The Privilege of Refusing Big Money Donors – M. J. Corkern

Why should it cost me, a poor American, more than it costs a rich American to support Elizabeth Warren?

I have relative who is a multi-millionaire. I don’t know who she’s voting for, but she could very well be an Elizabeth Warren fan. She’s not a Trump supporter, I know that much. But I don’t know if she has a primary candidate picked out or if she’s even ready to start paying attention to the 2020 election yet. And if she’s not, that’s okay. But I’m paying attention, and Elizabeth Warren’s blindness to her class/wealth privilege is starting to worry me.

Before I continue, I want to offer some information about me. It is very easy to read a headline or an article and see the author as nothing more than their opinion on a presidential candidate, and it can be hard when that person is talking negatively about your preferred candidate. I know because it happens to me. You may want to defend your candidate. I welcome that. I want to learn. If I am proven wrong, that means I was given the opportunity to allow my mind to expand. I am cool with debate and if you can tell me how what I am saying is untrue or misinformed, please do so. But I ask you to consider me a full human person. A mother, a friend, a democrat, a feminist, someone who struggles with belonging. I am speaking out on this because I see it and it concerns me.

I am qualified to speak on this issue because I am part of the marginalized community known as the working poor. I am the person white progressives are talking about when they reference the people who can’t cover a $400 emergency expense.

I would also like to say, for the record, that Elizabeth Warren was my first top choice for the democratic nominee, and was my second choice for a while, a close second at times. She has slipped farther away, but that has nothing to do with my support for Pete Buttigieg. My support for him has been peak since the beginning. I have zero chill. And if you look at my Twitter handle, you’ll see all these things to be true.

So, please, know me as a human person who genuinely likes Elizabeth Warren, does think she’d be better than most of the democratic nominees and of course would be light years better than Trump.

Okay, so now that that’s cleared up, back to the title of this post.

Elizabeth Warren shows her class/wealth/status privilege with her pledge to not take money from wealthy donors. She’s not going to take money from rich people who want to host fundraisers for her? Are you kidding me? So it’s on me and people like me to fund her campaign? The rich people get to keep their money and I have to spend mine?

Tell me why this plan is good for me? Because she won’t be beholden to millionaires and billionaires? Because really wealthy people are inherently bad?

What’s Elizabeth Warren’s net worth again?

Oh, she’s a good one? So, just like a good millionaire, she doesn’t understand how fucking hard it is for poor people to donate to campaigns. If she did, she wouldn’t put that on her supporters. I would have a hard time if Pete Buttigieg told us the wealthiest among us didn’t get to contribute to his campaign, and the fundraising was all on us average or below average earning Americans. I’m sure it would mean he’d be asking for donations a lot. How often does Elizabeth Warren ask her middle and lower income supporters for money?

I don’t care if she grew up poor or working class. Being poor then is nothing like being poor now. Everything is so much harder to come by. Generational poverty makes things even harder. But she would rather me give her money than my wealthy family member?

Personally, I am not worried about my favorite candidate being bought. He voluntarily served our country as a gay man during don’t ask don’t tell. He left a high-paying job to be a Mayor of a smaller, economically challenged city. He’s clearly purpose driven, not profit driven. So, he can show up to a fundraiser hosted by an Uber executive because he’s still showing up on the picket lines for the ride-share workers. He’s telling Uber exactly what he’s going to do, but someone who works there still feels that he’s worth supporting. Why shouldn’t they? Their money is green, isn’t it? You’d really rather me foot more of the bill for his campaign?

It’s pretty hypocritical to collect from wealthy donors for a senate run, move that money over to her presidential run, then tell all of us that she’s not taking any money from wealthy donors and let that become symbol of progress and of being for the people. Especially when such a declaration disproportionately hurts her supporters who have the least to give.

Why is this being held up as a symbol of purity but something like, I don’t know, military service isn’t? Let me be clear because this is the internet and all: I’m not saying military service should become a purity test. I’m saying refusal to fundraise with the ultra rich (especially when you yourself are the ultra rich), does not make you any more qualified to be president, and the narrative that she is better and more progressive because of her pledge negatively impacts the non-millionaires who are running. I hope one day it won’t take so much money to be a serious contender for higher office, but right now, it does. Should non-wealthy candidates just drop out because they don’t already have the money it takes to run? Should they continue to squeeze every last cent from their low and middle income supporters? Or can we please agree that wealthy donors and expensive fundraisers aren’t in and of themselves bad, and the reason she can refuse this so-called “big money” is because she already has “big money” at her disposal?

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