It is an unimpeachable fact that wealthy and powerful people have a different legal system in America. We jail more people than Stalin did at the height of his barbarity, and none of them are the people responsible for the Great Recession that wiped out at least 40% of middle class wealth in America. Crime is simply legal in America so long as your net worth is above a certain dollar amount. We put black children in prison for marijuana offenses and let Lloyd Blankfein continue to breathe fresh air. This is a choice—it’s who we are. America was built on the dual foundations of genocide and slavery, and our modern malaise is directly connected to the infrastructure created to protect those two utterly American institutions.
Economics alone will not get us out of this rut. We need to fundamentally change the nature of our legal framework to even begin to make good on the promise of what this country falsely purports to be. Elizabeth Warren gets that notion as well as any 2020 candidate, and today she released yet another policy that everyone in the Democratic Party will ultimately come to support. Per Warren in a Washington Post op-ed:
Opening unauthorized bank accounts. Cheating customers on mortgages and car loans. Mistreating service members. If you can dream up a financial scam, there’s a good chance that Wells Fargo ran it on its customers in recent years. Last week, after years of pressure, the company finally parted ways with its second chief executive in three years. But that’s not nearly enough accountability. It’s time to reform our laws to make sure that corporate executives face jail time for overseeing massive scams.
Elizabeth Warren has the most developed policy platform in the Democratic primary at this early stage in the 2020 primary, and in a media environment where outcomes mattered more than optics, she would be the one getting tons of free media coverage thanks to continually introducing detailed legislation with simple messages like “hey how about immensely wealthy people can also go to prison for breaking the law.”
Instead, we get super substantive coverage like this from major media figures at NBC and the New York Times.
Elizabeth Warren’s campaign can be summarized in a single word: accountability. Not the kind of “personal responsibility” Reaginite accountability nonsense embraced by the Clintonian Democrats that has led us to President Donald J. Trump, but accountability for those in power. It’s a unique concept in America—one we have not quite yet realized.
Hell, women have not even had the right to vote yet for a century. Slavery (legally) lasted almost as long in America as women have been able to sway elections. Accountability for power is simply not built in to our system. This is not up for debate. It says so right there in Section 1 Article 2 Clause 3 of the constitution who can and cannot have power:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
This country was set up to be run by property-owning white men. At the time of our inception, the property most of these men owned was “thee fifths of all other Persons,” and that dynamic still exists today—it’s just the kind of property these men own that has changed. Instead of slaves, they own multinational corporations whose profit-driven interests are at odds with that of the American citizenry. These corporations have more power than individual politicians, and that’s how they gain influence. The leftist paranoia about non-Bernie candidates isn’t unfounded—as demonstrated by the overall disappointment of the Obama presidency, combined with this anonymous CEO of a giant bank unwittingly telling everyone who we can trust, when they told Politico: “It can’t be Warren and it can’t be Sanders.”
I wonder why.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.