Reprinted from ourfuture.org
Democratic Party luminaries and 2020 presidential mentionables gathered this week for an "ideas conference" organized by the Center for American Progress, the Democratic establishment's premier think tank.
Its stated purpose was to focus not on "what could have been," said CAP Vice President Winnie Stachelberg introducing the day, but on "new, fresh, bold, provocative ideas that can move us forward."
Convened in a basement of Georgetown's Four Season's Hotel, the posh watering hole for Washington lobbyists, lawyers and visiting wealth, the conference quickly revealed how hard it is for Democrats to debate the future when Trump is taking all of the air out of the room.
Virtually every speaker dutifully invoked the theme of the day: resistance is not enough; Democrats must propose what they are for. Each then proceeded to rail at one Trump folly or another, calling on those assembled to join in defending what was achieved over the last eight years.
CAP President Neera Tanden lasted barely a minute before condemning "foreign actors" who seek to disrupt our elections and a "leader of the free world" who fires the man investigating him.
Bold, new ideas were scarce, but there was a vigorous competition on who had the best Trump putdown. Instead of the sign on Harry Truman's desk that read "the buck stops here," Cory Booker offered, Trump's should read "the ruble stops here."
"Do you get the feeling that if Bernie Madoff weren't in prison," Elizabeth Warren offered, "he'd be in charge of the SEC right now?" Rep. Maxine Waters topped them all by calling for Trump's impeachment: "We don't have to think impeachment is out of our reach," she said. As for 2020, "We can't wait that long,"
The first sessions of the day on the economy revealed that Bernie Sanders' agenda is gaining ground among mainstream Democrats. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti described his success in passing a $15.00 minimum wage, a large infrastructure program, "wrap around" -- pre-school, after school, and special tutoring -- education reforms, and tuition free community college.
Senator Jeff Merkley, the sole Senator to support Sanders in 2016, indicted the trade and tax policies that give companies incentives to move jobs abroad, called for major investments in infrastructure, in the transition to renewable energy, and in education, including debt free college and new apprenticeship programs. Sanders' call for Medicare for All is still off the table, however, with most focused on defending Obamacare against the Republican assault.
Even on economic reform, Trump hijacked the discussion. CAP released a new report for the conference -- "Towards a Marshall Plan for America" -- calling for "large scale permanent public employment and infrastructure investment program" -- that would move towards a jobs guarantee for working age Americans. For CAP to call for a jobs guarantee -- even though it dilutes it in the text -- is a big, bold idea worthy of real attention.
Introducing Austan Goolsbee, Obama's former economics advisor, to discuss it, CAP President Neera Tanden invited him to talk about Trump's policies as well. Goolsbee invited people to read the report and focused his remarks on "the grubby reality" of Trump's obscene tax plan.
Two presentations managed to offer bold ideas. Senator Elizabeth Warren took her swipes at Trump, but used her presentation to present a bigger argument for Democrats. Arguing that concentrated money and concentrated power were "corrupting our democracy," Warren noted that "Trump did not invent these problems," and called for sweeping reforms.
On concentrated money, she argued not simply for overturning Citizens United and moving to publicly financed elections, but for taking on the revolving door between Wall Street and giant companies and government, the "bought and paid for policy experts," and the armies of lobbyists that distort our politics. On concentrated power, she argued for "picking up the anti-trust stick" to break up monopolies and the big banks, and revive competitive markets.