So I woke up this morning to an article on Huffington Post that highlighted the schism that developed amongst Democrats on the Senate banking committee. It concerned the recent bill that Trump signed which deregulated parts of the Dodd/Frank legislation enacted after the financial crisis of 2008. That some of the Democrats on the committee and the overall Senate were at odds with one another is not what struck me most about the piece. After all, disorganization and Democrats kind of go hand in hand. No, what was most concerning was how Wall Street money played such a huge role in getting the legislation passed. In all, 17 Democrats ended up crossing over and voted with Republicans on a measure, which basically allowed banks worth up to $250 billion to escape some of the more stringent capital requirements that existed in Dodd/Frank. While the actual deregulation is alarming enough, and worthy of a separate column by itself, it’s really the continued corruption of our politics by unlimited amounts of money that should concern everyone.
Most of us have heard about the disastrous Citizens United decision in 2010 that pretty much opened the vault of corporate America and allowed them and other rich donors to pour millions of dollars into our political campaigns. This recent legislation merely reinforces what is so clearly wrong with our current political system. Big money. Dark money. Unlimited money. It never stops and what’s most alarming, many Democrats are forced to rely on this money. Several on the banking committee, including Sen. Mark Warner(D-Va), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp(D-Nd), and Sen. Jon Tester(D-Mt) are known as being friendly with Wall Street banks. We know the Republican Party is the party of corporate America. When Democrats are forced to go down this road it makes me sick to my stomach.
Democrats have always been the party of the working people and downtrodden of society. Trump was able to hijack this narrative from the Democrats in his race against Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, Mrs. Clinton and her friendlier ties to Wall Street did not help in this regard. It’s time that Democrats take this issue back and own it. With such an important mid-term election coming up, Citizens United ought to be a lightening rod for all Democratic candidates. Republican opponents should be called out on it. Would they support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United? Are they for unlimited dark money rolling into campaigns? What would they do to get corporate money out of politics?
Until we reshape our political system and how we finance campaigns, nothing is going to change. Republicans have no plan, nor do they have any desire for a plan to do anything about it. If Democrats want to win back the narrative, there’s no better place to start than campaign finance reform. Let it be a rallying cry for leveling the playing field. Franklin Roosevelt used to rail about the ‘economic royalists’ back in his day. Democrats need to seize the issue and run on it.
I don’t begrudge those Democrats who happen to rely on Wall Street money for their campaigns. I realize the system is what it is. But we know the Republican Party doesn’t have the stomach for this discussion. Make them own it. Call them out. Take the high road and let them defend the status quo.