Former President Obama just accepted a $400,000 deal to deliver a speech at a Cantor Fitzgerald event on healthcare, to be held this fall. While this might seem like a mainstream decision for a former president, it promises a Democratic shake-up is brewing.
Outspoken Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat, Massachusetts) has already taken a stand against the speech. We’re left to wonder about the future of the Democratic Party: will it come out stronger, or will it fall apart even more?
Democrats Taking a Stand
Even though Warren is the one taking center stage now, she’s just part of a general movement within the party against Wall Street money and the one percent. Senator Bernie Sanders (Democrat, Vermont) has built an entire presidential campaign on standing up to big money and resisting Wall Street’s corrupting influence. His voice has energized supporters throughout the US, with party colleagues like Warren and Rep. Keith Ellison (Democrat, Minnesota) taking his side.
However, those that are against the influence of money in politics make up a minority in the Democratic Party. Mainstream Democrats nowadays, like the recently elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, tend to favor pampering the interests of big money corporations. Hillary Clinton, former Democratic candidate for the Presidency, was heavily criticized by the GOP and Democrats alike for this very reason.
Still, historically, the Democratic party was not always watching out for the interests of Wall Street Corporations.
A Short History Lesson
The 33rd President of the United States, Harry Truman, was famously opposed to the concept of delivering paid speech. After he left office, he reportedly made as little as $120,000 precisely because he refused to give such speeches. Finally, he was saved by a contract with Life Magazine where he would write his memoirs.
The trend against paid speeches was shared by Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. During these presidencies, the party stood in opposition to big money – a traditionally Republican strong point. However, the 70s was a difficult time for Democrats. It was made even harder by the troublesome presidency of Gerald Ford, who also broke the status quo on paid speech delivery.
Because Ford accepted the influence of money, among other reasons, the Democratic Party abruptly fell. It paved the way for the presidencies of Reagan and Bush, H. W. because the people felt the Democrats had betrayed their own values. A feeling further deepened by President Carter and his disastrous handling of the Iran hostage crisis.
What Obama Needs to Decide
Will he be for the working class or will he continue to bend to the influence of Wall Street billionaires? The current shake-up within the Democratic party has dropped their popularity to 28% in a poll which asked how “in touch” they are with the majority of the population’s concerns.
The way Obama handles his post-presidency days will also have a distorting effect on how his two terms in office are perceived. His acceptance of Wall Street speeches will only further deepen the Democratic crisis. But is this just a distraction from Trump?