One of the many outlandish and outsized claims that Donald Trump brandished in his journey to the White House was that he was going to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington. It was also one of his more powerful, resonant messages. It had this power because it spoke directly to the (accurate) perception of the nation’s capital — and all its attendant lobbyists, power brokers, and movers and shakers — as an out-of-touch, corrupt bubble of self-service and nepotism. Trump, if elected, he said, would have no inside players on his team. His would be a government of outsiders. Yes, indeed, Donald Trump, corrupt billionaire, played the card of the outsider, which — excruciatingly disingenuous though it was — was enough to help propel him on his journey to Washington. The bigotry and fear that underlined his campaign would never have succeeded had they not been wedded to a message of thorough status quo upheaval. Look to the history of economic stagnation and societal crises and you will find the same story has played out a hundred times before.
The fact that anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the man could tell that this, just like any or all of his other promises, was most likely to turn out to be a draft of ephemeral hot air was almost irrelevant. The indignant cry was enough for many. Sure enough, however, we are now seeing exactly what Trump meant when he spoke of ‘outsiders’: veteran neo-cons, Wall Street players, and Neo-Nazi propagandists.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has long been, alongside Bernie Sanders, one of America’s brightest examples of a politician who genuinely seems to be in office primarily out of a sense of duty to the public and for the purpose of common good. Progressive politicians such as these will now be more crucial than ever. They will need to hold Donald Trump’s feet to the fire, constantly and fiercely.
Bernie Sanders has already issued his defiant opening statements on the Trump victory. Senator Warren has now begun to lead a charge too. She has penned a letter (PDF link) to President-elect Trump in which she addresses his campaign, and his almost immediate breaking of the positive-sounding promises that buoyed it.
She begins by outlining these promises:
During your campaign for President of the United States, you railed against “powerful special interests” that have “rigged our political and economic system for their exclusive benefit. “You excoriated trade deals that you described as “mortal threat[s] to American manufacturing” and “disaster[s] …. pushed by special interests.” You promised that you would “not be controlled by the donors, special interests and lobbyists who have corrupted our politics and politicians for far too long,” and that you would “drain the swamp” in Washington D.C. And you won [the] election largely on the strength of these promises.
Warren continues by describing how quickly Trump has, contrary to his word, ‘elevated a slew of Wall Street bankers, industry insiders, and special interest lobbyists to [his] transition team,’ and how ‘even more are rumored to be named as potential cabinet members’, with reports stating that this could include, ‘over twenty Wall Street elites, industry insiders, and lobbyists making decisions that could have huge implications for their clients or employers.’ Among these, she says, are:
a former Goldman Sachs executive who is rumored to be a Treasury Secretary pick; a paid consultant for Verizon who is making key decisions on your administration’s Federal Communication Commission; a “top lobbyist” whose firm lobbied on behalf of issues related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership who is shaping your Labor Department; and a climate-change- denying, oil industry-paid think tank fellow who is leading your environmental team’s transition.
Warren’s letter goes on to name and shame a host of industry insiders and special interests lobbyists that Trump plans to surround himself with. The names and back stories of these men — because it is basically all men — should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who is hoping for any sort of progressive social politics or crucial, apocalypse-stalling environmental action to take place.
Of special note in the letter is the section detailing the Wall Street players that are circling Trump at the moment. Donald Trump’s campaign — the semi-coherent, non-bigoted part of it anyway — ran on a justified rage against a banking system which worked beautifully for those few involved with it but which has been a ‘great vampire squid’ on the rest of humanity (that link there, incidentally, is to a Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi piece about Goldman Sachs. It’s virtuoso stuff. Read it.) Nevertheless, despite the rhetoric, Trump has shown every sign of calling people to him who come directly from the belly of the beast. Warren describes them in depth in her letter, and as it deserves to be read in full by everyone, here is the PDF link again.
For those short on time (and hope) at the moment, the conclusion to Senator Warren’s letter is something you should read right now:
It is no secret that we fundamentally disagree on a number of issues of critical importance to the future of this nation - issues that I will never stop fighting for and will never compromise on. But members of my party - just like members of yours - are fed up: seventy-two percent of voters - both Democrats and Republicans - believe that “the American economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and the powerful.” Americans are angry about a federal government that works for the rich and powerful and that leaves everyone else in the dirt. As I said last week, when your goal is to increase the economic security of middle class families, then count me in - I will put aside our differences and I will work with you to accomplish that goal.
The early reports of who is on your transition team indicate that, despite your campaign promises, you are looking to industry insiders, lobbyists and other special interests to shape Washington D.C. under your administration. If you truly want to make Washington, D.C. work for the American people, you have the opportunity - indeed, you have the responsibility - to remove the lobbyists and financial bigwigs from your transition team and reinstate a group of advisors who will fight for the interests of all Americans.
Let me be clear. Should you refuse, I will oppose you, every step of the way, for the next four years. I will champion the millions of Americans you will fail to protect. I will track your every move, and I will remind Americans, every day, of the actions you take that fail them. And I will not be the only one watching. The millions of Americans who voted for you - and the millions who didn’t - will all be watching you.
Edit: since the time of writing there have been some reshuffles of Trump’s team.