Gordon Gekko, the fictional corporate raider from the 1987 film “Wall Street,” is an icon of the financial industry’s greed and excess. But nowadays Asher Edelman, the American finance legend who was one of the main inspirations for the character Gekko, is hardly the Wall Street villain you’d expect. Instead, the wealthy financier is a Bernie Sanders supporter whose politics could best be described as relatively ‘woke.’ Fusion recently talked with Edelman about his politics, his support for Sanders, and his run-ins with Donald Trump in New York’s well-to-do scene.
Why are you supporting Bernie Sanders?
The economic policies of the last eight years, and I would say the last 20 years, have moved the country into a state of post-’being in the third world’ and have very severely penalized the bottom 80 percent, certainly 50 percent, of society with no benefits that make any difference to the growth of the country, to its political status, to its economic status, to its diplomatic status. And, perhaps if Bernie Sanders were to be successful, at least we know he would try to institute policies that could possibly turn that situation around. Whereas Mrs. Clinton is captured by various special interests and would have a hard time breaking away from them, not to mention that her finances are tied to them. And of course Donald Trump and the rest of those people are clowns bent on destroying the middle and lower classes for the benefit of themselves. That is just not a tolerable situation.
I would also support Bernie because I think that he understands the plight of the middle classes on down to the poor and understands certain things are solvable. We’ve dropped, I believe the last time I looked, to about 17th in the world in education, and a similar number in medicine and our life expectancy. I think Sanders understands those issues and would address them. I think when he addresses them, because essentially they are part of what you call ‘infrastructure,’ the solutions would stimulate the economy. They would bring jobs and gains to the middle class on down to the poor. I think it’s pretty clear.
What do you think of the Democrats' Wall Street reform plans?
Dodd-Frank isn’t enough because nothing will work for these banks who are a criminal lot. They are effectively indicted once a week for one or another illegal act. Dodd-Frank isn’t enough, you have to go back to separating banking and speculating. And banking at the moment is speculating with free money from public deposits. It’s not acceptable and it’s not what it should be. The separation made a lot of sense. It worked very well until [Bill] Clinton ended Glass-Steagall and it doesn’t work anymore. Banking does not work anymore. … We’re at a place today where 80% of the American people have not had an increase, and have had somewhat of a decrease in their income adjusted for inflation in 15 years.
What do you make of the notion that Donald Trump as a “businessman” will have a better handle on the U.S. economy than career politicians?
Well, you know, it’s very interesting because he doesn’t have the support of any businessmen I know. So obviously in the business community he’s not highly respected for anything, including being a businessman. … You know, I talk about the right and the left and my Republican friends and people who used to be my friends before they formed the Tea Party, etc.—I know of no one in the business community who views Donald Trump as a successful or even reasonably successful businessman.
Do you have an opinion on the state of the Republican Party as a whole?
I mean other than very few moderate Republicans—there are very few because they can’t get any money to be supported running for office—it’s a group of buffoons and clowns who are manipulated by a group of very clever people who are interested in their own interests being satisfied and couldn't give less of a damn about the country or the people. And the buffoons dance. It’s very sad because in the days of George Bush Sr.—those were the last days when you had, in my view, a reasonable Republican Party and as he was a decent person, is a decent person probably still, he was worth supporting. He was just fine. But now you have a bunch of donkeys who are paid for and who are puppet babies, it’s just silly, and dangerous as well.
You’re known as a purveyor of fine art. What do you make of Donald Trump’s signature opulent, extravagant style?
I like to vomit when I see anything he’s done and I have seen many things he’s done.