Pity Party

What we learned from liberals at Netroots Nation


7/20/14 10:09 AM EDT

At a high-profile gathering of progressives this week, Hillary Clinton was tolerated, Barack Obama was pitied, and Elizabeth Warren was treated like a hero.

Candidates hoping to harness this crowd’s enthusiasm will need to embrace that pugnacious stance toward big business, not just talk about creating more opportunities for the middle class. Attendees here see Wall Street as a deeply damaging force in American politics and they want the kind of retribution Warren promises.

Netroots attendees hail from the most liberal corners of the Democratic Party. To them Clinton is simply too conservative on fiscal and foreign policy matters. They see the former New York senator as tight with Wall Street, and she doesn’t strike them as willing to fight for working people the way Warren does.

Yet interviews with several attendees suggest it’s not a lost cause for Clinton. If she distances herself from big business, highlights her support for labor – a point that came up several times here, given the big union representation at the conference – and demonstrates she cares about the struggles of ordinary Americans, she could go a long way with this group. What it really comes down to, activists say, is a shift in what Clinton emphasizes.

“She would have to have Elizabeth Warren’s message,” said Cindy Pettibone, an activist from the Washington, D.C., area. “Against big banks and corporations, for the little guy, restoring the middle class and unions.”

Even though grassroots activists acknowledge that Clinton is the most electable Democrat on the radar right now, they don’t want a Clinton coronation.

And if Warren doesn’t run, they are hoping another left-leaning candidate will challenge Clinton so that the party will have to engage in a full-throated debate about where it stands on economic issues. They also believe that regardless of whether other candidates are viable, a contested primary would push Clinton to the left.

Potential alternatives some cited include Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described socialist. There’s also Vice President Joe Biden, whose keynote speech Thursday was well-received. Though some activists said they don’t view Biden much to the left of Clinton, they love that he pushed (if only inadvertently) President Barack Obama to endorse gay marriage in 2012. And they perceive him as slightly less hawkish than the president.

The president has had a tumultuous relationship with the Netroots crowd.

They loved him during his nomination fight ahead of the 2008 election, but many of these activists have grown disillusioned at seeing the White House fail to produce much of the change they felt they’d been promised.

Dem base: Fine with Hillary Clinton, pining for Elizabeth Warren


7/18/14 4:31 PM EDT

Netroots draws the most liberal elements of the Democratic base – but they are also among the most politically active, and Clinton will need to inspire enthusiasm among them should she run. And it’s not as if that sentiment is nonexistent: Several people said they see her as a trailblazer for women in politics. But many others also described the former secretary of state and first lady as too close to Wall Street, too conservative on national security issues and as an insufficiently fiery champion for the middle class.

“Does she connect with people? Can she articulate [their struggles]?” Wherley said. “Elizabeth Warren speaks regularly about that. Hillary Clinton does not. … Elizabeth Warren intends to lift up the middle class. I don’t know what Hillary’s vision is for doing that. Would she cross bankers? Payday lenders?”

Clinton is “fairly close to Wall Street, she’s less aggressive about standing up,” said Derek Cressman, who just lost a bid for California secretary of state. “On economic populism, Warren is stronger. Credible and stronger language, standing up to banks, standing up to Wall Street.”

The Elizabeth Warren Fantasy

By BILL SCHER, Politico

July 17, 2014

Her traveling road show powerfully demonstrates why. Warren blows past any Beltway skittishness over “class warfare.” In her recent appearances alongside Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes and West Virginia’s Natalie Tennant, she portrayed the options before voters as “a choice between billionaires and students” or between someone who will “stand up for Wall Street” or “stand up for the families.” She name-checked Citibank and Goldman Sachs as among the Wall Streeters who already have “plenty of folks in the United State Senate who are willing to work on their side,” suggesting they don’t need to hold on to eager recipients of financial industry campaign cash like Sen. Mitch McConnell or Rep. Shelley Capito. And she used her signature student loan bill that would pay for refinancing by closing tax loopholes, filibustered by Republicans but embraced by the two Appalachian Democrats, as a case study of whose side each candidate is on.

Warren’s Wall Street bashing has a good chance of boosting Tennant and Grimes because no matter what shade the state, people hate Wall Street. Already this year, Rep. Eric Cantor lost his job in part because Tea Party conservatives felt he was too close to big banks. After that Virginia primary, pollster Greenberg Quinlain Rosner conducted a national survey showing that 64 percent believe “the stock market is rigged for insiders” and 60 percent support “stricter regulation” on financial institutions, reflecting support that spans across the partisan spectrum.

Obama doesn’t neglect the populist critique of a system skewed toward the top one percent. But he stops short of embracing Warren’s us-versus-them framework. “Wall Street,” or its unpopular representatives, are never mentioned by name. Obama prefers the word “everybody,” as when he declared in Colorado, “we’re fighting for the idea that everybody gets opportunity” with robust investments in infrastructure, energy and education, along with a higher minimum wage and increased workplace flexibility. Clinton is singing from the same hymnal, reportedly using the line “we’re all in this mess together” when discussing her thinking on economic issues in recent speeches.


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  1. For Wall Street Banksters, here’s my range.


    L: Arrest them, drag them out in public, and have them face a firing squad, with the latter being televised, for any furute economy damaging shenanigans.  Every single mother loving one of them.  One at a time.  With each of them forced to watch the others being shot.  Then seize their assets and give them to the poor, and throw their wives and kids into the street with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

    R: Arrest them all and put them in prison right now and confiscate their assets for damage they did in the past.




    (huge gap)





    L:  Call them before Congress and shame them publicly (they who are shameless), letting them off the hook for any meaningful sanction.

    R:  Kvetch about them in public and mewl about “regulation”



    (somewhat lesser gap)




    L:  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

    R:  Reward them with bailouts and golden parachutes if they crash the economy again.

    We need to raise the spectre of the guillotine, loudly and often.

    • BobbyK on July 24, 2014 at 01:42

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