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David Sirota
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The Choice Between Automatons and Leaders

Comment

Ask corporate executives what they really want in a legislator, and they probably won't use words like "principled" or "well-informed." If the cocktails are appropriately strong and inhibitions are consequently reduced, executives will likely tell you in a moment of candor that the best politician, from their perspective, is the one who is incurious and who possesses very little policy expertise. They don't want people with inconvenient morals, ethics or brains getting in their way. They want the equivalent of T-1000s from the "Terminator" films: unthinking, fully programmable cyborgs willing and able to shape-shift in order to carry out a mission.

Alas, it is rare to get such an admission in public, and it is even more rare to get said admission in the pages of a major publication. That's why Businessweek's recent examination of the country's marquee U.S. Senate race is so significant. In looking at the Massachusetts matchup between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren, the magazine quotes Brown fundraiser Lawrence McDonald, a former Lehman trader, acknowledging that he and his Wall Street friends hate the idea of an independently informed legislator who might bring her own wisdom to Washington.

"If Warren were to win, McDonald says, she'd be 'seen as an expert' by a second Obama administration, which he finds terrifying," the magazine reported. "Scott Brown is 'just a good senator,' McDonald adds. 'He wouldn't be an adviser to either candidate in a financial crisis.'"

Get that? Warren is disliked precisely because of her years of distinguished research as a Harvard professor, her tenure heading the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and her overall unwillingness to take orders from corporate interests. Meanwhile, Brown is praised as a "good senator" specifically because he lacks policy knowledge that might help him counsel government officials on how to deal with another bank meltdown.

Oh, and because as a lawmaker, he has a proven track record of saying "how high" when Wall Street says "jump."

To be sure, McDonald's general lament about the arbitrary assignment of expert status certainly has a grain of truth in it. Essentially, America is run by false experts — indeed, all you have to do is thumb through Chris Hayes' recent book "Twilight of the Elites" to know that national politics is dominated by people who have little experience in, and knowledge of, those policy areas in which they claim to possess expertise. And this is a problem in both parties.

For instance, Democrats tout Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet as their go-to expert on education. But he is a man who spent only a little over three years in any education-related position (as an appointee in the Denver school system) and who spent the vast majority of his career as a political aide and corporate raider with "no teaching or school administration experience," according to the Denver Post. Likewise, Republican Rudy Giuliani has long been billed as a foreign policy and national security expert merely because he happened to be New York City's mayor on 9/11, not for any actual experience in those fields.

But, then, the seeming randomness of the "expert" label highlights special interests' antipathy toward legislators with genuine expertise. Through political stagecraft — corporate-funded symposia, conferences, speeches, etc. — those interests help manufacture policy "expert" status for expertise-free politicians like Bennet, Giuliani and other automatons who are most willing to simply take orders.

Warren is different — a leader with more knowledge and intelligence on economic issues than almost anyone in Washington. That's why, as Businessweek says, Wall Streeters are desperately hoping her opponent defeats her in the upcoming election. Like every special interest with business in the nation's capital, they fear anyone coupling legislative power with independent thought.

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He co-hosts "The Rundown" on AM630 KHOW in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

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Comments

5 Comments | Post Comment
When I got involved in politics, even running locally, I learned this lesson. When I testified about specific laws in our state, it got back to me from the committee chair that he was PO'd, he did not need me telling him his job.

When I ran for town office as part of a team, I suggested we have a meeting to get on the same page, no one else had suggested this. At the meeting when it came time for me to present I handed out 7 pages of info, data, facts etc. Everyone of them asked "where did I get all this?" I simply replied that I thoought about the issues and decided to do a bit of googling. That's when it hit me. People run, they get elected, but they rarely truly understand the expectations of the job they just took on. It had not occured to my "team" members to spend some time understanding the issues before they gave their positions.

To many good people become elected officials and then believe that by the power of the position thier opinions are factual.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Daniel Becker
Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:31 AM
This is a "well, duh!" article for me since it has become so obvious that corporations already control the majority of our government representatives and they get practically whatever they want whenever they want it. Bush was their empty suit poster boy. Romney is just their latest.

Corporatists have bought off the entire Republican party and a large amount of Democrats (there are still quite a few good ones like Warren though). Are there really Americans who still don't get this? I guess so because otherwise there wouldn't be so many people who vote for Republicans and/or support these corporate-shill politicians.

Warren was thrown under the bus by the Obama administration when Republicans blocked her from heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so why would the GOP think that she would be taken seriously during a second Obama term? That sounds to me like they've bought into their own red meat propaganda about Obama being a "socialist". In reality, Obama is almost as much enamored by Wall Street and the Big Banks as Romney is. His administration would fight her almost as hard as the Republicans would.
Comment: #2
Posted by: A Smith
Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:44 AM
As a Centrist, I'm both intrigued by and wary of Elizabeth Warren.
Intrigued because she has serious chops as an educator and could lead the way in real education reform -- reform that places focus and investment on hard studies like math & science to prepare today's students for productive employment. And to push Common Core forward while staying mindful of the needed balance with local educational control.

I was also encouraged when I heard her say she would support reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. That would be a vast improvement over Dodd-Frank for several reasons. If elected, Warren would find an ally in John McCain & with such bi-partisan leadership, Glass-Steagall has a good chance for a comeback.

My dream is that she would also spearhead an effort to break up the "Too-Big-To-Fails" using anti-trust legislation, much like the AT&T breakup in 1985 and with the big Trusts in the early 1900s.

At the same time, Warren is given to partisan rhetoric which makes me wary that she may fall into lockstep with the far-left agenda. Would she support (or even author) the next doomed-to-fail stimulus bill? Would she favor subsidies to public service unions, runaway spending & unchecked increases in money supply? I fear that she would.

So I'm not certain who I'm rooting for in Brown vs. Warren.
I don't reside in Massachusetts, so it's not my say.
But I'll be "watching with great interest," as the MSM likes to put it.
Comment: #3
Posted by: oddsox
Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:22 AM
Sadly, too few Americans really understand what is a "far-left agenda" or a far-right agenda, as ODDSOX proves. I'm sure Fox Noise and the right-wing mainstream corporate media has a lot to do with that.

1) If you believe McCain would support the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.
2) The reinstatement of Glass-Steagall is part of the "far-left agenda".
3) Breaking up the "Too-Big-To-Fails" using anti-trust legislation is part of the "far-left agenda".
4) Warren's rhetoric is no more partisan than Browns' (or any politicians for that matter!)
5) The stimulus bill was bi-partisan, and much of what was passed to address the Republican caused financial crisis was started under the Bush administration with a Republican congress. Were they falling into lockstep with the "far-left agenda" too?
6) What subsidies to public service unions?!? I WISH! But as someone in tune with "the far-left agenda", I've never heard anything about this.
7) Runaway spending? Like the Bush and Republicans did? Starting two wars and not paying for them? Again, this is part of the far-right agenda, to spend like drunken sailors when they are in power so that in the event that Democrats take control again, they can scream about how large the deficit is (that they conveniently forget to take credit for) and how we MUST cut spending on programs that help Americans. This is how they are slowly dismantling our social safety net.

So please, spare me the fear mongering about Warren doing the things that Brown would do on steroids if given the chance. You obviously don't know your left from your right and it sounds like you have more in common with Warren than Brown!
Comment: #4
Posted by: A Smith
Fri Oct 5, 2012 9:54 AM
Re: A Smith
You're a funny guy.
Google "John Mccain supports Glass-Steagall" and you should find what you need to convince yourself that he has supported its reinstatement.
The Hill dot com has a 5/31/12 story on it.
I had the link but can't seem to post it here.

It's become much too hard to post on this site. I notice you had to triple-up yourself recently, A Smith.
Meet me on Salon or Truthdig so we can discuss that bridge you're trying to sell.

And, in answer to one of your earlier posts, no, I'm sure David's mother is very nice.

Comment: #5
Posted by: oddsox
Sun Oct 14, 2012 4:55 PM
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