An Open Letter to the Democratic Party

A week ago a handful of too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks threatened to withhold campaign donations from Senate Democrats in response to the efforts of Senators like Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown to rein them in. The move was petty, vindictive, even cowardly, leaked as it was on background, the threat as much symbolic as actual, though its implications rang clear enough: Stop messing with us, or we’ll cut you off.

I’m here to urge the DSCC, and the Democratic Party in general, to take them up on it.

I know, it’s probably foolish to expect a political party to turn money down, especially in the age of Citizens United. But it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing, too.

These are the folks, after all, who crashed the economy seven years ago — not just in the US, but globally — through their willful, self-serving irresponsibility. And while the economy has recovered on paper, the benefits of that recovery have not been widely shared. In fact, for those of us outside the bubble-world of the one percent, there hasn’t really been a recovery, because all the aid and the bailouts went to the bankers now pitching a tantrum because they want to do all the things they did in the run-up to the Great Recession again. And why wouldn’t they? Things actually worked out pretty well for them with that whole thing. Corporate profits are way up, and few to no people have done the perp walk despite the rampant fraud and misconduct in the months and years leading up to the crash.

The rest of us? We’re still struggling. With no end in sight. And you know what? We’re mad as hell about it. That’s why this is such an opportunity for those with the vision to realize it. Sure, renouncing Wall Street donations will cost the party some money, but it will allow Democrats to tap into a vast reservoir of popular discontent, one that crosses party lines and spans the political spectrum, because everybody, and I mean everybody, is pissed off at the big banks and the sociopaths who run them.

More than that, we’re pissed off at the political system that coddles and empowers them, so much so that the majority of us don’t even bother to vote. And why should we? When it comes to the economy, there’s not enough daylight between the two parties to draw a meaningful distinction. Sure, there are differences, but what do they mean to the average voter? What in them motivates a non-voter to make it to the polls come Election Day?

That’s where this being the smart thing to do comes in. By renouncing campaign donations from Wall Street, the Democratic party could send a clear, unequivocal signal as to whose side you’re on. By renouncing your complicity with the engines of inequality you give us a reason to turn out every two years. Have you noticed how badly off-year elections have gone for you this decade? Especially 2010, when congressional districts were redrawn? Why do you think that is? Do you think it had something to do with bailing out the big banks and not imposing any consequences for bad actions by bad actors?

It’s been said many times, and it’s backed up by research, that if more people voted, Democrats would win. But most folks have little interest in backing the lesser of two evils, and no interest in voting in folks who’re going to offer only token resistance — if any — to the one percent’s hostile takeover of democracy in the United States.

Look, we’re not dumb out here outside the bubble. We see what’s happening pretty clearly, and what we see is a two-party system where both parties are beholden not to the people who vote for them but to the people who fund their campaigns. And while it’s going to take more than symbolic gestures to win us back over, turning down money from the sociopaths on Wall Street would be a great first step.

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