New Republic - November 14, 2019
"There is an entire class of people like this, who expect that their wise words about the world ought to always have an audience for no reason other than they possess great wealth. These men slide each morning from their unwrinkled sheets, still in their smart grey suits, ready to address their friends at CNBC, which serves as a kind of Whatsapp group chat for people with homes in the Hamptons. They go on Squawk Box, or Bloomberg Tictoc, and proselytize to the already converted that Democrats must be careful not to alienate the financial sector, or reshape the economy too much in case some guys with more money than Croesus see lower quarterly returns on their massive portfolios. Thank you so much, Mr. Moneybags, for coming on to our program to share this keen insight: The rich oppose policies that would make them less rich. Please come back anytime."
Just as the potential candidacies of billionaires Howard Schultz and Michael Bloomberg have left us to wonder about who might be the constituency for such a transparent defense of the ruling class, today’s entrance of former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick into the presidential race makes alarmingly little sense—at least from the perspective of “winning votes.” Who is clamoring for a presidential candidate from the bowels of Bain Capital? Who feels underserved by the current Democratic presidential field, packed cheek to jowl with wannabes who also support a public option over Medicare for All, who believe that extreme wealth is not inherently bad, and who promise to not alienate swing state voters by promising to improve their lives? What is happening?
There can be no single, satisfying explanation for Patrick’s baffling decision. It is undoubtable that ego plays a role; ‘twas ever thus: Anyone who believes that they would be a good president and enjoy doing it is pretty suspect, even if they’re right. Patrick’s candidacy, however, is unique in that it can be understood as the logical endpoint of a media culture which hews to the belief that what Wall Street guys have to say about the world is, by definition, endlessly fascinating—and which, consequently, treats these flagitious aristocrats as wise men of society who must be consulted, courted, and coddled by whoever wishes to be president.
Though Bloomberg might have the plushest coffers (and a truly abysmal record), Patrick is an equally horrible emissary from the gilded encampment of Wall Street. As the Huffington Post’s Zach Carter documented last year, Patrick made his millions from providing consultancy services to companies profiting from some of the most miserable activities in America’s thriving profiting-off-misery sector, most notably helping a GOP donor’s “notorious” subprime mortgages business, Ameriquest. Patrick made $360,000 a year at the company, which was responsible for 2,500 foreclosures in Detroit alone. In 1999, two years after the Department of Justice—where Patrick served as assistant attorney general in the civil rights division—signed a $176 million settlement with Texaco for racial discrimination against its employees, Patrick joined the company as its general counsel. (His primary duty at Texaco was to ensure the company grew into an even larger behemoth through a merger with Chevron.) In a primary where Joe Biden’s fundraiser with a fossil fuel executive was bad enough to cause a stir, what’s going to happen when a former Texaco executive jumps in?
While Patrick will surely argue that he pursued the same values in the corporate world as he did in politics, Carter reported that Patrick was “not so much a reformer as he was a public relations figure,” giving “corporations a story to tell about the good things they were supposedly doing—even if when they were simultaneously busying themselves with very bad things.” It makes sense that corporate America, under attack from the left, would send one of their most trusted turd-polishers to a Democratic primary process that seems to be slowly drifting away from them. As Joe Biden fails to deftly dominate the field as predicted, leaving Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with decent shots at winning, Wall Street guys must surely be freaked out. ...
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