Gary Cohn, writing at the Huffington Post (and Capital & Main), takes on the “Corporate Democrats” of California–those Democrats who support moderate policies despite the overwhelming power their party enjoys in the state legislature. He advances two theories for their behavior: one, that the “jungle primary” system makes Democrats blunt their views to compete with Republicans: and two, they are paid by corporate interests.
Case in point, he says: Assemblyman Mark Levine (above left), who postures as a left-wing “suburban liberal,” but is really “part of a new breed of Democrat, one exceedingly attentive to big business while tone-deaf toward the Democratic Party’s traditional base, which includes union workers, environmentalists and public school advocates.” He provides several examples–leaving out Levine’s vote for fracking, which he pretends to oppose.
But Levine’s behavior does not quite fit the model Cohn constructs. After all, if Levine were trying to appeal to the political center, then surely he ought to be touting his vote for fracking, not echoing left-wing propaganda against it. Furthermore, there are some policies that do not require the intervention of “big money” from corporate America. Some of them are simply an acknowledgment of reality–often against contributors’ wishes.
As the reality of unemployment bites, for example, even liberals are starting to back big-box stores. And the “union workers” and “environmentalists” that Cohn cites often have quite different views on fossil fuel development. Where “suburban liberals” cast paranoid visions of environmental catastrophe, union leaders often see opportunities for job creation–as well as new member recruitment and new pension contributions.
One thing Cohn does have right is that corporations are turning, increasingly, to Democrats with their lobbying dollars. That is not a new development: recall that Wall Street backed Barack Obama heavily in 2008, for example. It is a sign of two phenomena, one Californian, one general: that there is little alternative in a state run by one party; and that big business always likes to be on the side of the winner, the better to join in the spoils.