Like me, Elizabeth is from a small Midwest town, had to babysit as a teen to earn spare cash, went to Rutgers Law School and was the first lawyer in her family. But she was never a political activist, much less a feminist. While she was a young scholar, she was arguing that utility companies were overregulated. As a registered Republican until 1996, she was a member of a political party that is explicitly anti-abortion in their platform while my friends and I were advocating for race-conscious, reproductive justice.
I admire Elizabeth and her impressive legal accomplishments. I wanted to adopt her as my heroine. But when I read a December 2010 interview in Vogue magazine — conducted when she was counsel to what would become the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — it made me spit out my coffee. Discussing clothes (of course), she gushed to the interviewer, “As long as you are straight on your basic expenses and you have put aside 20 percent in savings, go ahead and buy those $400 shoes.”
Who’s got enough money to save 20 percent each month? Much less to spend it on clothes?
Liz has accomplished far more in her legal career than I have representing working people in the lower courts. I love her hard-fought effort to prevent the credit card industry — and their henchman Joe Biden — from repealing bankruptcy protections in 2005. I love that she identifies the industry’s motivation to spend $100 million in lobbying Congress for the repeal: they stood to make $1 billion more in profits from late fees and escalating interest rates! (Blame Joe if the credit cards are putting the squeeze on you).
Yet her efforts against corrupt politics have not dimmed her views of “free enterprise,” gaining her the endorsement of the New York Times. They highlight her view that government should pump more money into housing construction and loosen regulations like labor laws to solve homelessness. Nearly half the luxury apartments built in New York City in the past five years are being kept vacant rather than rented to low-income folks. Markets can’t solve social problems.
The Times chose Elizabeth in the name of stability and a return to civil discourse. But their ham-handed praise for Hillary Clinton and their steadfast refusal to see people who are not middle-class or wealthy contributed to Trump’s 2016 victory.
Bernie has a remarkably long and honorable history of fighting for the overburdened poor. Unlike any other candidate since populist times, he is building a movement based on solidarity. He is inspiring thousands of workaday people just like me to run grassroots, small-donor based campaigns for offices high and low on a progressive platform. With the power of social movements, he is pushing the Democratic platform demonstrably to the left with his message of “not me, us.”
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