Sen. Paul Wellstone: "People... think both parties are controlled by the same investors"

Oh, how I wish the American people could have heard Sen. Paul Wellstone’s powerful truth-telling, populist voice throughout eight long years of George W. Bush!

So I want to share this, from a 1999 Senate speech. Wellstone opposed legislation allowing a new wave of bank deregulation that — he warned, accurately — would create unregulated banks “too big to fail.” Sen. Wellstone went beyond his critique of the bill to criticize both parties as unresponsive to ordinary Americans. He didn’t understand why the Senate was wasting time “fixing” something the people of Minnesota didn’t think was broken while ignoring major issues — like healthcare — people knew were broken. How righteously angry would Sen. Wellstone be today, a decade later, with most Senators even more brazenly serving corporate interests and ignoring the popular will?

Antitrust action has been taken off the table. This is a classic example of why we need [campaign finance] reform. Because when it comes to antitrust action, and having the Senate say “we are on the side of consumers, we are on the side of family farmers, we are on the side of community people, and we are willing to take on these huge companies” — We dare not do that. These monopolies are the campaign givers. These are the heavy hitters. These are the [political] investors.

At the end of the last [19th] century, industrial concentration accelerated at an alarming pace. Lots of people, including the columnist and author E.J. Dionne, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and the philosopher, Michael Sandel, have noted the similarities between that era and our own.

American democracy suffered as a result of that concentration of economic power. The two parties became dominated by similar corporate interests. Their platforms started to sound an awful lot alike, and voter participation declined dramatically. Why? Because people realized that they had little to say in the economic decisions that most affected their lives.

I think that aptly describes the situation today. I tell you, when I travel in Minnesota or travel in the country, one of the things that people say to me is that they think both parties are controlled by the same investors. They do not think there is any real opportunity for them to have any say anymore in this political process.

If Connecticut’s choice in 2010 is Sen. Dodd vs. a Republican, we need a third-party alternative. Connecticut voters know they made a bad mistake in 2006 choosing the Devil they knew — Sleazy Joe Lieberman — over Democratic nominee Ned Lamont (whose campaign I proudly worked on from January through November 2006). Given a choice between a corporate lackey and a true progressive, Connecticut won’t repeat its mistake.

Posted by James on Monday, June 29, 2009