10/27/2010 02:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Robbing You With a Fountain Pen

Yesterday I wrote a post on the steadily increasing physical and rhetorical violence happening on the right wing of the political spectrum. It is a sad and scary story, one that conservatives try to brush away by saying both sides are responsible when almost none of it is coming from the progressive side of the aisle. The ironic thing is that I underestimated the depth of violence and threats, as I have had many examples sent to me since I wrote the piece that I had forgotten or didn't know about it, plus it has since come out that the person who stomped on the MoveOn activist's head in Kentucky turns out to be closely affiliated with the Rand Paul campaign.

Today, though, I want to write about another form of thuggery, because I think this story is the biggest reason people should vote and vote Democratic. More about that in a moment. First, I think it's appropriate to quote Woody Guthrie's classic line:

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.
And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

I think the lawlessness reflected in the physical violence on the campaign trail coming from so many on the right, and the blatant disregard for the rule of law by the big banks trying to railroad so many people out of their homes without the proper paper work, are more related than conventional wisdom would suggest. The fact that banks and their "servicers" have apparently committed massive document fraud and have in some cases actually hired thugs to break into people's homes and change their locks during foreclosure proceedings, and the fact that they lied to and bet against their own clients in investment deals is all part of a pattern: people with too much power and an Ayn Randian view of the world. Ayn Rand, the Social Darwinists of the 1880s, the big Wall Street banks, libertarian candidates like Rand Paul and these thugs who work on their campaigns all make the same arguments: power is morality, greed is good, compassion is weakness, buyer beware. While they call for civility, and argue against class warfare and populism, they believe in turning the Golden Rule of the Bible on its head and replacing it with another one: he who has the gold, rules. And if the rule of law gets in their way, they just ignore it or use their political power to change the law. If politicians or public opinion create a problem for them, they use their money to dump millions into lobbying to change the law, or dump millions into secretive groups to buy elections.

Violence is just another means to a political end, and so is the lawlessness of falsified affidavits and paperwork to push massive numbers of people from their homes. Here's where my argument about politics comes in, and I know there are some of you who may find it ironic given that the administration (especially some of the folks at Treasury) has been closer to the big banks at times than it should have been. Here's the deal, though: the financial reform bill in the end got stronger as it went through the process rather than weaker only because the Democrats controlled Congress. Alan Grayson and Maria Cantwell and Sherrod Brown and Ted Kaufman were able to get concessions they would have never gotten had they been in the minority. Elizabeth Warren was able to out-negotiate Chris Dodd on the consumer protection agency only because the Democrats were in control- Richard Shelby only would have shut her down.

And speaking of Elizabeth Warren, who according to sources at the White House has done a superb job of quietly putting together the building blocks of that new agency, the Republicans will do everything in their power to make her job tougher if they take control of Congress. They will try to harass her and intimidate her every way they can. Fortunately, no one can intimidate Elizabeth Warren, and she will destroy them in the media when they try to take her on, but her work standing up for homeowners and consumers will be far easier if Wall Street's best friends don't run Congress. The hit jobs on her will keep coming (did you see this ridiculous piece on her aide Raj Date, who folks on Capitol Hill told me was one of the strongest advocates during the financial reform fight for a progressive financial reform bill), but her job is made easier if the Democrats stay in control.

The best argument for the Democrats in these elections is that the sharks are in the water, and the thugs are in the street. Democrats can and do drive us crazy sometimes, but when the Ayn Rand Social Darwinists on Wall Street and the streets of Kentucky argue that the strong should rule over the weak, it is better to strengthen the hand of our advocates like Warren and Grayson and Sherrod (rather than Scott) Brown. There are some who rob you with a gun, and some with a fountain pen -- some who kick you in the head and some who throw you out of your home -- and it is better to have a sheriff who will be on your side at least some of the time.