There has been a lot of speculation recently about a possible Elizabeth Warren candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, challenging Hillary Clinton, who has been the presumptive nominee for many years now. I don’t think that’s likely to happen, but it does bring up some interesting issues. Like this:
“A Warren candidacy would bring a fresh level of scrutiny to both Hillary and Bill Clinton’s relationships with Wall Street, and they will have to deal with that,” said a progressive Democrat sympathetic to Warren, and who declined to be identified by name for fear of angering the powerful Clintons. “There is a clear tension between what the Clintons say and what lines their pockets. They have become fabulously, unimaginably wealthy,” in part through speeches to banking groups.
There’s a lot of history there that tends to be forgotten by Democratic partisans. Bill Clinton may have been more strongly pro-Wall Street than George W. Bush. It was Clinton who signed (and advocated) the law repealing Glass-Steagal and largely deregulated the financial sector. It was Clinton who signed (and advocated) GATT and NAFTA, something wanted badly by big business and loathed by labor unions, long a staple part of the Democratic coalition. It was Clinton who fired Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), when she dared to suggest that her agency should regulate the derivatives market that later caused the banking system to come to the brink of collapse. And it was Clinton who signed a law forbidding any such regulation literally weeks before leaving office.
But a Warren candidacy would likely only cement the cozy relationship that both Bill and Hillary have long had with Wall Street, driving even more money to Clinton to prevent Warren from mounting a serious challenge to her candidacy. And the reality in today’s political system with the requirement of raising massive amounts of money to win an election, a Warren candidacy is probably a losing battle in a general election for the same reason — Wall Street would spend massive amounts of money to keep her out of office.
The Clintons have always been steely-eyed realists politically. It would be really nice to see a serious challenge to their pro-Wall Street policies, but the reality is that it might actually help the Republicans.