Wall Street Is Confused And Scared About 2020

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If you wanted an easy way to narrow down the absurdly expansive field of Democratic candidates, you could do a lot worse than eliminating any candidate who isn’t hated and/or feared by Wall Street. It’s become clear that the only two who definitely make the cut are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and a new piece in New York confirms this.


According to the magazine, among Wall Street’s Democratic donors, the “wait-and-see, as-long-as-it’s-not-Bernie-or-Elizabeth posture has become the norm.” They don’t know exactly who they want, but they know it’s not Bernie or Liz.

One banker told the magazine that Warren “would torture” bankers. Another said “if it’s Bernie versus Trump, I have no fucking idea what I’m going to do.” Another was livid that many candidates haven’t looked at big donors and said “What can I do to get this person?”—because what’s the point of having millions of dollars if you can’t use that wealth to extract policy promises from potential presidents?

It’s very much worth reading this entire piece; every paragraph has some jaw-dropping dispatch from the alien world of Wall Street campaign donors, each more strange and enraging than the last. Kamala Harris asked her campaign bundlers to raise $27,000 each in just the first quarter? Joe Biden stacked his nonprofit with Wall Street investors and bankers? They wanted Mark Warner to run?

In July, a few hundred gathered in Columbus, Ohio, to find a policy platform that would defeat both Trump and Sanders. Another group of investors figured if the parties were now poisoned, they’d just have to draft an independent presidential candidate themselves. It was no secret that John Kasich and Howard Schultz were considering it, and Mike Bloomberg, too. But another option held promise: moderate Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, who’d twice before considered running. The senator agreed to meet last summer and listened as they promised funding and presented a plan to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. Then Warner, assessing the probability of a successful third-party run, told them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

The major theme running through the article is confusion and dismay that leading Democratic candidates are no longer dancing exclusively to the tune of big donors. It also has a few extremely revealing saying-the-quiet-part-loud moments:

“This is like venture investing. You really don’t know who’s going to break out, but your hope is you have a good portfolio and that one of these investments breaks out,” Bruce Heyman, a former Goldman managing director and ambassador to Canada, told me.


You’re not supposed to admit that this is all an investment to you, dude! At least some of your colleagues pretend it’s about “character” in addition to the bottom line.

And if you were looking for evidence of which candidates you definitely shouldn’t support, this article provides that, too: A top party fundraiser in New York said “there’s a lot of praying for Joe Biden.” No surprise there.

Splinter politics writer. libby.watson@splinternews.com