For decades the US system has been rigged for the rich, for whites, for men. Fixing that so that everyone may benefit from America's growth and share in our country's critical decisions is the central issue of the 2020 election and the next decades.
It is also the central mission of the Democratic Party. The GOP has demonstrated that they are the party of Wall Street. The Dems are and should be the party of Main Street. But Dem centrists have been coopted by Wall Street for decades as well.
I was in the Clinton Administration and we were driven by an unhealthy pre-occupation with bond markets and the tastes and views of the financial community. Many of the same people and ideas were found in the Obama Administration.
The perception is the establishment in both parties are complicit in rigging the system to favor the few. That's the perception because it is true. Trump, paradoxically given his billionaire status, was elected by the disenfranchised because he seemed an outsider & not "owned."
Of course, he was not. He was not only a tool of the very rich but also foreign enemies of the U.S. He was not only advancing the interests of his billionaire buddies but he was also cashing in on the presidency as never before, the most corrupt president in American history.
He was not the alternative to the process by which the establishment has been rigging the system and exacerbating inequality in America since the 1970s, he was actually the worst example of it. He was, we must hope, the nadir that sets off alarms and mobilizes action.
While politicians speculate about what events will drive the election results in 2020, regular people go to bed at night worrying if tomorrow will bankrupt them. Half of Americans would be undone by an unexpected expense in excess of $1000. Half have savings under $400.
They go to bed staring at the ceiling wondering how they will make it. They also know that Washington won't help. The last round of tax cuts didn't touch them, didn't create jobs, weren't reinvested. They went to the rich, the 1%.
The benefits of the last recovery went to America's wealthiest too. Average Americans see higher education as something that will create a life long debt burden. They see good health care as an impossible dream that if needed, will undo their lives.
They know their pension plans are likely to go bust & that Social Security won't be there for them. They know the old social contract is not only obsolete, it is falling apart. If they are black, Latino, immigrants or women, they know the system is even more stacked against them.
And they have heard the same old same old from politicians for so long that they don't trust them. The current unprecedented national scandal we are weathering doesn't help. But change is essential.
We must address and reverse inequality, create opportunity, upgrade education from pre-K through college, make it affordable, protect the environment, identify the jobs of tomorrow and promote American competitiveness, protect pensions, combat the sources of economic anxiety.
We must fight the partisanship and gridlock and pervasive corruption in Washington--and the system that offers the presidency and high offices to the highest bidders from home and abroad. We must make new coalitions and end the racism and sexism by promoting real inclusion.
We took a step in this direction by electing a House of Representatives that looks more like America than any other in our history. But we are only part of the way. Having a Congress that is 25 percent women is an improvement...but a long way from representative of reality.
Responding to these issues is what is driving the current political discussion in the U.S. The pundits who see the "rise of the left" in Democratic politics are using old language cooked up by Wall Street to protect their interests.
It is not "leaning left" to seek equity, fairness, justice, opportunity, competence and an end to corruption. It is both being an American and listening to the needs of the majority of Americans today. In fact many of the "new ideas" circulating...
...like fair taxation of the ultra rich are not new at all. They are the original ideas we started out with long ago, in Republican and Democratic administrations alike. So too providing basic guarantees for retirement, decent schools, or shared opportunity for all.
That is not the GOP platform to be sure. It is not what Trump is about. He and his cronies are literally looting American on behalf of the few at the expense of the rest of us. But it is what these new voices are promoting...and the best of them are going further.
They are saying let's prepare for 21st C. challenges, let's understand how America can compete in a world of rapid technological change, let's understand how we can continue to lead in this new world. They are looking for new ideas to address new problems--like a Green New Deal.
Charts that show Democratic leaders skewing "leftward" mislead. They are actually skewing forward, leaning in the direction of what the people want and the country needs. Labels like left and right are meaningless in times like these.
The more meaningful descriptions are "right" and "wrong", "compassionate" and "self-serving", "innovative" and "reactionary." The GOP is seeking to turn the clock back to the Gordon Gekko 1980s. These new voices of Democratic Party leadership...
and many many others are doing what Washington finds unthinkable: they are listening, not to big donors but to the rest of us, listening and caring and acting. What we are seeing is a sea-change.
The shift that Bill Clinton led toward a Third Way, which was really a tack towards Reaganism, which I was part of as a member of the Clinton Administration, led us in the wrong direction. The Democratic Party largely lost its way.
There were good points--healthcare reform, environmental reform from the Obama team--and they were much better than the alternatives--but they were compromised as well by efforts to dance to big money's tune. With some luck, that era of selling out is coming to an end.
We need a new social contract in America. We need an America that works for everyone even as everyone works for America. We need an America that is as good as it is great. And for the first time in many years, it seems we may just have the will and the vision to get there.
You can follow @djrothkopf.
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