The Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party will always be with us. Its policies—on financial deregulation, trade, fiscal austerity, mass incarceration, and military intervention—have been ruinous. Its political aversion to populist appeals has been self-defeating. But Wall Street has the money, so it will always enjoy upholstered think tanks, perches on op-ed pages, and gaggles of politicians eager to peddle its proposals.
As the Democratic Party finds itself in the wilderness, the Wall Streeters are trying to argue that they have a way out. Will Marshall, co-founder of the Democratic Leadership Council and rabid advocate of the Iraq War and the Libyan debacle, has announced another venture, New Democracy, to develop “really big ideas” for Democrats. Third Way, which championed disastrous trade accords, balanced budgets, and cutting the safety net, is now touting a $20 million program to discover how to talk to working people without alienating Wall Street. And Douglas Schoen, a pollster and partner in a corporate public-relations firm who also plays a Democrat on Fox News, recently offered a New York Times op-ed on “Why Democrats Need Wall Street.”
Schoen blamed populism for the catastrophic losses Democrats suffered at the national and state level in the Obama years, and attributed Clinton’s 2016 defeat to a “lurch to the left” that exists only in his imagination. To him, the model president is Bill Clinton, and Schoen hailed “two key economic legislative victories” for the Clinton administration: the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The former opened the door for the speculative boom and bust in telecommunications that wasted trillions and left consumers with higher prices. The latter repealed Glass-Steagall and was central to the financial deregulation that led directly to the Great Recession. Schoen ended his column with a pitch for more financial deregulation, which surely served his clients, if not Democratic prospects.