‘The Party of the Ultrarich and the Ultra-poor’


When the Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel student debt, his administration hurried to find a work-around. Less than a year later, Biden has now forgiven more than $160 billion in college loans for nearly 5 million borrowers—totals that, as he often notes, would be much higher if not for the Court.

To Representative Seth Moulton, the policy that Biden tried so hard to implement is a prime example of how the Democratic Party has gone astray and why Biden might lose to Donald Trump. “In many ways, we have become the party of the ultrarich and the ultra-poor, and a lot of people in the middle think Democrats are out of touch,” Moulton told me. Student-debt relief is “a terrible priority because it sends a message to everyone who didn’t get the opportunity to go to college that they’re less important than the people who did.”

Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat in his fifth House term, briefly ran for president in 2020, dropping out well before the voting started. Although most Democrats blame Biden’s swing-state deficits on inflation and (more quietly) his age, Moulton largely blames his own party, which he believes has “catered too much to the left.” Given that the GOP “is led by a convicted criminal, what does it say about us as Democrats that we’re not cleaning up?” Moulton said. “Because we should be winning every race—from school board to president of the United States—in our sleep.”

I spoke with him about the problems he sees for Biden and his party—and how he would fix them. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Russell Berman: How are you feeling about the election right now?

Seth Moulton: Not great.

Berman: What do you think that says about Democrats?

Moulton: The first thing it says is that we’ve lost touch with a lot of people in America. In many ways, we have become the party of the ultrarich and the ultra-poor, and a lot of people in the middle think Democrats are out of touch, that we’re more concerned about offending people than making hard choices, that we’re so wrapped up in principle that we can’t come up with practical solutions to the problems facing many Americans across the country, that we’re more concerned about identity politics than American values. These are things that we have to address now.

Berman: What are the issues that Biden and the Democrats should be really hitting hard over the next five months?

Moulton: We should talk about his bipartisan wins, like the infrastructure bill that Republicans are touting all over the country, even when they voted against it. We should be talking about how Ukraine and Israel, despite being incredibly difficult, are going a lot better than they would under Trump. Biden might even show the humility that John F. Kennedy showed after the Bay of Pigs to admit he screwed up with Afghanistan. We should talk about how Republicans are playing politics with immigration while we’re trying to fix it. We should talk about how inflation is going down because of this administration, and we should talk about how every one of Trump’s economic policies—tariffs, taxes, and deportations—will make food prices go up and inflation worse across the board.

Berman: Just to play devil’s advocate here, if I took that summary and showed it to the Biden campaign, they would ask if Seth Moulton is reading from their playbook. They’d say, ‘This is our campaign. This is what we’re doing.’

Moulton: The campaign is not effectively delivering that message, and instead it’s getting hijacked by issues, like the protests over Gaza and student-loan-debt relief, that unfortunately alienate more Americans than they unite.

Berman: Why is Donald Trump doing so well?

Moulton: If you look at inflation, it has a huge impact on elections. It always has, and it does all around the globe. In fact, Biden is doing a lot better than his incumbent colleagues in other countries. So it is a tough time for incumbents. It’s a tough time for people in the center, for moderates, and these are things that Biden represents over Trump.

But we also have to step back and ask ourselves: When the Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war playing out all across the country and is led by a convicted criminal, what does it say about us as Democrats that we’re not cleaning up? Because we should be winning every race—from school board to president of the United States—in our sleep against this kind of criminal opposition.

Berman: Joe Biden has always branded himself as representing the middle class, which you say Democrats have lost touch with. He’s Middle-Class Joe from Scranton, who rode the train home every night and wasn’t particularly rich by the standards of the Washington elite. Do you think he’s done the best he can in this political environment, or do you agree with his critics who say that he got pulled too far to the left and that’s why he’s not winning now?

Moulton: I think that both are true. I think that President Biden, in his heart, understands what I’m saying, and that’s why he talks so much about being a middle-of-the-road guy. But I also think it’s true that he and his administration have catered too much to the left in the past few years, pursuing policies that are popular with the base but risk alienating a lot of independents or moderate Republicans who don’t fundamentally want to vote for Trump.

Berman: What’s an example of a policy that he’s pursued that he shouldn’t have?

Moulton: Why on earth are we forgiving student loans for everyone who actually had the chance to go to college? I think there are good policy reasons for this, and, by the way, it would be helpful to me, because I still have student loans. But it’s a terrible priority, because it sends a message to everyone who didn’t get the opportunity to go to college that they’re less important than the people who did and can’t figure out how to pay their loans.

Berman: Was it a mistake for Biden to run again?

Moulton: I do wish that Biden were younger.

[Pause]

Berman: Is that it?

Moulton: I wish he were getting younger with every passing day and not the other way around. Look, there’s no question that this is a grave concern among many Americans, Democrats and Republicans. But of course, the alternative is really old too, and far more senile.

Berman: What do Democrats need to do over the next five months to win this election?

Moulton: Biden has been a great president but a bad messenger, so we’ve got to get other messengers out there for the Democratic Party … This election has to be about the future. It can’t be about the past, and that’s challenging for Biden, for obvious reasons. But the Democratic Party is not just about one person, and he needs to make that clear through his own words, but also through how he empowers the leaders who are the future of our party and not empower the radicals who are holding us back.

Berman: Do you feel like you’re out on an island here, or are there a lot of other Democrats who share your views but are not speaking up?

Moulton: I don’t think I’m on an island in thinking about this, but I know I’m on an island in saying it, and I feel like there are too few of us taking this seriously. Whenever I talk to my colleagues, I hear all sorts of excuses for why things are not that bad, and all kinds of strategies that are really just hopes. We need to recognize how dire this instance is. This moment is not just for one campaign, but for the future of our party in America. Because if we can’t win now, we’re toast when the Republicans actually get their act together.



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top