Wall Street Democrats

In a recent email to supporters, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) accused “Wall Street Democrats” of working to defeat his progressive policy platform.

PBS’ Yamiche Alcindor tweeted a screenshot of the email on Thursday, in which Sanders hinted a possible 2020 run for the presidency entitled “If I Run.” The Vermont senator and 2016 Democratic presidential primary runner-up wrote that he would run for president if he was the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump, and that should he declare a run, “the political, financial, and media elite of this country will stop at nothing” to ensure his defeat.

He also warned his supporters that the Wall Street funded think tank Third Way would lead the attack on him during the primary, if he did indeed decide to run.

“Right now, a group of Wall Street Democrats known as the Third Way is running ads in early primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada — calling me out by name and saying our ideas, like Medicare for All, are a path to defeat in 2020,” Sanders wrote. “They not only want to discourage or defeat a Sanders candidacy, they want to make sure the progressive agenda is not advanced by anyone.”

“They want us to go back to a failed corporate approach which has led to a massive level of wealth and income inequality, a bloated military budget and a failure to address the crises of climate change, a broken criminal justice system and inhumane immigration policies,” he continued.

Sanders’ accusation that Wall Street Democrats want to derail his agenda isn’t mere conspiracy theory. A July report in NBC News detailed how Third Way held an invitation-only gathering dubbed “Opportunity 2020” in which well-heeled Democratic Party donors and moderate Democrats discussed how to stop the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party from gaining ground.

The conference was held not long after insurgent candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) defeated longtime Congressman Joe Crowley in a hotly contested primary. Crowley — who, at the time, was the 4th-highest ranking House Democrat — was heavily favored to win, and outraised Ocasio-Cortez by approximately 10-to-1. Crowley was one of the real estate industry’s favorite members of Congress, raking in more than $1.8 million from real estate donors throughout his career. And as NBC News reported, a billionaire real estate developer was one of the co-hosts of Opportunity 2020:

…Where progressives see a rare opportunity to capitalize on an energized Democratic base, moderates see a better chance to win over Republicans turned off by Trump.

The fact that a billionaire real estate developer, Winston Fisher, co-cohosted the event and addressed attendees twice underscored that this group is not interested in the class warfare vilifying the “millionaires and billionaires” found in Sanders’ stump speech.

“You’re not going to make me hate somebody just because they’re rich. I want to be rich!” Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, a potential presidential candidate, said Friday to laughs.

Third Way’s strategy of appealing to moderate Republicans was a staple of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential run. After winning the Democratic nomination, Clinton repeatedly ran ads featuring prominent Republicans like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), and Republican pundit Ana Navarro attacking Trump.

However, this strategy was wildly unsuccessful. CNN’s exit polling data from the 2016 election found that only eight percent of self-identifying Republicans voted for Clinton — seven percent of Republican men, and nine percent of Republican women.

Wall Street Democrats
CNN exit polling data from the 2016 election

In his email, Sanders contrasted his vision with the one championed by Wall Street Democrats as one that would help working-class Americans, rather than one that helped corporations and the wealthy.

“Ours is not a radical agenda. It’s the agenda the American people want,” Sanders wrote. “Their agenda, paid for by wealthy campaign contributors, has led to record levels of inequality, a health care system that costs more per capita than any other developed nation while leaving millions uninsured and underinsured, and grotesque amounts of student debt that rob many young people of their futures.”

Wall Street Democrats like Third Way supporters have argued that Sanders’ policies could cost Democrats future electoral wins, but the data doesn’t support that argument. An August survey by Reuters found that Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal wasn’t just popular with 70 percent of Americans, but with a majority of Republicans as well.


Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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