Zephyr Teachout, who challenged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the left earlier this year, encouraged other progressives to follow her lead at a recent forum in Washington – including fielding a primary challenge against Hillary Clinton.
“The absence of a primary would be a complete democratic tragedy,” she said at a talk sponsored by New America. She is on a tour promoting her new book, “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United.”
There is a demand in the electorate for candidates who are advancing populist themes, Teachout said, including the theme that is the focus of her book, the corrupting power of money in politics and how the country has fought against it from its earliest days.
The book describes how modern conservative court justices and lawmakers have strayed from the intent of the creators of the republic, who feared the corrupting power of big money and embraced broad measures to counter it. The tendency today is to limit the definition of “corruption” to its strictest sense an explicit, concrete quid pro quo that is rarely vivid in practice in contrast to the way big-money political donations and lobbying colors and tilts the political process, she said – the opposite of what the writers of the Constitution believed was needed for democracy to be preserved.
Teachout, who is a law professor at Fordham University, said that her primary challenge taught her that an argument that takes on “concentrated power” in all its forms – from the dominance of big-money corporate contributors to the monopolies and oligopolies that dominate the economy – resonates with voters. What’s needed, she said, is more people from all walks of life entering the political fray to take on concentrated power and present a different progressive economic vision.