Elizabeth Warren delivered a “Cross of Gold” speech for the twenty-first century as the Senate wrangled over the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” spending bill that keeps the government open in return for putting taxpayers on the hook for the next bailout of the nation’s biggest and most irresponsible banks.
While the Senate ultimately said “yes,” it is Warren’s loud “no” that can and should serve as an echo of the past in the future;
“The American people are disgusted by Wall Street bailouts,” thundered the senator from Massachusetts, who spoke with bluntness rarely heard on the Senate floor—or in modern American politics.
Ripping Citigroup by name for its practicesand for its influence on Democratic administrations and the Democratic Party—and by extension addressing all of the banking behemoths that have whined about even the mild regulations contained in the Dodd-Frank legislation enacted after the Wall Street meltdown of 2008—Warren announced: “I agree with you Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces!”
Warren’s words were not enough to prevent passage of the combined Continuing Resolution and omnibus spending bill that Washington dubbed “Cromnibus.” After the House narrowly approved it Thursday night, the Senate on Saturday gave a 56-40 authorization to the measure that guts bank regulations in a way Warren says will “let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.”
But the measure of a Cross of Gold speech is never made in the moment.
The original Cross of Gold speech by William Jennings Bryan at the Democratic National Convention of 1896 secured the party’s nomination for the Nebraska populist who upset the political calculus of his day by arguing that the party must stand against economic elites and declare, “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” But Bryan’s words did not win him the presidency in that year’s campaign or in the succeeding campaigns of 1900 and 1908.