Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has closed her joint financing committee, lashing out against the influence of billionaires on both sides of the aisle ahead of coming elections, but is her party ready to follow?
“Right now, we’ve got a Washington that works great for the rich and the powerful. It is not working for much of anyone else, but I believe we can change that,” Warren said in Iowa as part of the “exploratory” phase of her potential 2020 presidential bid. “Democratic primary candidates should lock arms and say we’re going to do this through small dollar donations, we’re going to do this as a campaign built by the people, for the people.”
Warren said she will be closing her political action committee (PAC), the Elizabeth Warren Action Fund, proclaiming that US elections “shouldn’t be for sale.” The move shows the Massachusetts senator is now certain to make campaign finance reform a central tenet of her run – an idea which is already beginning to draw anger within her own party. High-ranking Democrats have said that Warren is too divisive and too liberal to be viable on the national stage. Her numbers have been sliding among Democrats since September in the battleground state of Iowa, where former vice president Joe Biden currently leads the poles.
Warren previously drew heat after she described the 2016 Democratic primaries as “unethical,” stating she believes they were “rigged” against Hillary Clinton’s opponent Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ popular campaign embodied the “grassroots” concept with average campaign donations of $27, but was ultimately defeated by the candidate backed by major corporate interests.
It’s this model of a grassroots campaign based on small donations that Warren now seems to be rooting for – a strategy that would be a stark reversal from Clinton’s 2016 run which proved unsuccessful despite pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars primarily from large donors and significantly out-financing her opponent, Donald Trump.
For all its appeal to the public, this idea may not be as popular with the major players in the democratic establishment, heavily dependent on large-corporate donations. Lobbying has become the dominant institution guiding Washington politics, where all of the major participants tacitly agree to the “pay to play” structure of relying on moneyed interests to get elected.
In her comments over the weekend, Warren also took aim at billionaires who self-fund their campaigns – yet she mostly steered clear of directly criticizing her would-be republican opponent, Trump. Her comments were likely aimed at fellow democrat Michael Bloomberg, an establishment Democrat who plans to use his personal fortune to finance his campaign. He says he will contribute more of his own money than the $100 million he spent on his mayoral bid.
Bloomberg has been described as a “kingmaker,” having contributed a whopping $90 million dollars to Democrats just this midterm election cycle. He is a self-described “centrist” who has vocally supported Clinton, which may suggest that his battle for the nomination against the “outsider” Warren might end up repeating some familiar themes from the 2016 primaries.
The Iowa caucuses are scheduled to officially begin in February 2020. Other Democratic candidates have also started to put out feelers in the battleground state, and are expected to make official announcements in the coming weeks.
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