Exclusive -- Intercept's Ryan Grim: Rising Populism on Left, Right Puts Donor Class, Establishment in 2020 Bind
The Intercept’s Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim, the author of a new book on the rising populist movement on the American left wing, told Breitbart News Saturday in an interview this weekend that populism on the left inside the Democrat Party coupled with President Donald Trump’s populist takeover of the GOP could put the donor class and establishment of both parties in a serious bind in the upcoming presidential election.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how the 2020 election unfolds if an Elizabeth Warren or a Bernie Sanders wins the nomination because then the kind of Democratic establishment and the Republican establishment–the Bill Kristols of the world–are all going to be put to the test: Folks like Bill Kristol and others who have been saying, ‘Trump is the worst person on the planet,’ will they actually vote for the Democrat or are they going to urge some third-party guy like a Howard Schultz, a billionaire, to come in and try to siphon off enough votes from Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders so that Trump stays in office?” Grim said. “Coming from the Democratic establishment–which we’ve spent the last several years talking about ‘the evil of the Trump administration’–if they take active measures to help him stay in office just to beat the left they will be showing us themselves in a significant way.”
Grim is out with a new book discussing these movements rising on the left behind people like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)–among others–titled We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement.
As Breitbart News has reported, Grim’s book was ahead of the curve in recognizing former Vice President Joe Biden’s problems with race, decades of insensitive comments, and questionable relationships with segregationists–a theme that has tormented the 2020 Democrat frontrunner in the past week.
“It’s huge because the best defense of Biden would be to say, ‘okay, look: you’re in a party that includes segregationists and you’re trying to make progress on civil rights and you’re going to have to compromise with them–Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, they all had to compromise with segregationists and water down the 1957 Civil Rights Act, ’64, ’65, and ’68,'” Grim said on Breitbart News Saturday. “So okay, let’s say that’s what was happening–that’s one thing. But it turns out that’s not what was happening. When Joe Biden talked about working with segregationists, he was working with them to entrench segregation. Joe Biden was a significant player in the push against school integration, like he was publicly opposed to school integration. So, his natural allies were of course the segregationists. Joe Biden didn’t just work with segregationists. Joe Biden, maybe he was a more moderate one, but he was a segregationist himself. So that kind of exposes his entire record to a re-appraisal. He’s been coasting so long on the fact that he was Barack Obama’s vice president. There was no point when he was running as Barack Obama’s vice president in pointing out what a kind of racist background he had had because, you know, well, he’s the running mate of the first black president. But now that he’s on his own, and trying to become the Democratic nominee on his own, it’s starting to come up–and it’s certainly been interesting that you haven’t seen anything from Barack Obama yet.”
Interestingly, former President Barack Obama–the nation’s first black president, whom Biden served under as vice president for eight years–remains completely silent offering no public defense of Biden more than a week into this storyline dominating national headlines.
“Every day that goes by that he [Obama] doesn’t [defend Biden, it gets worse],” Grim added. “I suspect that eventually he might. He doesn’t want to be seen as putting his thumb on the scale in the primary after the 2016 debacle. But man, every day that goes by that he doesn’t step in for Biden here, is another day you’re catching a signal that Obama might not be all that hugely supportive of Joe Biden. Joe Biden is not terribly impressive in person. Obama has spent a lot of time with him in person. So Obama has had time to kind of judge the character and qualities of Biden, and if he’s not out there celebrating him there might be a reason why. It’s very unusual for a president not to endorse and encourage his vice president to be the next president, but it was clear in 2016 that Obama’s candidate was Hillary Clinton. That was a significant reason, I think, that Biden didn’t run.”
Another big story on the left heading into the first debates later this week has been the resurgence of Warren, who in many polls has overtaken Sanders for the second place slot right behind Biden. Sanders has seen a drop-off in support ever since he endorsed felons voting from prison, including the Boston bomber, but Warren’s careful rollout of a series of populist policy plans have put her on a warpath back from the brink to the tip-top of the first tier of candidates right behind Biden just as Biden’s slide begins.
“I wasn’t terribly surprised to see it [Warren’s surge] and there’s actually three whole chapters on her in the book because she has played such a significant role in the Democratic insurgency,” Grim said. “She was one of the few people back in 2009 then that was willing to call out members of the Obama administration by name, like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, to try to tank some nominations that Obama was trying to get through. But I also saw her campaign in 2012 when she was first running for Senate, and it turns out she was very good. I talked to someone high up at either the RNC [Republican National Committee] or NRSC [National Republican Senatorial Committee] in 2012 who said ‘you know, she’s doing okay against [Scott] Brown right but she’s going to fade, she doesn’t wear well.’ There’s this impression about her that she’s kind of shrill, or that basically she doesn’t wear well with voters, but I’ve seen her out there and she feels like your smart neighbor who cares and is going to fight for the neighborhood. People think of her as a Harvard professor, so therefore she must be elitist–but she doesn’t come off that way. She comes off more like the Oklahoma kid that she is. She started campaigning as early as December or January, and being on the trail is good for her. People had low expectations and then they meet her and she exceeds those expectations. Also, that’s the idea of putting out all these policy plans with an ideology behind them. It hasn’t really been tried before, and it really has worked. People have put out white papers–Hillary Clinton had 150 white papers, probably–but they were all white papers about how you could basically do what we’re already doing but slightly more efficiently. So, whereas, Warren’s plans have genuine ideology behind them so it’s combining kind of technocracy and a left ideology at the same time, and people are getting excited about that because power is about imagining a different world, and these plans help you imagine what that different world looks like. So, you want to break up Amazon? Here’s a plan on actually how to do that. You want to tackle financial concentration? Here’s a plan of how you can actually do that. You want to solve the student debt crisis and tackle these runaway universities’ costs? Here’s a plan to do that. It gives people a sense that she can actually do what she’s saying.”
Warren will take the debate stage Wednesday night, where she will face off against former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX) and a handful of others on the first night. Viewers will have to wait until Thursday to see some of the other higher profile candidates like Biden, Sanders, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) as well as South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg–all of whom are on the stage Thursday evening–but Grim thinks this could be a benefit to Warren to be the highest profile on the first evening.
“People should remember one way she got to college as a poor kid from Oklahoma was winning a debate scholarship to GW,” Grim said. “So she knows how to debate. She’s going to do well. There’s really no advantage in hitting her if you’re one of the other candidates because she’s popular now and you’re going to want her supporters. Maybe if you’re a total fringe candidate you can kind of come at her. But I expect that because none of the frontrunners are on stage with her that she will do well. It will just be an opportunity for her to look smart and presidential. The next night, you’re going to have people attacking Bernie. You’re going to have everyone attacking Biden. You may have Bernie and Biden going at each other. If somebody has a huge moment in the contest where they’re going at each other, it might help them–but I think Warren actually kind of lucked out with the draw actually.”
LISTEN TO RYAN GRIM’S FULL INTERVIEW ON BREITBART NEWS SATURDAY: