Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Campaign Finance

Why Elizabeth Warren is Writing Those Lefty White Papers

Have you noticed that over the past few weeks, Elizabeth Warren has been trying to outflank Bernie Sanders from the left? Wealth tax! Workers on corporate boards! Break up tech monopolies! Abolish the electoral college! Reparations for slavery! The press has dutifully been reporting on these new policy positions, with NYMag’s Eric Levitz going so far as to say:

at this point, one could even argue that he’s a smidgen to her right on economic policy

The thing is, if you look at Warren’s history, she has never been all that left-wing. She flipflops on Medicare-For-All. She supported the Republican Party until 1996. She stayed out of the 2016 primary, declining to endorse Sanders. She rejected the “democratic socialist” label, and applauded Donald Trump when he said America would never be a socialist country. In 2012, Warren ran to the right of Democratic rival Marisa DeFranco, and in her book, The Two-Income Trap, she largely ignores the interests of poor and low-income Americans, focusing heavily on the aspirational, entrepreneurial “middle class”. So why is Warren telling everybody she’s for all these flashy left-sounding things?

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The Decline of the 20th Century Political Campaign

Political campaigns started getting expensive in the 1960s, when television advertising became the next big thing in campaigning. Even before TV, reaching people was hard work. You needed to knock on doors, phone bank, and send out mailings. All of this required a lot of dedicated activists and dedicated dollars. And so politicians depended very heavily on the activists and donors who could provide these things. All of this is in the process of changing. Activists and dollars are becoming less important than they used to be. They still matter, but not as much. And as time goes on, they grow weaker.

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The Democratic Party Can Still Be Captured, and It’s Worth Doing It

You know what surprised me? So many people took Bernie Sanders’ defeat as a reason to give up on the Democratic Party. When Sanders announced he was running, one of my good friends messaged me. He was so excited! There was someone challenging Clinton who believed in things! But I gave him a cold shower. The Democratic Party gave up on stuff like single payer and tuition free college ages ago! Sanders was polling in the single digits. We’d be lucky if he got 10%! I eventually came around and saw that 2016 wasn’t going to be a rerun of 2012. Something fundamental had changed–people were frustrated with the status quo but in a deeper way than they were in 2008. They wanted someone bold who promised to do big things. Giving nice speeches about how much you care is okay, but it doesn’t pay your medical bills or your student debt. Politicians today have to persuade people they’ll do exciting things. This caused problems for the Democratic Party establishment. It was good at a lot of things, but exciting policy wasn’t one of them. Sanders came quite close to beating Clinton, and then Donald Trump–the least popular major party presidential candidate in history–did it. This changed the way I viewed the Democratic Party, in ways that have only slowly become clear to me.

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