Lever Time with David Sirota

Today, we’re sharing another episode of the podcast Deconstructed, from our friends over at The Intercept, an award-winning investigative news organization.

The 2008 economic crisis changed the world. In the United States, the meager response by Barack Obama and the Democratic Party produced a recovery that was far too slow, drove an eviction crisis, and fueled a populist backlash. 

On the left, that backlash took the form of Occupy Wall Street, which put the problem of wealth and income inequality — the 99 percent versus the 1 percent — into the national political conversation for the first time since the Great Depression. Followed a few years later by the Movement for Black Lives and an upsurge of climate activism, the new radical energy among young people prepped the ground for the first Bernie Sanders campaign. 

In 2016, the Vermont senator came shockingly close to the presidential nomination. In the wake of Sanders’ campaign, a chunk of his staff that focused on organizing grassroots supporters decided to quit and try something new: They would recruit and support Bernie-style populists and take over the House.

On this episode of Deconstructed, Ryan Grim brings us another audio documentary, adapted from an excerpt of his newest book, The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution. This episode chronicles the 2008 economic crisis, Obama’s election, and zeroes in on how individual members of the Squad became politicized.

If you like Lever Time, be sure to check out Deconstructed on all podcast platforms and subscribe.

A transcript of this episode is available here.

What is Lever Time with David Sirota?

From LeverNews.com — Lever Time is the flagship podcast from the investigative news outlet The Lever. Hosted by award-winning journalist, Oscar-nominated writer, and Bernie Sanders' 2020 speechwriter David Sirota, Lever Time features exclusive reporting from The Lever’s newsroom, high-profile guest interviews, and expert analysis from the sharpest minds in media and politics.

David Sirota: [00:00:00] Hey everyone, it's David Sarta. Today we're sharing an episode of the podcast Deconstructed with Ryan Grim, who's the Washington Bureau chief of The Intercept, an award-winning investigative news outlet. Now listen, if you like lever time with me, David Soda, you're definitely gonna like deconstructed with Ryan Grim. So be sure to subscribe to Deconstructed right now in your podcast app.

Just search for deconstructed on your favorite podcast player.

Deconstructed: I'm Ryan Grim. Welcome back to Deconstructed. The great financial crisis of 2008 tore apart the old world, but left uncertain where we'd go next, just as the Great Depression spawned fascism in some places, socialist revolution in [00:01:00] others, and FDR's New Deal here. In the United States, it was incoming President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party that had the chance to shape the American response.

On today's episode of Deconstructed, we're presenting part two of our three part miniseries, adapted from the Macmillan Audio version of my new book, The Squad, AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution.

44 Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity. In the still waters of peace, yet every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply [00:02:00] because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers and true to our founding documents.

So it has been, so it must be with this generation of Americans. Barack Obama, in no small part due to the prior machinations of his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, was the first president in 50 years to be working with a Democratic majority more conservative than the White House. Both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had faced congressional majorities that were more liberal.

And they needed to triangulate and browbeat progressives in order to implement their respective agendas. Emanuel, as the 2006 chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, assiduously recruited conservative candidates to challenge incumbent Republicans. Democrats are now in charge in the House.

They [00:03:00] needed 15 seats to retake the majority. They won, at latest count, at least 28 seats. And they took the Senate, too, winning the to claim a bare majority. All I'm thinking now is how excited I am that we've had a great election for the country and for our state and our city because it really matters who's going to be in these jobs.

The timing couldn't have been worse. Democrats did take the House and Senate that cycle, though whether Emanuel's strategy helped or hurt that effort is debatable. But not long after they were sworn in, cracks began showing in the bubble economy.

Small time subprime lenders who had pumped out fraudulent loans disproportionately to black homeowners began going under. Bear Stearns today leading the tumble on Wall Street. The stock plunging 45 percent after the New [00:04:00] York Federal Reserve and J. P. Morgan agreed to provide an emergency financing to the Wall Street firm.

Take a look at the stock trading. It was fast and furious. It finishes today at 29. 75. That is a whopping loss of 3. 5 billion in market value today alone. Big lenders followed. And in March 2008, Bear Stearns, a Wall Street giant, collapsed. And it's not just Bear. Pretty much every single bank is plunging in early trade this morning.

Lehman, which is a very Similar to bear and its reliance on fixed income is down nearly 30%. You have big names like Goldman Sachs down 8 percent city group down 8%. So it is pain across the board. Bear Stearns was the first wall street bank to implode and is being looked at as a case history of an institution that operated in what's being called a shadow banking system.

Institutions and markets operating outside the regulatory structure. Obama, though, was surging, having caught and eclipsed the all but anointed [00:05:00] Hillary Clinton. In a mirror version of 2016, it was Obama who leaned into his identity, while Clinton downplayed the path breaking nature of her own candidacy.

It was into this looming financial crisis that Alexandria Ocasio Cortez graduated high school in 2007 in Yorktown, New York. in January 2008. While home from Boston University for her first winter break, she registered to vote as a Democrat and was swept up by Obama's hopeful campaign. She told me she phone banked in between classes and tried to absentee vote in the primary, but New York's notoriously rickety election infrastructure failed to get her a ballot in time, so she took an overnight Chinatown bus to get home to vote in person.

While at BU, Ocasio Cortez interned for Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who had made universal health [00:06:00] care the cause of his life. But I want every delegate at this convention to understand that as long as I'm a vote, and as long as I have a voice in the United States Senate, it's going to be for that democratic platform plank that provides decent quality healthcare.

It was there that she met and began dating Riley Roberts. And the two have been together ever since, getting engaged in 2022.

At home, things were going poorly, however. Her father, Sergio Ocasio Román, was battling cancer at the same time that his architecture business was grappling with the housing collapse. Alexandria was in an economics class when she got a call from her mother saying he had taken a turn for the worse. She raced to a cab and caught the first flight home.[00:07:00]

Making it in time to say goodbye. Make me proud, her father told her. Her brother, Gabriel, was still in high school, living with their mother in a house that was rapidly plummeting in value just as the family lost its main source of income. When my father died, she was left a single mother of two, and again, she had to start over.

Alexandria wrote of their mother in an Instagram post after she was sworn into Congress. After he passed, we almost lost our home. Their mom Blanca juggled odd jobs, cleaning houses, driving a school bus, answering phones. Sergio had died without a will, so the estate wound up in the local surrogate court, where lawyers prey on families in desperate situations.

People Ocasio Cortez believed were from the bank, she recalled, would pull up to the house and take pictures. More than 2 million prime mortgages, traditional loans for people with good credit, are now delinquent, [00:08:00] 600, 000 more than this time last year. Unfortunately, the owner of her New York City brownstone can no longer pay the mortgage.

If the bank repossesses the property, a likely scenario, she and her 5 year old daughter will have just 30 days before they're out on the street. She'd be one of a growing number, not of owners, but of renters, losing their homes to bank foreclosures. All around her, people were losing their homes. 2. 9 million were foreclosed on in 2009 and another 2.

9 million in 2010. The number dropped to just under two million for both 2011 and 2012, the year the court finally cleared her family's estate. The Obama administration, as has by now been thoroughly documented, deliberately encouraged these foreclosures. With White House economic advisor Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner both arguing that the rubble of the American dream would foam the runway for the insolvent banks, allowing them [00:09:00] to lose money slowly rather than go bust all at once.

Helping homeowners by holding banks accountable for the fraud would have been too painful for those banks and could cause them to collapse. So the Obama administration and Wall Street had agreed to slowly bleed out the homeowners to keep the bailed out banks alive. And since that time, the home next to it is in foreclosure.

It's for sale now. Two others behind me and one across the street and two more at the end. So half of the homes on this cul de sac have been hit with a foreclosure situation. Now the bad news is that the half that haven't been hit yet will be in the near future. Once in office, conservative Democrats Emanuel had recruited in 2006 as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DCCC, routinely bucked the Obama administration, coupled with Obama's own instincts to go small.

The result was a turn toward [00:10:00] austerity heading into the midterms, a move that exacerbated rather than mitigated the coming losses. In order to get the votes for Obama's signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, the price tag was kept low, which drove up the cost of premiums and deductibles and delayed implementation for several years, meaning Democrats paid all the political costs up front but got none of the benefits.

And the public health insurance option that progressives saw as the ACA's linchpin was scuttled. Look at Obamacare, Ocasio Cortez would say later. They really thought that a person who makes 40, 000 a year can pay 200 a month in health insurance for an 8, 000 deductible? And they really thought that that was insurance?

After two big elections marked by significant gains, Senate Democrats are bracing for a rocky 2010. Campaign 2010 proved to be an historic election for [00:11:00] the Republican Party, and a decisive defeat for President Obama and many of his fellow Democrats. Angry voters flock to the GOP, which will take control of the House of Representatives.

The 2010 midterm wipeout at the hands of the Tea Party reshaped what was possible for Democrats and for progressives generally. With Republicans in charge of the House, Obama's legislative window was officially closed, and he would spend the next several years locked in negotiations over how dramatically to scale back social spending with a never ending series of manufactured crises in the form of debt ceiling showdowns and government shutdowns.

The only way to spend money is through congressional legislation, which meant that federal efforts to improve the economic well being of the public were effectively off the table. Yet progress could still be made on the social and cultural front. Climate activists, after the failure of major legislation in 2009, converted their energy to [00:12:00] campus protests, urging divestment from fossil fuels and into direct protests against particular projects.

Most importantly, The Keystone XL pipeline, to which Ocasio Cortez would travel to protest. Which planned to bring tar sands oil across the border from Canada. Over 10, 000 protesters surrounded the White House Sunday calling on President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

The protest came exactly a year before the 2012 election and the pipeline is shaping up to be a major political issue.

After Ocasio Cortez graduated from Boston University, not long after the Tea Party was sworn in, she moved into the Bronx co op apartment where she had been born and where Sergio had run his business. At 21, she started bartending and [00:13:00] waitressing at the coffee shop and its sister location, Flats Fix, to help out at home and cover the expenses of her apartment.

That fall, protesters took over downtown Zuccotti Park, launching the Occupy Wall Street movement. For almost three weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement in lower Manhattan has been growing larger, getting more and more attention. What started with a core group of 100 demonstrators has in three weeks grown with the support of at least eight labor unions, student groups, and people of all ages and backgrounds.

Minority groups are also becoming more involved. Despite her earlier ambitions, by this point in her life, the proper way to understand Ocasio Cortez was as a bartender. This was not something she was doing in the summer between semesters. It wasn't something she did on the side. It was her job. And she was starting to think think and to worry that it was her career, her life.

She was a living example of the millions [00:14:00] of millennials who were on the way to becoming the first generation in the United States to end up worse off than their parents. Capitalism was losing its luster, and with nothing left to lose, Ocasio Cortez and others like her began to open themselves up to the message Sanders would later spread.

She recalled that dark time in a poignant Instagram post after being sworn in. It wasn't long ago that we felt our lives were over, that there were only so many do overs until it was just too late, or too much to take, or we were too spiritually spent, she said of her mother and herself, recalling her years trekking from the Bronx to Union Square for her job.

And that's when I started over. I honestly thought that as a 28 year old waitress, I was too late, that the train of my fulfilled potential had left the station. The crushing of Occupy Wall Street and the disappointment of the Obama administration's economic agenda left Ocasio [00:15:00] Cortez's generation believing the real forum to make progress was elsewhere, in fighting back against sexism, systemic racism, and homophobia.

A good job and a raise might not be in the cards, but the culture could be rid of its bigotry.

Congress itself pointed the political way forward. In the lame duck session of 2010. The last moment Democrats would have a majority until 2019, Congress repealed the military's don't ask, don't tell policy, finally allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to serve openly in the military. With 65 votes, eight of them Republican, the Senate voted to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

They want to put their lives on the line for our security and our freedom. Does it make any sense to say no to them? Marriage equality cases then making their way through the courts had been significantly hobbled by the Defense Department's discriminatory [00:16:00] policy. And legal experts on both sides of the argument believed the U.

S. Supreme Court would be unwilling to draft an opinion that would dramatically change military policy. Once the policy was repealed, an LGB Though not the tea, members began serving openly, the path toward marriage equality was cleared, particularly as there was no backlash either inside or outside the military, and as openly gay and lesbian service members were quickly absorbed into military culture.

The culture was changing on other fronts, too.

In February 2012, Trayvon Martin was walking to a family member's house from a convenience store in Stanford, Florida, when he was confronted by neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman, who found Martin's hoodie suspicious. The two began fighting, where left only was Zimmerman's account, and Zimmerman pulled out a weapon and shot Martin dead.

Trayvon Martin, an [00:17:00] unarmed black teenager, was shot down by a white neighborhood watchman who claimed self defense. an arrest warrant. Police say and has not at this point been arrested. Ever since the On February 26, he left his father's fiancé's house to buy Skittles and iced tea during the NBA All Star Game, making his way along this path.

And Crimewatch volunteer George Zimmerman spotted him, began to follow him. God, these a holes, they always get away. Are you following him? Yeah. Okay, we don't need you to do that. But Zimmerman does anyway. He begins chasing him. This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something. His death sparked national fury.

And when Zimmerman was acquitted in July 2013, relying on the state's Stand Your Ground law, activist Alicia Garza wrote a post on Facebook that finished with the admonition that Black Lives Matter. The phrase struck a chord. Garza's friend and fellow activist, Patrice Callors Responded [00:18:00] and turned it into the hashtag Black Lives Matter, giving a name to a movement.

Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Protesters turned out today in Philadelphia and dozens of other cities across the country and in front of the White House. America! It was a new name, but in many ways, a very old movement. Tensions with the police had been central to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The Watts Uprising of August 1965 was sparked when a police officer beat a black motorist he had pulled over. Six days of rioting in a negro section of Los Angeles, left behind scenes reminiscent of war torn cities. More than a hundred square blocks were decimated by fire and looters, and few buildings were left intact.

The Newark [00:19:00] Uprising, as just one more example. was similarly triggered when officers beat a motorist there in July 1967. The original name for the Black Panthers, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, hinted at its purpose. Defense against not just rogue white citizens, but also the police. I'm not the pig.

You've got to make a distinction. And the people are going to have to attack the pig. The people are going to have to stand up against the pig. No more pigs in our community. All the pigs! No more pigs in our community. All the pigs! No more pigs in our community. In 1988, The smash hit song, Fuck the Police, by the Compton based rap group N.

W. A. gave impolitic voice to the rage over police brutality. With the lyrics pointing to the way a system of racial dominance could employ black officers, too. Me, cause I'm a teenager With a little bit of gold and a pager Searchin [00:20:00] my car, lookin for the product Thinkin every nigga is sellin narcotic The generation raised in the 1980s and 90s was politicized through hip hop.

Others, however, have been celebrating victory for some time thanks to large early leads. Among them is Jamal Bowman, the 44 year old former middle school principal knocked off the incumbent House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Elliott Engel. I just got off the phone, just got a call from like Senator Sanders, like Bernie Sanders just gave me a call just to give me a shout out, wish me well.

Uh, tell me that they're doing another email send from me and two other candidates. So we'll be able to generate some revenue from that. But it was, it was cool, man, to speak to the O. G., Triple O. G. himself, Bernie Sanders, yo, hit me up, like, bong, yo. On election day in November 2020, just five years removed from Sanders's announcement of his run for the presidency, but seemingly a world away.

Jamal Bowman gave me a tour of the district [00:21:00] stretching from the Bronx to the New York State suburbs north of the city, which was about to send him to Congress, home to extraordinary wealth and extreme poverty. When did you first start thinking in terms that you could describe as political? I don't know, man.

Probably when I was like, probably junior high school. I used to listen to a lot of political music, political hip hop. Bowman found expression in music. I grew up seeing kind of economic segregation, right? So if I walked a couple of blocks to Park Avenue, you saw like a whole nother world, you know, compared to where I was and where other people live.

So, you know, you listen to music like that and you know what's happening in your family and you see what's going on in the world around you. It's all police. As he drove us toward his home, [00:22:00] he put on a boogie down production song featuring KRS One from the 1988 album By All Means Necessary, whose cover art is a tribute to Malcolm X.

He played the track Illegal Business.


crack trade that followed. Flourishes in the neighborhood the song explains does so at the behest of and for the profit of the police So this is the music I listen to pretty much all throughout like junior high school Stuff with that sort of theme while like, you know sister being addicted to crack in real life and kids getting shot In real life friends dealing drugs in real life In 1999, Bowen became an educator rising to the position of principal and watched as a new generation of youngsters became politicized in the wake of Trayvon Martin's [00:23:00] death, though he knew their activism was built on the back of decades of pain.

This new movement was deliberately leaderless. One lesson that the left had drawn from repression of the civil rights and anti war movements of the 1960s and 70s was that concentrating too much power in leaders Left movements vulnerable to collapse in the wake of an assassination or arrest. There were early signs that the lack of direction or leadership combined with algorithmic amplification and the instantaneous nature of the platforms could send the energy spiraling in unpredictable ways.

One of the most visible of these signs came in December 2013, just ahead of the holidays. When an obscure public relations official named Justine Sacco strolled Heathrow Airport awaiting the last leg of her flight to South Africa, where she had been born and where she visited family often, she fired off a quick joke to her 170 Twitter followers.

[00:24:00] Going to Africa, hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding, I'm white. This morning, Justine Sacco is without a job, fired after sparking an international controversy. Sacco thought the form and the point of the quip was obvious. She was lampooning white privilege by embodying a parody of an ignorant Westerner.

But, in the moment, she couldn't explain. She was in the air for 11 hours without internet as the world erupted below her. Soon, the hashtag HasJustineLandedYet began trending, with celebrities and organizations weighing in to condemn her. While mobilizing a global army against Justine Sacco may have been absurd, the rise of cell phone cameras continued to give online activists much more serious crimes to confront.

In July 2014, Eric Garner died on Staten Island after officers, who suspected Garner of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, a [00:25:00] misdemeanor, slammed him to the ground and put him in a chokehold, refusing to let up even as he pleaded, I can't breathe. Bystander video captured the scene. In August 2014, 18 year old Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, by police officer Darren Wilson.

Spontaneous protests were met with a militarized police response, and the demonstrations spread after prosecutors refused to indict Wilson for the shooting. With each shooting, subsequent news cycle, and resulting protests, more young people would be pulled from the sidelines into the fray.

This is video from the night of gunfire, arson, and looting that exploded on the streets of the St. Louis suburb. And appeals were calm from everyone from the teenagers parents to the president, did nothing to stop that violence. I said indict![00:26:00]

In Ferguson, Cori Bush, a local nurse, saw the brutal police crackdown and decided to help however she could, volunteering as a medic night after night as the protests wore on. In Connecticut, A high school student named Alexandra Rojas showed up at a Black Lives Matter rally as the first political act in a journey that would take her to the Bernie Sanders campaign and then to a new organization called Justice Democrats, which would back Cori Bush in her bid for Congress.

In early December, though, a New York grand jury declined to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner, the result that had clearly been sought by the Republican district attorney who parlayed the situation into a congressional seat weeks later following nationwide protests. Ismail Abdullah Brinsley, claiming he was seeking revenge for Garner, traveled from [00:27:00] Baltimore to Brooklyn and executed two NYPD officers at random.

The mother of Ismail Brinsley, the man who murdered the officers, offered her condolences to their families today. She said he was a troubled young man. Brinsley had a long arrest record. The shocking display of violence put a lid on the Black Lives Matter movement for several months.

But it didn't stop police violence, and in April 2015, Walter Scott, another unarmed Black man, was shot in the back and killed by police in North Charleston, South Carolina. An incident also captured on video. The footage, which went viral, showed that police claims against Scott had been fabricated. That same month, Freddie Gray's death in police custody led to protests and then riots in Baltimore.

In June 2015, a white teen murdered nine parishioners at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, a shocking massacre [00:28:00] that blended the mushrooming crisis of mass shootings with racial injustice. in November 2015. Jamar Clark was shot by police in the Twin Cities area, sparking protests that were joined by Ilhan Omar, then an activist and rising star in the local political scene.

In the summer of 2016, Philando Castile, a legal gun owner, was pulled over and shot after warning the police that he was licensed to carry a firearm. The officer was acquitted, and Omar and others again came out into the streets. Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Our lives matter! Black lives matter!

Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Black lives matter!

During the Obama presidency, public opinion was swinging rapidly in a more progressive direction on the question of [00:29:00] race and racism. And structural advances were still being made, despite the lack of a congressional majority. In cities across the country, the Department of Justice was investigating police corruption and enforcing reforms through consent orders.

On June 26, 2015, in a 5 4 ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, And joined by the four liberals still on the court, marriage equality was declared a constitutional right. The opinion was handed down just 10 days after the launch of Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Three years later, Trump would tap Brett Kavanaugh as Kennedy's replacement.

The next month, the Obama administration announced that the military would allow transgender members to serve openly, while Bernie Sanders campaign blended easily with climate activists. Several of his top aides came directly from the movement. Hillary Clinton wasn't [00:30:00] entirely off base to note that Sanders was indeed, as then Washington Post journalist Dave Weigel had put it, not entirely familiar with these causes of the rising left.

Sanders stumbled at times with the new rhetoric, though Clinton did too. In the summer of 2015, Clinton was criticized by Black Lives Matter activists for saying that all lives matter, which they saw as her avoiding explicitly affirming that black lives mattered. In a June 2015 interview with NPR, Sanders was pressed repeatedly on whether Clinton's phrasing was out of touch.

He brushed off the question, pivoting instead to economics. When we talk about issues, whether it's guns, whether it's police brutality, we should also understand something else about Ferguson. You know what the unemployment rate for young African Americans in Ferguson is, which virtually nobody has talked about?

Remind us. 50 percent. Green asked if Sanders could return to the question on phrasing. When the lives matter, [00:31:00] it means that we are not going to accept police brutality or legal behavior against young African Americans or anybody else. But when you talk about lives matter, sometimes what we forget is when 51 percent of young African American kids are unemployed.

Are those lives that matter? Green pressed again, twice, finally telling Sanders it sounded like he didn't want to use the phrase. Phraseology, of course he'll use that phrase. Black lives matter, white lives matter, Hispanic lives matter. But these are also not only police matters, they're not only gun control matters, they are significantly economic matters.

And it's the women, let me just answer this. Sure. Because it's too easy for quote unquote liberals to be saying, well, let's use this phrase. Well, what are we going to do about 51%? of young African Americans unemployed. We need a massive jobs program to put black kids to work, and white kids to work, and Hispanic kids to work.

So my point is, is that it's sometimes easy to say, worry about which [00:32:00] phrase you're going to use. It's a lot harder to stand up to the billionaire class and say, you know what, you're going to have to pay some taxes. You can't get away with putting your money in tax havens because we need that money to create millions of jobs for black kids, for white kids, for Hispanic kids.

For Sanders, liberals were deploying social justice rhetoric and policing phraseology precisely so they could avoid confronting the 1 percent yet retain their progressive credentials. Yet the Sanders quote. White Lives Matter ricocheted around social media, and he became a target for protests. The next month, when he appeared at the annual Netroots Nation Conference, a conclave of progressive operatives, Black Lives Matter protesters disrupted a town hall he was participating in.

Should I continue or leave? Yeah, hold on one second. Hold on, hold on. It's okay with me. Listen, I don't have Black Lives of course matter. And I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and for dignity. But if you don't want me to be here, [00:33:00] that's okay. No sir, we want you to, we want you to be here and address that and all the other questions.

I don't want to out, I don't want to out scream. In Seattle that August, protesters took the stage, bumping Sanders off.

If you do not listen to me, your event will be shut down right now. Right now. So right now, we're going to honor this space. And we're going to honor the memory of Michael Brown, and we're going to honor all of the black lives lost this year, and we're going to honor the fact that I have to fight through all these people to say, my life matters!

Sanders released a statement later that day. I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism, There was no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me, it read. So, when Hillary Clinton, in Nevada in February 2016, finally recast Sanders critique of the big banks as a way for him [00:34:00] to avoid confronting racism, the Democratic voting base had been primed to hear the attack as a reasonable one.

Everything is about an economic theory. If we broke up the big banks tomorrow, and I will, if they deserve it, if they pose any systemic risk, I will.

Still, the crowds being drawn by Sanders reflected the explosive cultural and political phenomenon that his campaign represented. Elizabeth Warren, the namesake of what had until then been dubbed the Warren Wing of the Democratic Party, had taken a pass on the race. Now, we are here tonight because America faces a choice, the choice of a new president.

On one side is a man who inherited a fortune from his [00:35:00] father. And kept it going by cheating people, by skipping out on debts. On the other side, is one of the smartest, toughest, most tenacious people on this planet. A woman who fights for children, for women, for healthcare, for human rights. A woman who fights for all of us and who is strong enough to win those fights.

We're here today because our choice is Hillary Clinton. I'm with Hillary. I'm with Hillary. Instead, Clinton would fall short of the White House. And a new Sanders wing would nudge Warren out of her leading role. Yet she remained focused on her mantra that personnel was policy, planting seeds that would only grow years later.

In early 2016, she sat down for what would become a pivotal dinner. She had been watching the work of Barry Lynn's anti monopoly team with [00:36:00] interest. And it fit with her longstanding focus on breaking up and bringing to heel the big banks. While Sanders and the squad had risen to prominence as democratic socialists, Warren had been a Republican before evolving into a Democrat.

That legacy revealed itself in the way she framed her policy critiques and proposals as aimed at supporting the development of free markets. You don't think capitalists are bad people? I am a capitalist. Come on. I believe in markets. What I don't believe in is theft. What I don't believe in is cheating.

That's where the difference is. I love what markets can do. I love what functioning economies can do. They are what make us rich, they are what create opportunity, but only fair markets. Markets with rules. Markets without rules is about the rich take it all. Warren reached out to Lynn to set up the dinner.

And Lynn brought along a deputy named Lena Kahn [00:37:00] and an attorney named Jonathan Cantor. Kahn and Cantor laid out their idea for reimagining and reinvigorating antitrust policy and Warren saw in it a reflection and an extension of her anti corruption politics. Which helpfully contrasted with a democratic socialist reluctance to embrace markets.

In June 2016, she delivered a major speech on antitrust policy at Lynn's Open Markets Institute, laying down a marker in what would become a hot issue on the populist right as well as left. Anyone who loves markets knows that for markets to work, there must be competition. But today in America, competition is dying.

Consolidation and concentration are on the rise in sector after sector.

But by March 2016, with Clinton's slim lead padded heavily by so called [00:38:00] superdelegates, party elites, operatives, and lobbyists giving extra votes in the nominating process, it was clear the primary was over, even if Sanders intended to soldier on. Their effort would also quickly, if accidentally, transform the Democratic Party.

Thank you for listening. We'll be back with part three next week. Again, the book is The Squad. A OC and the hope of a political revolution by yours truly deconstructed is a production of The Intercept. Our producer is Jose Olivarez. Our supervising producer is Laura Flynn. The show is Mixed by William Stanton.

Legal Review by David Brelo. Leonardo [00:39:00] Fireman transcribed this episode. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Roger Hodge is the Intercepts editor in chief. If you'd like to support our work, go to the intercept.com/give. If you haven't already. Please subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week and please go and leave us a rating or review.

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