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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/30/19

Why is the press so obsessed with what Wall Street and billionaires think of Elizabeth Warren?

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It turns out the media's obsession with the super-rich isn't confined to the world of celebrity and entertainment. In politics, the press also seems utterly fascinated with how the 0.1% live, and especially what their political leanings are. For the 2020 campaign, that means a barrage of coverage about what Wall Street bankers and billionaires think about Elizabeth Warren and her populist agenda. They don't trust her! Some like her! Some won't donate! On and on it goes, as the press scurries to document the opinions of the super-wealthy, but there's no explanation for why they're supposed to matter so much.

"From corporate boardrooms to breakfast meetings, investor conferences to charity galas, Ms. Warren's rise in the Democratic primary polls is rattling bankers, investors and their affluent clients, who see in the Massachusetts senator a formidable opponent who could damage not only their industry but their way of life," read a typical passage from The New York Times recently, as the press continues to be deeply fascinated with what the financial community thinks of the Democratic nominee, and keeps treating financial opinions as important political news.

The headlines keep coming:

"As Warren Gains in Race, Wall Street Sounds the Alarm"

"Wall Street donors are so worried about Elizabeth Warren that they are snubbing Democrats in 2020 Senate races"

"In a Pick-Your-Poison Election, Wall Street Likes Warren Over Trump"

"Warren has a plan for Wall Street and Wall Street isn't panicking"

"Elizabeth Warren is winning grudging respect among some on Wall Street"

"Warren Would Take Billionaires Down a Few Billion Pegs"

"The Wall Streeters who actually like Elizabeth Warren"

The never-ending emphasis sends a clear message that the votes and donations of Wall Street bankers and billionaires matter more than other people's. But they don't. It's reminiscent of the media's 2016 campaign obsession with coal miners, followed close by its obsession with those who have manufacturing jobs, which sent the obvious signal that white working-class male voters were the ones who counted the most.

It's clear that Warren's agenda, and her rise in the polls, have gotten the attention of Wall Street. She's running on a billionaire wealth tax to help pay for her $52 trillion Medicare for All plan. Her wealth tax proposal would also impose a 2% tax on net worth between $50 million and $1 billion. "Our democracy has been hijacked by the rich and the powerful," Warren often says on the campaign trail.

But why is the press so hypersensitive to Wall Street's take on Warren? Obviously, Democrats have never been the election darlings of Wall Street executives and billionaires, who traditionally vote Republican. So it's not as if it's a natural constituency for reporters to focus on during the Democratic primary. Yes, there is a portion of that financial audience that donates to Democrats, and most candidates want to keep receiving that money. But those donations pale in comparison to the small-donor, grassroots money that fuels most Democratic campaigns these days.

Yet again and again, journalists push the premise that it's a big problem that Wall Street isn't supporting a prominent Democrat this election. For instance, the Timesrecently interviewed "more than two dozen hedge-fund managers, private-equity and bank officials, analysts and lobbyists" to find out what they thought, and feared, about Warren's campaign. CNBC also checked in with "hedge fund managers and private equity executives" to chronicle their Warren complaints. And I'm just wondering: On paper, is it possible to find a coalition of voters less likely to support a Democrat than hedge-fund managers, private-equity and bank officials, analysts and lobbyists? I seriously doubt it. That's like doing a news report on how college history professors aren't supporting Trump in 2020. Yes, and ... ?

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Eric Boehlert is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006). He worked for five years as a senior writer for Salon.com, where he wrote extensively about media and politics. Prior to that, he worked as a (more...)
 

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