Craven audacity in US politics knows no bounds. Billionaire intruder Tom Steyer is currently running television ads in New Hampshire lamenting that Donald Trump has received a political boost from the Democrats’ botched impeachment crusade, which ended this week in failure and humiliation — as is true for most Democratic crusades. Trump is therefore going to be tougher to beat, he suggests in the new ad, and nominating an outsider like Tom is increasingly necessary.
What Tom forgot to mention is that no single private individual in the entire country was more responsible than him for fomenting the hysterical drive toward impeachment. He launched a massive pro-impeachment pressure campaign in October 2017, long before a Trump/Ukraine phone call was a glimmer in anyone’s eye. Incongruously, Tom boasted about his impeachment advocacy this week on two separate national TV sages, a CNN town hall and last night’s debate, without any apparent awareness of the contradiction in doing so while simultaneously complaining that ‘Democratic insiders’’ impeachment bungle has helped Trump.
That’s because the ‘Need to Impeach’ organization Tom founded was functionally just a giant marketing and data-collecting operation that served as a years-long shadow presidential campaign. Frightened Democrats were bombarded with exhortations to give Tom their email addresses and phone numbers in desperate hope that it would assist the effort to get Trump impeached and removed. Collecting data under these auspices meant Tom had no need to declare a presidential campaign during a normal timeframe, so he waited until last July to formally announce, and then simply transferred the ‘Need to Impeach’ email list to the campaign.
A few months ago I encountered Tom and asked him about this shady bait-and-switch involving the enormously valuable email list he’d generated on false pretenses. ‘We didn’t take over the list, we purchased the list for people who wanted Tom.’ (Another odd thing about Tom is that he thinks Tom is a distinctive enough first name to self-brand with on campaign material. ‘Tom 2020’? Might as well say ‘Generic male 2020’.) My encounter with him occurred on September 7, 2019. Tom claimed to not know how much money his campaign paid for the list. FEC filings indicate a $390,352.91 dispersement from Tom’s campaign to ‘Need to Impeach’ on September 29, 2019 for ‘computer purchase, email list purchase, and email list rental’.
Tom claimed to me that other campaigns would have access to this email list, but as someone who signed up for the list years ago to keep tabs on what the pro-impeachment maniacs were up to, I can verify that I have only received emails from Tom.
In summary, Tom spent several years blitzing the country with ‘Need to Impeach’ demands, used this to form the basis of his presidential campaign’s data operation, and is now whining that Democrats got screwed by impeachment. It’s mind-boggling but not surprising for a vainglorious billionaire who successfully gamed the DNC’s system and got himself into the debates. He may even get delegates in Nevada and South Carolina, having monopolized the TV airwaves there for months while other candidates homed in on Iowa and New Hampshire.
Tom’s reputation is improving slightly among ‘progressives’ for his multiple cutesy viral moments with Bernie, and for attacking Biden (because Tom has used the suspiciously-collected impeachment data to micro-target Southern black voters who passionately hate Trump, and is trying to chisel away at Biden’s core support base.) But his oligarchic intervention into this race is highly deceitful and disturbing, despite the vapid Racially Conscious rhetoric he has been trained to spout. Tom’s efforts are not quite as threatening as Mike Bloomberg’s, but that’s only a question of scale.
Tom’s bizarre impeachment pivot further reflects that no Democrat who helped orchestrate the impeachment disaster, which was doomed to fail all along on both political and substantive grounds, will ever accept responsibility for their radically bad judgment. But that’s a constant for 99 percent of institutional Democrats: utter inability and/or unwillingness to reckon with failure. Tom is just their latest weird billionaire poster boy.