By Alvin Chan
The Resistance vs Donald Trump. This phrase has been used for the past two years in the news, on social media platforms, in rallies. Some might say that the 'resistance' are moderate Republicans who have the guts to criticise the President, like Senator Mitt Romney, George W Bush, Former Senator John McCain. However, the real resistance encompasses mainstream Democrats who have pushed back against the incompetent, ignorant and narcissistic Trump administration, such as the presidential hopefuls Cory Booker (who has officially announced his bid), Kamala Harris (who has officially announced her bid) and Kirsten Gillibrand (who has formed an exploratory committee).
In their campaign rhetoric, scrutinisation of the Trump administration and policy stances, they have been moving to the left to keep in pace with the Bernie Sanders-inspired Democratic Party. Booker, Harris and Gillibrand are all in support of Medicare for All, because if they want the 2020 nomination, this is a progressive ideas that they will have to get behind. Gillibrand, a moderate representing New York in the US Senate, has gone as far to endorse abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) due to the controversy over Trump's inhumane family separation policy and, Bernie Sanders' single payer healthcare bill. Harris has called for changes in ICE and also backed universal healthcare and free college tuition.
However, giving them the label of 'progressive' is misleading. The reality is, they are not. According to CNBC, all three candidates have reached out to financial executives lately, including Blackstone's Jonathan Gray, Robert Wolf of 32 Advisors and the Centerbridge Partners founder Mark Gallogly. However, that's only part of the story. Kirsten Gillibrand reeled in $3.2 million USD from the financial industry during her 2012 Senate campaign. That included about $90,000 USD each from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as well as $63,500 from Blackstone. She received more than $2.4 million USD in contributions in her 2018 reelection campaign, including donations from Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Blackstone. Cory Booker, meanwhile, received $4.4 million USD from donors employed in financial services during his 2014 Senate campaign. These included Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan Chase, which all gave his campaign more than $50,000 USD in contributions. Kamala Harris' campaign organisation has received at least $765,000 USD from the securities and investment industry over the past two years, showing that she plans to fund her presidential run with more than small-dollar donations. All this is not representative of a party that has pledged to take dark money, special interests and corruption out of politics. Rather, it's a sign of hypocrisy.
Recently, a story about Gillibrand personally working the phones to woo Wall Street came out, and rather than addressing her ties, her campaign deflected this problem and responded defensively, saying how she supported financial regulation (Gillibrand herself tweeted her record of fighting against Wall Street), and promising that if she did run, she would follow Elizabeth Warren's pledge of 'no to the billionaires, no to corporate Political Action Committees'. What this reveals is not that Gillibrand and others want Wall Street backing, but that they want financial CEOs to back them. Even if they fool everyone and take no contributions from Wall Street, all three are playing politics with populist rhetoric, showing that they are nothing more but political opportunists. If Democratic Party primary voters truly believe in making their country work for the many, not the few, perhaps they should focus their attention on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have shown a real willingness to abandon the cozy corporatist ties of the Democratic Party with the finance, insurance, real estate, healthcare and many more industries. Furthermore, they are genuine left wing populists who have railed against Wall Street for most of their adult life.
Gillibrand and the other 'progressives' are behaving perfectly normal. They understand that without the wealth and power, their presidential campaigns won't get anywhere. But even more important is that they know that left wing stances is what America needs to get out of their exploitative corporatist capitalist mess and have a chance in winning the Presidency. But resistance comes with being a genuine left wing populist, building a grassroots movement and fighting for a people-powered America. Resistance is not capitulation to the millionaires and billionaires that have destroyed American democracy and the American way of life, and are the direct cause of the rise of Trump. These 'philanthropic' elites might allow some progressivism, but necessary, progressive ideas like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, debt free college, abolishing ICE, criticising Israel and a new Glass-Steagall Act that keeps them wealthy and others weak, are all big no-nos.
Big business will most likely bet heavily on the Democratic Party in 2020, just like they did in the 2018 midterms, maybe even more so than it did in 2016. Normally, the Democratic Party receives less capital than the far-right Republican Party, but with a narcissistic, arrogant and ignorant clown in the White House, it is often the first, even if the elites feel uneasy with the Democrat's allegedly 'radical' and 'Venezuelan' ideas.
The ruling elite of America has a nice state of activity when it comes to elections. But for a party who are supposed to have roots in the working class, any signs of a genuinely pro-workers rights social democratic party are non-existent. A party taken over by Washington-based fundraisers, lobbyists, pollsters who have focused instead on raising campaign money from corporate and Wall Street executives and getting votes from upper middle-class households in suburbs rather than destroyed working class areas is not what the Democrats should pride themselves upon. There needs to be a Democratic Party that truly creates barriers to avoid manipulation to special interests and comes out firm in saying 'enough is enough'.
Plenty of Democratic individuals, like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer and many more, believe in the neoliberal growth model and have gotten personally wealthy off of it. There is this fantasy that is believed in the Democratic Party that the only viable way forward for the party is to ally with big corporate interests and then being progressive on the margin to win favours. With such sentiments, it doesn't take much effort or 'fake news' to convince working class Americans that they have been left behind by those who claim to have their interests at heart.
However, the Democratic Party is not a monolith. It is rapidly changing with the election of young democratic socialists that truly understand the problems of this country, such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Lauren Underwood. However, their election won't scare money away from the Democratic Party, it will only embolden Wall Street to invest more heavily into centrist, neoliberal, out of touch establishment figures to maintain the ruinous status quo.
Corporate America knows who their real enemies are: more than anyone else, the establishment shudder at the sight of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They are 2020 frontrunners, however they have been dismissed despite their high favorability rates, name recognition and small-donor fundraising ability. This is because of concerns that they are out of touch with what the American people truly want, or in Elizabeth Warren's case, her likeability, which is nothing more but a sexist diatribe. As 2019 goes on, that dismissal will turn into an all-out civil war when the Democratic presidential contenders come face to face in their first debates due in June of this year.
Anyone who believes that Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand are what America needs is out of touch and they will only hand Trump a second term in 2020. As much as there is the need for a female President at a time where females continue to be ignored by misogynistic men, or the need for another African American male President to heal racial divisions, ones that have associations with Wall Street are not in line with the problems the US is facing. This is an indication that they are nothing more but political opportunists with a large ego. However, Wall Street does not see it that way, and isn't afraid of corporate Democrats gaining power. It's afraid of the Democrats who will take them on – and those, unfortunately, do not exist in any of these three contenders for President. America needs to take a look at Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as genuine progressive contenders if they are to get out of this amoral mess.