The other day on the News Hour, David Brooks and Mark Shields talked about the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers crash, which precipitated the Great Recession. Excerpt:
MARK SHIELDS: The legacy, Judy, is that 100 percent of the economic growth, of the income growth, 100 percent, more than, has gone to the top 5 percent; 95 percent of the income growth in this country has gone to the top 1 percent.
If it — if more than 100 percent has gone to the top, that means the other 95 have fallen back. There is sitting out there a populist revolt waiting to be led. There is only one candidate who has tapped into it. And that was Elizabeth Warren. And she in 2012 got support and financial support from all around the country.
I will make a prediction. A wise person who has been through several presidential candidates — campaigns said to me today that, as Iraq was the defining issue between Democratic candidates in 2008, income inequality will be the defining and galvanizing issue among Democratic presidential candidates in 2016.
The Obama administration has really not responded to it in any way. And it’s there. There’s an anger and a fury, and it spills across party lines, but it’s particularly, keenly felt among Democrats.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I’m sort of interested in this.
If you had told me that there would be a financial crisis centered on Wall Street, that there would be an oil spill in the Gulf caused by a big oil company, that you would have wage stagnations over decades and widening inequality, I would have said, we would be in an era of liberal progressive renaissance. The left would just be on the march.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
DAVID BROOKS: And there is Elizabeth Warren, but I’m not sure I see the left on the march. And that’s I think because it’s still true that people distrust government.
And so they see the problems, but they don’t see solutions because they don’t think government is a viable solution — or a viable offering for the problem. So I think there will be a populist movement in the Democratic Party, with Elizabeth Warren, and others, but I’m not sure it will be as big as maybe Mark feels.
No, the Left isn’t on the march, and that surprises me too. But it also surprises me how much the Right isn’t marching either, but rather standing still and stomping its feet. A Catholic friend sent me a list last night of the conservative site Townhall’s list of 25 Most Influential Conservatives Of 2013. With a few exceptions, every one of those names would have been there in 2008. It is amazing, and depressing, how little our politics have changed in the past five years, and how little they have been changed by the economic crash. Yes, the Tea Party arose on the Right in 2009, but ask yourself: if it never had, would that list of Top Conservatives look all that different?
The other day I drove past a campaign sign in my town for a GOP candidate to replace my retiring Congressman. I’ve been away from Louisiana for a long time, as you know, so I don’t know many of the players in state politics. I went to the guy’s campaign website to see what he stands for, what he advocates. This is his platform, in its entirety:
It’s not complicated. Washington, DC is out of control. And the liberals who run the federal government are bullies. That’s why our next congressman must be a strong conservative leader with the backbone to fight the political establishment. Neil Riser is that man.
Neil is 100% pro-life. He believes that marriage is between a man and a woman. He has consistently opposed tax increases throughout his service in the Senate. He believes in the free market. He believes in defunding and repealing Obamacare. And he is committed to securing our borders, and opposes amnesty for illegal aliens.
That’s our Republicans: eternally fighting the Liberal Establishment, just like Jesse Jackson is forever in the frontlines in Selma. “It’s not complicated,” says Neil Riser, and apparently is isn’t for him: just push the usual buttons. Nothing here about the actual economic challenges the American people face in the 21st century. Nothing here about war and defense, even though quite a few of his constituents or their family members have fought in Afghanistan or Iraq. Nothing about, well, anything that this rusty boilerplate wouldn’t have covered in 2008, or 2004, or 2000, except for the Obamacare part, which is unrealistic.
This candidate is thought to be the leading Republican candidate in a district, which means he’s the favorite to win the race. What this guy represents is why I, as a conservative, registered as an Independent.
Question for the room, for both liberals and conservatives: Why have our politics been left largely unchanged by the 2008 crash? Why do our two parties remain pretty much what they have always been?