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Speaker of the House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in this file. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Democrats Are Hunting Big Game – Did Big Money Already Bag Them?

The party of Pelosi and Schiff is not immune to the influence of Wall Street. Grassroots activists must stay vigilant

Robert Reich

Democrats are now in control of the House of Representatives, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi. After two years of Republican control over both chambers of Congress and the presidency, some balance has been restored to our democracy.

I know and have worked with many members of the 116th Congress. They are people of integrity who will strive to do what is right for America. Nancy Pelosi is tough and courageous. Were it not for her insistence, Barack Obama would not have pushed for the Affordable Care Act.

But they are not miracle workers. Republicans still control the Senate, Trump is still the president, and there is still a conservative majority in the supreme court.

House Democrats will make life harder for Trump, to be sure. They will investigate. They have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. The ways and means committee is specifically authorized to subpoena Trump’s tax returns.

They might even move to impeach Trump, if special counsel Robert Mueller reports what I expect him to.

They will also stop bad laws coming from the Senate – cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, social security and food stamps for the poor.

But they will do little to slow or reverse the growing imbalance of wealth and power in this country, unless they are pushed to do so.

Do not ever underestimate the influence of Wall Street Democrats, corporate Democrats, and the Democrats’ biggest funders. I know. I’ve been there.

In the 2018 midterms, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, big business made more contributions to Democrats than to Republicans. The shift was particularly noticeable on Wall Street. Not since 2008 have donors in the securities and investment industry given a higher percentage to Democratic candidates and committees than to Republicans.

The moneyed interests in the Democratic party are in favor of helping America’s poor and of reversing climate change – two positions that sharply distinguish them from the moneyed interests in the Republican party.

But the Democrats’ moneyed interests don’t want more powerful labor unions. They are not in favor of stronger antitrust enforcement against large corporations. They resist firmer regulation of Wall Street. They are unlikely to want to repeal the Trump-Republican tax cut for big corporations and the wealthy.

They are also very concerned about the federal debt, more so even than the Republican moneyed interests, who see a large debt as leverage to cut popular programs like Medicare. This is presumably why Pelosi included, among the House’s first votes, the fiscally conservative “pay-go” measure requiring all new spending to be offset by budget cuts or tax hikes.

Nor is the Democratic party’s big money particularly enthusiastic about campaign finance reform, measures such as matching public funding with small donations and disclosing all sources of campaign funding. After all, these measures would reduce their influence.

When it comes to impeaching Trump, some of the Democrat’s biggest funders worry that such a move might rile markets. They are counseling the House Democratic leadership to be cautious even when it comes to smaller acts of defiance, such as subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns.

In other words, Wall Street and corporate Democrats don’t share precisely the same goals as do Democrats at the grass roots who worked hard to create the “blue wave” that put Democrats in control of the House.

We should support Pelosi and the Democrats when they need our support to do the right things. We also need to push them when they need pushing. And we must fight them when they begin to cave.

We must be unwavering in our commitment to strengthening our democracy and creating an economy that works for all, not just the privileged few. Addressing these issues requires a bold agenda.

So keep vigilant and active. Stay involved in the grassroots organizations that spearheaded the Democrats’ victory in November: groups like,,,,,,,,,,, and, to name only a few. And if you’re not yet an activist member, join them.

The fight has only just begun.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include:  "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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