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Democrats Need to Clean House, Too

The party will be stronger if they root out the creeps, corruption and cronyism in their own ranks

Regular readers will know I support Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primaries — where my Liz Lads at? — and I’m delighted to hear that she this week declared an all-out war on corruption. Apart from being a necessary and long overdue kind of politics, it means that when some MAGA chud Googles “Elizabeth Warren corruption” to find something damning he can share on Twitter, all he’ll find is a wall of articles about Warren as the anti-corruption candidate. She’s out here talking the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, saying she wants to target corruption “right at the heart of our government,” even going so far as to call Trump “corruption in the flesh.”

And folks? It owns.

Across the country from Warren’s rally in New York’s Washington Square Park, a much different story was unfolding. It was the next day that police finally arrested Ed Buck, a prominent Democratic donor, on charges relating to his habit of injecting queer black men with dangerous amounts of methamphetamine in his West Hollywood home. Since 2017, at least two victims, Timothy Dean and Gemmel Moore, suffered fatal overdoses; on September 11th, an unidentified 37-year-old man OD’d but survived. Buck was taken in for “battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house,” and he could go to prison for more than five years.

Locally, the story has offered a glimpse into the grave deficiencies of justice where certain lives are concerned — families and black activists had to pressure law enforcement to look at how Buck was preying on at-risk, sometimes homeless men of color.

Now, of course, a clown car’s worth of right-wing shitballs are sounding the “WhY wOn’T mAiNsTrEaM mEdiA cOvEr ThiS StOrY” alarm, even though every outlet with a supposed liberal bias, from CNN to the New York Times to NPR, is reporting on it, always faithfully describing Buck as a Democratic donor. The point remains, however: Buck has given thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates and political action committees, more than $100,000 in the past decade. That may be peanuts in the grand scheme of campaign spending in America, but it’s enough to strike up a chummy relationship with Eric Garcetti, the mayor of L.A.

Organizations and politicians including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Rep. Ted Lieu, a star of Resistance Twitter, pledged to donate Buck’s contributions to other causes — only after a second man died at Buck’s home. This distancing-for-optics was too little, far too late, and it suggests the party isn’t nearly serious enough when it comes to cutting out the rot and creeps within its own ranks. And like the Jeffrey Epstein case, it suggests a dark network of widespread abuse made possible through political connections.

We still don’t know whether Buck was acting alone, or the precise mechanics of how he got away with what certainly looks like a pair of murders, or if more men died and simply weren’t reported missing. These are the stories that make voters believe the elites are all into schemes together, allied not in ideology but wealth, power and perversion. What good does it do to hit Trump for rubbing elbows with Epstein when the Democratic Party has Bill Clinton, a repeat flier on the Lolita Express and an obvious sexual predator in his own right, still hanging around at conventions?

If you remember 2016 (or 2000, for that matter), you remember a presidential race between two fairly unpopular candidates often judged by apathetic voters to be, in essence, barely different. There was the idea that both sides took suspicious money, hired unsavory operatives and settled scores by nefarious means. While some Republicans will never see a Democrat as honest, one way a candidate like Warren (or Bernie, or Castro) might appeal to the vast swath of the electorate that sees all of Washington as equally crooked is to call out the corruption and villains of the Democratic establishment.

In fact, this would present a nice synergy as they endeavor to topple Joe Biden from de facto frontrunner status: Warren speaks to the scourge of ill-gotten wealth, and Biden’s family has profited from his political clout for years. His brother James is currently facing a lawsuit that alleges he invoked his proximity to the vice president as “part of a fraudulent scheme to bankrupt two medical firms and steal their business model.”   

Right now, it’s popular to hit Biden for his shaky record on race and past friendships with segregationists. But addressing how his career has enriched his relatives through various conflicts of interest would signal both a commitment to calling out grift in all corners and a sharper ethical contrast with the naked cronyism of Trumpworld. As per the Bible: First cast the beam out of thine own eye. If Democrats condemn and exile the Ed Bucks in their midst before they’re hauled off to jail, and don’t look the other way when colleagues in government profit unduly from their position, it just may break the cliché that everyone lives in the same fetid swamp.

Give us a reason to think that there are, in fact, two parties, and not one ruling class.