The other intra-party fight

Much attention has been focused on the internal battles that risk tearing the Republican party apart. But Alex Pareene points out that there is a battle within the Democratic party as well in which left-wing activists are trying to steer it away from its traditional Wall-Street friendly approach, represented by groups like the Third Way that are friendly to CEO’s and Wall street and pour money into candidates they like, such as Cory Booker.

Pareene says that while much of the media’s attention tends to be focused on personalities that are taken as representing specific viewpoints (Elizabeth Warren v. Hillary Clinton), that is not where one should look.

It’s certainly easier to discuss intra-party disagreements about policy and strategy in terms of big clashing personalities, but the people and organizations championing left-wing economic policy and strict financial regulation, from Demos to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, aren’t part of a shadow Warren campaign, they’re part of a campaign to drag Democrats away from the pro-rich Washington consensus. The point of arguing for more “economic populism” isn’t necessarily to take down Hillary Clinton in 2016, though I’d certainly rather have a President Warren than another President Clinton. (Though — and I say this as a Warren admirer — she’s kind of a blank slate on non-finance issues, right?) Clinton isn’t quite inevitable, but aiming immediately for the presidency is in many respects reaching for a symbolic victory before achieving anything substantial. The point of “economic populism” is to fix the Democratic Party at every level.

That’s what explains the backlash, which has been growing. Some of it is still couched in terms of Warren vs. Clinton, like David Frum’s slightly disingenuous warning that embracing populism will lead inexorably to President Ted Cruz, but something like the Third Way’s recent Wall Street Journal Op-Ed is a broad warning, to all Democrats, to avoid all the policies associated with Warren, income inequality, and redistribution.

They’re not afraid that Warren will run for president, they’re afraid that she’ll be so popular that other senators will start acting like her. They’re worried that she’ll have money to direct to candidates who share her views. They’re worried that Warren might embarrass Democrats into passing stricter bank regulations. They’re worried that finance’s iron grip on the Democratic Party might weaken.

There’s no good reason that reliably liberal states should be electing senators as friendly to Wall Street as Cory Booker. But if you can’t stop a Cory Booker, the next best thing is to force him to change his positions to avoid pissing off the base. And there’s already some evidence that that’s worked on Booker: He quickly reversed his stance on Social Security after pressure from the economic populists.

It is a good article. I agree with him that while the person who becomes the standard bearer is important, it is as important that they feel the pressure from those who want to wrest control of the party away from the Wall Street Democrats.


  1. Wylann says

    Yes, but the Dems have nearly always been pretty split over various topics. It’s actually refreshing to me to see what appears to be an occasional inkling of true progressivism sneak into the big D party.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    Yes, but the Dems have nearly always been pretty split over various topics.

    “I’m not a member of any organized political party…. I’m a Democrat.” – Will Rogers

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