In news from the one of the few corners of America where bankers aren’t reviled: Politico has an article today about possible presidential candidate Sherrod Brown’s relationship with the banking industry, reporting that he is “viewed by many in the industry as a reasonable alternative” to the more aggressive critics, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
According to several bankers who spoke to Politico, Brown is “open to dialogue” with the financial industry despite pushing for tighter regulation of banks; one told the site the industry “knows where it stands with Senator Brown,” and another said there’s “nobody who says they could not get a fair hearing from Sherrod Brown.” One bank lobbyist said Brown is “always willing to have the discussion.” There were no specifics on what that discussion might look like or why that discussion is more amenable to them.
How does Politico describe Brown’s openness to banks? As a “practical streak focused on protecting workers in his home state.” I just love when my politicians are practical and protect workers.
My fear is that many Politico readers are freaks who will think this is a good thing. There aren’t a lot of people in America who would read about this and think, “Splendid, finally a reasonable chap who will give the financial industry the fair shake they’ve been sorely missing.” The issue of whether a candidate will have “dialogue” with an industry that is rife with fraud and crooked profiteering off the poor is not one that actually matters.
But Politico is aimed at exactly the kind of Washington insiders who do think that matters, and who take seriously the asinine fear that a politician might not be “fair” to industry. And just as the reporting on bankers loathing Warren tells us something, it should tell the rest of us something that bankers view Brown as someone they can work with.
But it’s a huge missed opportunity to not contextualize this reporting with any understanding of power. It’s a problem when senators ignore or brush off those without power—it’d be fair to be outraged to read that senators aren’t giving a fair hearing to nurses or the homeless, if Politico ever deemed that news, which it wouldn’t, because that’s just how things work. But it’s no surprise that senators listen to an industry that spends $64 million a year in lobbying and has powerful allies who spend even more. Nor is it a surprise that bankers are largely quite pleased with how their discussions with senators, even the supposedly critical ones, end up going. You can’t properly inform readers without the context that bankers have absolutely no trouble getting heard on the Hill.
What makes Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders different isn’t that they are “unfair” to banks, but that they get closer than anyone else to being a threat to banks; they are the only candidates who might represent any kind of actual danger to the financial industry’s model of literally taking money from the poor to feed the rich. The fact that only Warren and Sanders seem to inspire widespread huffing and whining among bankers is evidence of this.
I’m glad, I guess, to know bankers think Sherrod Brown isn’t so bad. It’s just jarring and frankly disturbing to put myself in the shoes of the McLean, VA-dwelling Politico reader who might actually think that’s a good thing.