OPINION: Corruption & the Democratic Tea Party Moment.
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Heading into the midterm elections, the Democratic Party’s leadership announced that fighting corruption will be a central issue in their campaign.
This is due to the fact that their base and independent/moderate rural voters care about this issue. The Democrats need the support of both sides if they want to make meaningful gains this November.
However, this approach is unlikely to work for the party’s leadership. Many voters see lawmakers like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, her Senate counterpart Chuck Schumer, and others as the problem. It may bring in more Democratic votes, but not in a way that the party’s establishment wants.
Corruption will give Democrats ammunition to use against the GOP. They can use it to energize their base and bring in new voters. It also helps the Democratic Party’s brand move on from Hillary Clinton and her baggage.
However, it’s not very wise for someone to bring the spotlight on a problem that they are part of. Republican leaders made this mistake in the past. It backfired and helped the Tea Party grow. In the 2008 Presidential Election, John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, which was not found well from a Republican voters perspective.
While Palin helped him attract more voters, the choice also elevated the Alaska Governor’s populist and anti-D.C. message. Senator McCain is a favorite amongst lobbyists and his voting record doesn’t match his promises to voters. He now is regularly feuding with others in his party with a Palin-like mindset.
Similarly, the 2012 Republican Vice Presidential pick Paul Ryan tried to appeal to libertarians. Especially after Ron Paul’s Primary campaign that year gained a lot of traction. When Ryan praised Ayn Rand’s libertarian philosophy, it helped their ideas become more mainstream.
Yet, when ideas like fiscal responsibility and ending international military engagements abroad became popular amongst voters, it didn’t workout well for Ryan, particularly when his record is filled with budgets that balloon the debt and support for foreign wars.
Now Speaker Ryan is heading towards retirement. He follows the path of former Republican Speaker John Boehner, who made nearly identical mistakes. He also joins many in the GOP establishment who failed to live up to their promises.
When it comes to the Democrats, current leaders in Congress have a history of corruption. They also conduct their affairs in a way that betray many of the values that they preach to their voters. In turn, this raises questions about both their honesty and commitment to their ideology.
A House of Glass Cards
In 2014, Nancy Pelosi bought up to $5 million stock in Visa, the credit card company. Over the next two years, their value grew by 203% due to the House Minority Leader blocking any attempts to reform credit card regulations in Congress.
How do you think Occupy Wall Street supporters and other progressive voters feel about this? It’s highly unlikely that they will vote Republican, but there is enough of them to disrupt many Democratic Primary races and general elections.
When the San Francisco lawmaker was House Speaker in 2007, she crafted a bill that raised the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. However, she also made sure that companies with employees in American Samoa are exempt from the new law. Amongst them is Del Monte Foods, a company that her husband – Paul Pelosi – invested $17 million in.
Maybe Nancy Pelosi thinks that amount is just “crumbs.” She used that term to describe the amount that working families will save in light of the recent tax cuts. Moreover, many Democrats don’t feel the same way about the minimum wage, especially those who want it as high as $15 an hour.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is no stranger to shady business himself. After drug manufacturer Mylan raised its prices to unreasonable levels, a group of lawmakers wanted to hold a public hearing on the issue. Amongst them was then only-Senator Schumer.
However, the company reportedly made financial contributions to their campaigns. In turn, they ignored the issue and did not investigate their price gouging practices. Chuck Schumer’s 2016 campaign financial filings with the Federal Electoral Committee show that he received $10,000 from Mylan’s CEO, Heather Bresch.
The Blue Tornado
Unsurprisingly, progressive voters are turning towards hard-left insurgent candidates. They cannot take the current Democratic leaders seriously. This includes affordable healthcare, paying workers a living wage, and putting main street ahead of Wall Street.
In light of this, others will fill this gap, especially with a Presidential Primary around the corner.
For example, Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Kristin Gillibrand – both up for re-election – opposed the bank bailouts after the recession. Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard even wants to break up the big banks. None of this would benefit Pelosi nor her investments.
The three Senators, alongside Corey Booker, already caused two government shutdowns. Most of them even rebelled against Schumer’s agreement with the Republicans. Largely over border security and illegal immigration. The block will only grow in power and momentum if more insurgent Democrats get elected.
In regards to healthcare, progressives in Congress sponsored legislation that creates single-payer and Medicare for all programs. Many of them want to replace the highly-unpopular Obamacare. If the Democrats do win the House, Pelosi will have to negotiate budgets with the White House, which will include spending on healthcare. Potential 2020 candidates will have no problem taking hardline stances, even if it means dysfunctional governing.
They can force Congress to extend their session until they vote for a universal healthcare bill. Filibusters can help with that.
With a larger hard-left caucus, Senators can also shutdown the government and demand more funding for Medicare and other programs. For White House hopefuls, there would be many ways to get national attention.
Pelosi and Schumer, on the other hand, will be left between a rock and a hard place. If they oppose the rebels, it will only prove to their base that they are not committed to the cause. Schumer’s past with Mylan and Pelosi’s support for the unpopular Obamacare don’t help the establishment’s case.
If they shutdown the government, the public will view the Democrats as ineffective and unreasonable. This is bad heading into a Presidential Election.
Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner are all familiar with this situation.