American democracy is in trouble, and centrist Democrats are squandering their chance to save it

By Ryan Cooper The Week

Saule Omarova on Tuesday withdrew her nomination to serve as head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a federal financial regulatory agency. Republicans had conducted a classic McCarthyite smear campaign against her — implying she was a secret communist because she was born in the Soviet Union — and that was cover enough for five Democratic centrist senators to oppose her.

But the centrists weren’t done yet. Next, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said he thought President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda was incomplete, throwing the reconciliation bill’s fate into question once more. Then, with Jon Tester of Montana, Manchin announced he’d vote with Senate Republicans to try to repeal Biden’s business vaccine mandate. That is to say, to make the pandemic worse — on purpose.

This is a combination of corruption and oblivious fecklessness so profound it becomes its own kind of extremism. The country is on fire, and even now Democratic centrists just can’t stop their little penny-ante scams and cheap political gimmicks.

Corruption is the obvious explanation for the Omarova’s exit. She’s more than qualified for the comptroller job — as David Dayen writes at The American Prospect, she’s been a top thinker on financial regulation for years, and she’s not a secret Soviet. The only reason to oppose her nomination is that she’d conduct meaningful oversight of big banks, so Wall Street toadies like Tester and Democratic Sens. Mark Warner (Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), and John Hickenlooper (Colo.) blocked her from serving. They weren’t subtle about it, either — The New York Times reports Tester and Warner “condemned [Omarova] for having opposed legislation they both supported to roll back parts of the regulations put in place by the Dodd-Frank Act in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.”


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