Sunday, September 15, 2013

Peter Beinart: Millenials Ready For Candidates From The Left

I highly recommend Peter Beinart's article, "The Rise of the New Left," in the Daily Beast. Beinart's thesis is that members of the Millennial generation (early 1980s-2000), facing a diminished job market, huge college debt and a shredded safety net, are shifting to the left in ways that could challenge both major parties. Beinart sees Bill de Blasio's primary victory over Christine Quinn in New York City's Democratic mayoral primary as a symptomatic of this shift, in which Mayor Bloomberg's ally Quinn was overcome by de Blasio, who protested NYC's rising economic inequality under Bloomberg. Beinart warns that Hillary Clinton may face a similar challenge from Elizabeth Warren:

Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign offers a glimpse into what an Occupy-inspired challenge to Clintonism might look like. In important ways, New York politics has mirrored national politics in the Reagan-Clinton era. Since 1978, the mayoralty has been dominated by three men—Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg—who although liberal on many cultural issues have closely identified Wall Street’s interests with the city’s. During their time in office, New York has become far safer, cleaner, more expensive, and more unequal. In Bloomberg’s words, New York is now a “high-end product.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, despite her roots on the left as a housing and LGBT activist, became Bloomberg’s heir apparent by stymieing bills that would have required businesses to give their employees paid sick leave and mandated a higher minimum wage for companies that receive government subsidies. Early in the campaign, many commentators considered this a wise strategy and anticipated that as New York’s first lesbian mayor, Quinn would symbolize the city’s unprecedented cultural tolerance while continuing its Clintonian economic policies.

Then strange things happened. First, Anthony Weiner entered the race and snatched support from Quinn before exploding in a blaze of late-night comedy. But when Weiner crashed, his support went not back to Quinn but to de Blasio, the candidate who most bluntly challenged Bloomberg’s economic philosophy. Calling it “an act of equalization in a city that is desperately falling into the habit of disparity,” de Blasio made his central proposal a tax on people making over $500,000 to fund universal childcare. He also called for requiring developers to build more affordable housing and ending the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policies that had angered many African-Americans and Latinos. Bloomberg’s deputy mayor Howard Wolfson tweeted that de Blasio’s “agenda is clear: higher taxes, bigger govt, more biz mandates. A u-turn back to the 70s.”

But in truth, it was Wolfson who was out of date: Fewer and fewer New Yorkers remember the 1970s, when economic stagnation, rising crime, and bloated government helped elect both Ed Koch and Ronald Reagan. What concerns them more today is that, as The New Yorker recently noted, “If the borough of Manhattan were a country, the income gap between the richest twenty per cent and the poorest twenty per cent would be on par with countries like Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Lesotho.” In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Quinn defeated de Blasio in those parts of New York where average income tops $175,000 per year. But he beat her by 25 points overall.

...Hillary is vulnerable to a candidate who can inspire passion and embody fundamental change, especially on the subject of economic inequality and corporate power, a subject with deep resonance among Millennial Democrats. And the candidate who best fits that description is Elizabeth Warren.

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