Wall Street front group Third Way accomplished some good things with its recent op-ed attacking Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and economic populism. It departed from its usual strategy of lobbying from the shadows to push elected Democrats to the right, drawing attention to the fight between those of us who want crazy stuff like taxing the rich and expanding Social Security and the Wall Street "Democrats" who want to cut Social Security and cut corporate taxes. It seems to have moved Warren to ask the big banks to disclose which think tanks they're funding. And it pointed to some media blind spots that need a little work. Case in point, a New York Times article headlined "Coalition of liberals strikes back at criticism from centrist Democrats."
Excuse me, now? Centrist? When the debate is over whether Wall Street has too much power over our economy, in what way can an organization with a board heavily stocked with investment bankers be identified as "centrist"? When the generation that is least likely to say it's more important to maintain Social Security benefits than reduce the deficit still has majority support for Social Security, how is cutting Social Security anywhere close to the center of that debate?
For that matter, "centrist Democrats"? Sure, Third Way exists to influence Democrats. And many of its adherents are surely Democrats of the variety that supports marriage equality and thinks contraception is good and abortion should be legal and would like to do something about climate change, at least if it could be done without pissing off corporations too much. But, as Lee Fang reports:
Third Way’s leadership has tenuous connections to the Democratic Party it hopes to shape. Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund manager listed as a trustee on Third Way’s 2012 annual disclosure, bundled $556,031 for Mitt Romney last year. Third Way board member Derek Kaufman, another hedge fund executive, also gave to Romney.It's one thing to hedge your bets by giving to mostly Democrats with the occasional Republican thrown in. It's not a good thing, but it's a fairly standard hedge among those whose highest principle is maintaining their own influence. Bundling half a million dollars for a losing Republican presidential candidate against an incumbent Democrat is something else.
Some of the people at Third Way are Democrats. But none of them are centrist. They are conservative, corporatist Democrats trying to heighten inequality and give Wall Street ultimate power over the economy. If the media is going to report on this struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party, it needs to get that one right.