By Kerri Barber

In a deeply divided nation, Congress is the one institution that is working in lockstep on behalf of their corporate patrons. Unfortunately, it is the American citizen that is losing both their functional democracy and their livelihoods. Democratic leadership is supposed to be the wall to defend voters. Instead they are working with Republicans at every turn.

Shahid Buttar, a constitutional lawyer from San Francisco, predicted the fallacy and failure of the impeachment trial in May 2019. His unpopular opinion was quickly dismissed as a political snipe at his opponent in the California-12 Congressional race. Now that Buttar has earned the second spot on the 2020 November ballot to face-off against Pelosi directly, his critics are no longer laughing. 

Hindsight is once again a valuable teacher. 

At the time Buttar published his opinion piece in Truthout, “Democrats Against Impeachment Invite Autocracy and a Loss in 2020,” the march to impeachment of the 45th president weighed heavily on the American psyche, but not so for Democractic leadership. The battle coalesced  around obstruction of justice relating to the Mueller investigation, presenting the narrowest window to make a case for impeachment. 

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said of the game plan, “We’re going to move forward with our investigation into obstruction of justice, abuses of power, corruption, to defend the rule of law, which is our job.”

Nadler is now facing a host of challengers  in the June 2020 New York primary, including Lindsey Boylan, a civil servant in the Chief of Staff role in the state’s economic development department and Medicare for All advocate. This was ample reason for him to move toward playing it safe in the impeachment proceedings. 

In March 2019, an ambivalent Speaker Nancy Pelosi was interviewed by the Washington Post about the call to action to hold President Trump accountable. After winning seventeen terms and serving eight years as House Speaker, Pelosi seemed less concerned about public sentiment on this issue with constituents clamoring for justice in what appeared to be a litany of alleged crimes and Constitutional violations. 

Pelosi hinted at the reason why and is quoted as saying, “[Trump’s] been a great organizer for Democrats, a great fundraiser for Democrats and a great mobilizer at the grass-roots level for Democrats. And I think that’s good for America.” 

Wall Street was also profiting under the Trump Administration, netting new record highs. As 2019 came to a close, Marketwatch was touting, “…a banner year…” comparing gains to those of 2013 citing the Dow’s gains of 22.3% and the S&P gaining 28.9%. 

In 2010, Pelso herself reported a net worth of $35 million, but by the end of 2019,  speculation was that her personal net worth rose to as much as $160 million or as low as $43 million, provided one believes her assets grew in the ten year period at a fraction of the nominal market rate. 

This vast wealth accumulation, regardless of which estimate is believed, is attributed largely to her husband’s real estate and venture capital investments, sectors that benefited by market performance. She holds personal investments in Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Facebook, Disney, Visa, and billion dollar venture fund managing company Odyssey LLC. 

Pelosi’s liabilities come from five mortgages written by Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Union Bank of California. 

Against this framework, Pelosi and the cohort of Democratic leaders set about to focus exclusively on an obstruction of justice charge in articles of impeachment. 

Shahid Buttar pointed out this mistake along with a host of logical fallacies the year before. Buttar wrote:

 “If simply doing what’s right isn’t enough for Democratic National Committee leaders, let’s take a closer look at the political imperative for impeachment, starting with the canard that impeachment would risk alienating voters. I can’t think of anything more repugnant than four more years of this blundering and dangerous buffoon in the Oval Office — which is why it’s so important that we get this right.”

Buttar called out the high election rate of Democrats in 2018 and the push for change as concrete data surrounding public sentiment, “The fears of out-of-touch Democratic Party leaders brought us our criminal president in the first place. We should pay them no heed now.” 

The fiasco that became the impeachment proceedings included absent Senators, sleeping Representatives, and those caught playing games during what was supposed to be a serious concern for the public’s cry for justice. It is no wonder now that the entire proceeding widened the gap in the political divide across the country. 

It should not have come as a surprise even then after 187 Federal judicial appointees were seated and multiple budget agreements passed, including funding for Trump’s wall, more immigrant cages, and the ignominious Space Force $15.4 billion dollar budget, all passed Congress with bi-partisan support. 

Much of this isn’t making headlines, except for the progressive challengers to corporate Democrats running during the contentious 2020 primary. Not even the specter of a global pandemic has been able to move legislators to prioritizing human capital over short sighted material gains in stocks. 

In a recent interview on this network, Buttar spoke about the continuing challenge of merely getting corporate Democrats like Pelosi to bend toward their working-class constituents:

“At the end of the day we see Congress legislating, not as we would expect in a democracy, on behalf of the people of the United States, but unfortunately in a ‘capitalocracy’ on behalf of Wall Street. There is no single seat in the country that better represents that divergence from the interests of the district and that commitment to capital better than the seat I am running for.” 

Once again Buttar, like many of the progressive challengers, can rightly point to many instances where both Democrats and Republicans sought to protect their personal wealth in illegal stock sales and mismanagement of paltry relief funds that were to go toward helping small businesses on Main Street, that were instead gobbled up by Wall Street traded corporations

Throughout all of this, the presidential race had been merely a distraction as primary election mismanagement from Iowa to Main to Illinois and Wisconsin provided heavy cover to deflect from these serious conversations while putting would-be voters and poll workers in dire risk of contracting COVID19 themselves. 

This only served to rouse Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg with her colleagues, Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, to point out the obvious ‘poll tax’, “Either [voters] will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own. That is a matter of utmost importance …” 

Poll workers in Illinois and other states have already died from COVID19 complications and states like Michigan that hosted in-person voting saw a dramatic spike in confirmed cases after their primaries. 

Time is running out on this primary and what remains of the 2020 election cycle. Progressive voters must finally listen long enough to support down ballot candidates still working to level the playing field for American families against a united front of corporate legislators defending their seats in Congress. 

Interview with Shahid Buttar

Exclusive interview for Progressive Insider