With Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren repeatedly denying she will run for president in 2016, and Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders still on the sidelines, progressives looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton, may have to begin considering little known former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. O’Malley is hardly a household name in America, but he is making his case for president, by staking out bold positions well to the left of presumptive Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
During a Thursday speech at Harvard University, O’Malley expressed support for raising the federal minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour. He becomes the first presidential candidate to publicly express support for the 15 dollar an hour rate, which has been the target set by low-wage activists in campaigns like the “Fight for Fifteen”. As Governor of Maryland, O’Malley signed into law a minimum wage hike to a more modest 10.10 an hour.
O’Malley also spoke out against fast tracking the bipartisan Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, positioning himself on the left flank of the Democratic Party on the fair trade versus “free trade” controversy. Decrying trickle-down economics, the former Maryland Governor also sounded “Warren-esque” in his criticisms of concentrated wealth and Wall Street. O’Malley sounded a distinctly populist tone when he stated:
As we gather here tonight, wealth and economic power in the United States of America have now been concentrated in the hands of the very few as almost never before in the history of our country… the vast majority of us are working harder but we’re watching our families slipping further behind.
Not a single Wall Street executive was convicted of a crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown. Not a single one. Explain to me how it is that you can get pulled over for a broken tail light in our country, but if you wreck the world’s economy you’re somehow untouchable? I don’t get that.
It remains to be seen whether or not Martin O’Malley can rise from relative obscurity to gain enough traction to win the Democratic nomination. Or barring that, if he has enough strength to at least be competitive enough to pull Hillary Clinton to the left. Whether or not he succeeds in accomplishing either of those outcomes, he is at least articulating the kind of progressive populist platform that Democrats should be running on in 2016 and far into the future. Not only because it might help them secure an enduring Democratic majority, but also because changing our politics from primarily representing the ultra-wealthy, to representing the vast majority of Americans instead, is simply the right thing to do.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.