Tom Steyer To Spend $100 Million To Become Just Another Tim Ryan
The door might've closed on the presidential ambitions of California Rep. Eric Swalwell, but it's opened now for California billionaire Tom Steyer, who purchased the door and the rest of the building. (It seemed neater.)
This is just what the Democratic primary needs. (It doesn't. -- Ed.) We already have a resident from another planet. We could use a billionaire so Bernie Sanders will have someone handy to gesture angrily toward during the next debate. Steyer has no political experience, but Donald Trump managed not to accumulate any during his first term so they're on even footing.
Steyer disappointed dozens in January when he announced that he wasn't going to run but would instead focus his "time, energy, and resources" on his organization, Need To Impeach. He vowed to do "whatever it takes for as long as it takes" to remove Trump. Impeachment is going nowhere, so Steyer has decided to try defeating Trump at the ballot box -- a quaint notion that supposes we'll still have ballot boxes next year.
In his campaign announcement video, Steyer accuses politicians of working for a "rigged" system where the corporations have "bought democracy." He sounds like a common Elizabeth Warren but with a less-common billion dollar net worth. You also can tell he's from California because he's using an amazing technicolor dreamcoat to hold up his pants.
STEYER: Really what we're doing is trying to make democracy work by pushing power down to the people.
He's leaning into the liberal activist speak. The media helps further the narrative by constantly describing him as a "billionaire activist" like he's secretly Batman. But he's not all talk or an Oprah-enabled flake. He founded NextGen America, which works to fight climate change by supporting candidates who believe it exists. The organization also advocates for immigration and voting rights, as well as affordable health care access. Steyer personally donated $5 million to the successful "No on Prop. 23" campaign. He was a leading sponsor for Proposition 39, which would prevent corporations from dodging taxes. He contributed a whopping $29.6 million to the effort.
STEYER: Now, obviously, corporations don't have hearts or souls or futures. They don't have children. They have a short time frame and they really care about just making money.
Steyer definitely isn't another Howard Schultz. He's even praised Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal. Ocasio-Cortez stated once that a world that allows for billionaires is "immoral." Steyer is trying to put his best billionaire foot forward. He's pledged to donate half of his fortune to charity during his lifetime: That's ... zero fewer dinners out, but sure, great! But can a white corporate savior thrive in this primary race? The timing of Steyer's announcement is interesting. It's been a couple weeks since Joe Biden's shaky performance at the Democratic debates. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have steadily risen in the polls, because they are Crockett and Tubbs awesome. Warren just outraised Sanders in the second quarter, more than tripling her previous haul. If it looks like sisters might do it for themselves, we're guaranteed to see more white men surfacing from the "well, actually."
Steyer's activism over the years has built a solid foundation to launch a serious presidential campaign -- as opposed to whatever Seth Moulton is doing. Need to Impeach has an email list of eight million. Groups connected to Steyer have spent years organizing on college campuses and investing in key swing states. Steyer also plans to take $100 million from his couch cushions and spend it on his campaign. The big test now is whether all this will help secure Steyer a spot at the next Democratic debate. Marianne Williamson is waiting.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."