An Unhealthy Triangle: The Democratic Party, Wall Street and the Liberal Base

Wall Street already has a party. They don’t need the Democrats!


The New York Times reports that “Obama Reaches out to Wall Street Donors.” So we can look forward to a future in which the Democrats remain in the pocket of the corporate elite, bought and paid for. What else is new? We know how long this unhealthy love triangle leveraged between the Democratic Party, the corporate campaign financiers and the liberal base has been developing. This unholy and unhealthy relationship, however, cannot last as Citizens United has changed the political rules.

Obama is in the precarious position in which he must win back his base after selling out virtually every liberal platform he ran on to the very interests to whom he is now turning to fund the Dems in 2012. One might almost feel bad for Obama. It’s a complicated, courtship of Wall Street while at the same time seducing his abused and neglected liberal base at least through the next election, after which he jumps back in bed with the CEOs and corporate lobbyists.

The strategy is clear, a mainstay of Democratic campaigning. Obama will convince Wall Street that she is the one he really loves, and he would be with her all the time if he could only divorce himself from his nagging and annoying liberal base. Then he goes home to his liberal base, who knows she’s being cheated, and explains that his relationship with Wall Street really doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a fling. He would turn his back on Wall Street like that, except…well…you know…it’s complicated. He just needs some time to figure stuff out, about 18 months or so, then he’ll come back and it’ll be just the two of us, like old times!

The liberal base, however, is losing faith in this co-dependent marriage. When we offer the cold shoulder, the Democratic Party reverts to good, old-fashioned emotional blackmail. In the words of White House Communications Director, Dan Pfeiffer, “We can either work together and finish that work that we started in 2008 or we can be relegated back to the sidelines and see what a Republican president … does to this country,” So there it is. “You don’t love the Democrats any more…well let’s see how you feel after another four years of Republican rule.”

Obama and the Democrats are incapable of reading the writing on the wall. Since the Democratic Party has been pandering to Wall Street and turned its back on actually serving the people, American society has been in decline, except for the corporate elite. The people no longer have representation in the ramparts of government. The best we have is a party that blackmails us into voting for them because things could be worse—much, much worse. For many liberals, including myself, this dysfunctional marriage is simply not good enough. If we don’t see movement on key, base liberal priorities we should sever our ties.

The Democratic Party is falling into redundancy and irrelevance. Democratic leaders must either embrace its erstwhile role as a party for the common people or witness the relegation of their party to the dustbin of history. Currying the favor of Wall Street is an exercise in futility, a desperate and hopeless gasp for relevance that can only suffocate the party and all it once represented.

After all, corporate America already has a party, the Republicans. Once upon a time it made sense for the corporate elite to hedge their bets by funding both parties. Citizens United changed the rules, however. It won’t be long before corporate America decides that it is much cheaper to fund a one party system than a two party system. Once unions are dismantled the major source of Democratic fundraising will be a dry well. Those corporations who currently split their donations between Democratic and Republican candidates will have less reason to buy into two parties when one will do just fine.

Unless Democrats realize their future lies in the unions and in protecting the interests of working people rather than in neo-liberalism and the “New Democrat” approach of the last thirty years they will not save themselves from irrelevance.

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