There is a war taking place within the Democratic Party. For the last 40 years, the donor class has ruled with an iron fist, and austerity economics has taken root in party dogma. Now, with a new, far more liberal generation on the rise (that doubles as the largest generation in history), the donor class is being put on the defense. Radical redistribution has gone from radical to a near consensus in liberal politics. Things are bad because the most rich and powerful made it that way, and climate change is the ultimate proof that letting the donor class continue to set the agenda is literal suicide.
Which is why you are seeing every serious Democratic candidate forego PAC money. The jig is up on “campaign donations,” and candidates know that they cannot be seen as men and women of the people if they're flush with cash from the various billionaire PACs. That said, eschewing PAC money still doesn't mean denying money from big donors, and today, Elizabeth Warren drew a stark line in the sand between her and the Kamala Harris' of the world. Per the New York Times:
Senator Elizabeth Warren on Monday escalated her presidential campaign's battle against big money in politics, announcing that her bid for the Democratic nomination will forgo traditional fund-raising methods meant to cultivate a candidate's relationships with the wealthy.
The Massachusetts senator said she would no longer hold the private fund-raisers and one-on-one meetings with big donors that have become typical for Democrats and Republicans.
“That means no fancy receptions or big money fund-raisers only with people who can write the big checks,” Ms. Warren said in a morning email to supporters. “It means that wealthy donors won't be able to purchase better seats or one-on-one time with me at our events. And it means I won't be doing 'call time,' which is when candidates take hours to call wealthy donors to ask for their support.”
A candidate can be genuine in her desire to enact major legislation like Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal, but if they are taking direction primarily from major donors, those policies will get watered down into something more “market-friendly.” We have witnessed this time and time and time again—most recently with the Affordable Care Act where the Democrats turned a public option into Mitt Romney's health care plan. We cannot get fooled again.
This war is finally being won by the grassroots. Armed with the knowledge of the Obamacare fights, a sea change has taken place, and the Overton Window is dramatically shifting to the left for the first time in millennials' lifetimes. For example, this is the so-called (and actually called) “establishment” candidate pushing back against the bankrupt (and D.C.-consensus) notion that all government spending is a net negative. We need to start thinking about government spending as the investment it has always been, and answers like this are a phenomenal way to push the conversation in that direction.
The donor class wants the government to take less of their money in taxes, not just for the obvious reason, but also because it reduces our collective purchasing power. Stuff like healthcare and roads and bridges are going to be paid for by us regardless of how we choose to pay for it, and as Wal-Mart and Coscto prove, buying in bulk saves you money. There is no larger bulk purchaser than the United States government, and by reducing the money we spend on these vital programs, the Real Rulers of this country not only get to keep more of their own money, but they make things more expensive by watering down our purchasing power and spreading it out. Given the hole we find ourselves in, moves like the ones Warren announced today should be considered the bare minimum in order to prove an alliance to grassroots priorities, which largely stand opposed to those of the donor class.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.