is”.

  • 1standlastword

    Hillary can win and if she does there will for sure be an office for Warren where she can enforce fairness and a more benign form of capitalism.

    The hope is Warren’s stick gets bigger and that can happen with a progressive Democrat at the helm as POTUS.

    Look at how potent her platform has become with the Obama administration and remember the sock that got stuffed in her mouth under that other guy whose name is now Cain even among his party members

  • j.martindale

    It is all about campaign finance, period. The problem seems unsolvable, particularly in the face of the Supreme Court desire to perpetuate the problem.