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Brent Budowsky: Hillary lifts populist spirits

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In Iowa on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton lifted the spirits of progressive populists and appealed to a majority of voters by vowing to lead a battle against the corrupting influence of big money in government and politics, and speaking with faith and conviction about how this influence causes profound unfairness in the American economy.

Clinton is making political reform one of the cornerstone issues in her campaign for the White House. She has begun a frontal assault against the widely unpopular Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which would allow the wealthiest Americans to buy elections and dominate policymaking in Washington by spending unlimited money, often in secret, on political campaigns.

{mosads}By taking this bold position and calling for a national movement supporting a constitutional amendment to achieve this goal if necessary, Clinton is offering presidential-level leadership to give voice and support to the powerful feeling of a large majority of Americans that dramatic change is urgently needed in the corrupted ways that Washington does business.

I have long argued that the conservative majority of Supreme Court justices has poisoned our politics and corrupted our democracy through decisions that have, on the one hand, given the wealthiest Americans the power dominate our democracy and, on the other hand, taken away from poor and middle-class Americans vital protections for their right to vote — the heart of what truly makes America exceptional.

The Citizens United decision that Clinton will fight to reverse is one of the most unpopular decisions in modern judicial history. Poll after poll has proven that majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents agree with progressives, populists and Clinton that this reprehensible decision should be reversed.

In a breathtaking bipartisan poll taken in 2014 for Public Citizen by Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling firm, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican polling firm, voters oppose Citizens United by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, with Republican voters opposing the decision by a 2-to-1 margin. All voters oppose undue influence of spending by lobbyists and special interests by more than a 6-to-1 margin.

In Iowa on Tuesday, Clinton expressed her championing of change and reform with a tone that might be called conversational populism, based on the idea that the faith she was taught as a child gave her a lasting feeling that every child deserves an equal opportunity and a fair chance to get ahead, and her common-sense view that, when too few people have too much power, the vast majority of the nation becomes frozen in the ice of economic injustice.

In their call for revitalizing democracy, strengthening the economy and overturning Citizens United, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats give voice and power to a deep-rooted feeling throughout America that the game is fixed, the bid is rigged and the deck is stacked in favor of the wealthy elites who can spend massive sums of money to advance their special interests, and against the poor and middle-class Americans who cannot and who find themselves locked outside the back rooms of power without a fair chance for a better life.

By putting these matters at the center of her campaign, Clinton becomes the champion of a better future, a more just society and a fairer and more prosperous economy in which all Americans can move ahead without any  being left behind.

In her call for change and reform by overturning the heinous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, Clinton is supported by a majority of Republicans, independents and Democrats.

For the Clinton campaign and populist progressives, this cause opens the door to a game-changing national movement that could include grassroots movements in every state that allow ballot initiatives to mobilize, organize and turn out voters to elect Democratic candidates for the House, Senate and statewide office.

Hillary Clinton has had her first big moment of the 2016 campaign. The spirits of progressive populists have been lifted.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors Blog and reached at

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